CSUN Wins National Honor for Partnership with Canoga Park

CSUN's Bridge to the Future (B2F), under the auspices of Neighborhood Partners in Action, is a scholars program that provides a four-year, tuition-free CSUN education to a cohort of Canoga Park students. As part of the program, students are expected to give back to their community. The first 25 B2F scholars were named earlier this year. Photo courtesy of Neighborhood Partners in Action.

Recognizing the valuable but often overlooked role community organizations play in partnering with universities to improve student success, the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) and Coalition of Urban Serving Universities (USU) today announced has awarded California State University, Northridge a grant to expand its partnership with the San Fernando Valley community of Canoga Park.

The $50,000 grant to CSUN’s Neighborhood Partners in Action (NPA) program is one of 12 awarded to public institutions across the country to advance university-community partnerships as a way to boost student success. The awards, known as Collaborative Opportunity Grants, support innovative approaches that link student success with an institution’s community engagement.

“This grant award is enormously meaningful for CSUN and NPA’s Bridge to the Future Program, which supports a tuition-free CSUN education for students from Canoga Park,” said David Boyns, a professor of sociology and one of two directors of the program. “By bringing national attention to this program, we hope to signal to the Canoga Park community and others like it the important role that CSUN can play in supporting higher education for young people in our community. Funds from the grant will help us to support program and outreach coordinators, and support other internal infrastructure so that we can engage with more students and promote their academic success.”

Housed in CSUNs Institute for Community Health and Wellbeing, NPA was the product of a two-year community listening campaign to identify how the university could help increase educational attainment in Canoga Park. CSUN faculty visited nonprofits and schools, talked to community leaders and mapped out the neighborhood’s assets and social challenges. This campaign revealed that financial issues were a major factor in a high school student’s decision whether to attend college. In response, the university two years ago launched Bridge to the Future (B2F) — a scholars program that provides a four-year, tuition-free education to a cohort of Canoga Park students.

B2F students receive mentoring and other support to ensure their success at CSUN. As part of the program, students are expected to give back to their community. The first 25 B2F scholars were named earlier this year and have committed to attend CSUN.

“All of our Bridge to the Future Scholars will be giving back to their community by participating in service activities and mentoring their younger peers at Canoga Park High School,” said theater professor Doug Kaback, the other director of the program. “As students return to Canoga Park as role models for younger students, they will help to build a college-going culture within their community so that more students apply to CSUN, pursue a four-year degree and increase the economic and social standing of their families.”

Shari Garmise, vice president of APLU’s Office of Urban Initiatives and executive director of USU, said the universities receiving these grants have undertaken efforts that represent “a sea change in the way we think about student success.”

“For decades, institutions have applied a nearly singular focus on addressing academic hurdles students face once they’re enrolled [in college],” Garmise said. “These institutions are saying, that isn’t enough. We have to work with community partners to ensure students have the required resources to apply, the necessary instruction to be prepared for the rigor of college coursework, and the tools they need to thrive in the workforce and drive positive change in their communities.”

In July, representatives from CSUN and the 11 other universities awarded grants will convene in Washington, D.C., to strategize and collaborate on their initiatives. USU and APLU will disseminate key findings from the institutions’ work after the Collaborative Opportunity Grant program has conclude — to help promote best practices that other public universities can adapt.

In addition to collaborating with an external partner and aligning with investment priorities, CSUN and the other grantees had to show that their programs take an emerging approach to student success and demonstrate that their institution has the capacity to sustain and scale the effort. Finally, grantees had to outline a quantitative and qualitative assessment plan to track the program’s efficacy.

The 11 other institutions that will receive $50,000 each to expand their work are: California State University, Fresno; California State University, Los Angeles; Cleveland State University; Fort Valley State University; Georgia State University; the University of California, Riverside; San Jose State University; the University of Maryland, Baltimore County; the University of Memphis; the University of South Alabama; and the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee. Another application period will open early next year for additional APLU and USU institutions to apply for funding. Institutions currently receiving grants are eligible to re-apply for grants next year to qualify for a total of $100,000 in funding. All grants are supported with funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

APLU is a research, policy and advocacy organization dedicated to strengthening and advancing the work of public universities in the U.S., Canada and Mexico.  With a membership of 235 public research universities, land-grant institutions, state university systems and affiliated organizations, APLU’s agenda is built on the three pillars of increasing degree completion and academic success, advancing scientific research and expanding engagement. Annually, member campuses enroll 4.8 million undergraduates and 1.3 million graduate students, award 1.2 million degrees, employ 1.2 million faculty and staff, and conduct $43 billion in university-based research.

APLU works in permanent partnership with the Coalition of Urban Serving Universities (USU), an organization committed to enhancing urban university engagement to increase prosperity and opportunity in the nation’s cities, and to tackling key urban challenges.

The coalition includes 36 public, urban research universities representing all U.S. geographic regions. The USU agenda focuses on creating a competitive workforce, building strong communities and improving the health of a diverse population. The Coalition of Urban Serving Universities (USU) has partnered with APLU to establish an Office of Urban Initiatives, housed at APLU, to jointly lead an urban agenda for the nation’s public universities.

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