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James Robinson, News Service (650) 723-5675; e-mail:

Stanford Haas Center's 'untold story' documents community service activities

Nadinne Cruz, director of Stanford's Haas Center for Public Service, made something of a confession during a presentation at last week's Faculty Senate meeting. She said she came to Stanford in 1994 "very much as an unbeliever, with somewhat of a heavy heart, because I identify very much with being an activist in the community, and practically everybody said, 'You're going to Stanford? That's a desert when it comes to community efforts and community service.'"

Over the years, however, "I discovered so many deep and true tales that I have come to be a believer in the individuals I have met and the programs that have been evident all across Stanford. And I'm very proud of what those individuals do." Those programs run a wide range --- from the Arbor Free Clinic to the Korean Tutorial Project to Barrio Assistance.

What is missing, however, "is a sense of a coherence about the vision and the place in the institution of Stanford for public service and community outreach," Cruz said in her presentation, which she titled "Stanford in the Community: The Untold Story."

And one of the reasons, perhaps, her friends thought Stanford was a "desert" for community service is that the decentralized university is only now beginning to inventory its programs.

At first glance, Stanford has 319 organized service efforts across 20 major programs and departments, Cruz reported. Yet, "it's clear it's really a preliminary inventory," she acknowledged -- and one that does not even count the efforts by members of Stanford's 7,600-strong staff.

"There is no complete history. There's very limited documentation. What documentation exists tends to be by individual programs or efforts. There's limited awareness that all these things are going on beyond the individual efforts that people know about in their own area. There's no consistent ownership of the story," she said.

"There are costs to not telling this story," she added.

Cruz said that a lack of documentation of Stanford's community outreach activities weakens the university's proposals for federal research funding -- a situation that even has resulted in the loss of a National Science Foundation proposal.

Ignorance of the university's efforts also can lead to misperceptions in the surrounding community, she added. "I know lots of people during the GUP [general use permit] controversy who were members of the Stanford community expressed the same sarcasm and dismay with Stanford that so-called outsiders expressed. And I think while there were reasons for their expressing those comments, I think part of it is they also do not know about the tremendous outreach that members of the Stanford community are involved with," Cruz said.

Imagine, she said, "a huge, critical mass of people involved with K-12 outreach. They never talk to each other, they don't know what each other is doing, they don't know what each is discovering about what works and what doesn't work. Over a period of time, all that cumulative learning is lost to people. There's no convening annually of people across the university who are involved in areas like K-12, which is a significant effort at Stanford. And there's no accountability to the communities served. We don't account to ourselves, we don't account to others, except in situations where individual programs may do evaluations and take an accounting of what they do."

With funding from the office of the Dean of Research, the Haas Center will begin to "take a crack" at documenting efforts in the K-12 area, Cruz said.

She also listed the following recommendations:

  • Research fully the history of public service at Stanford.
  • "Tell the story. Tell many stories."
  • Develop a system to track and update public service activities.
  • Recognize, honor and reward excellence in public service by faculty, staff and students.
  • Obtain funding to "institutionalize" service-learning.
  • Articulate a vision for public service "as an integral part of Stanford's purpose."

 Following her presentation, the senate honored one of the founders of the Haas Center, John W. Gardner, consulting professor in the School of Education -- "a person who has over his entire career represented the very best of public service," Senate Chair Brad Osgood said.

"Professor Gardner has committed himself most importantly to improving the lives of others. As secretary of Health, Education and Welfare, as president of the Carnegie Corporation, as founder of Common Cause, his allegiance to those who most need society's help has been unqualified and unwavering. The faculty at Stanford is honored and fortunate that we have been able to call John Gardner a colleague, honored and fortunate that he has committed himself to making our university a better place."


By James Robinson

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