Just like the city of San Francisco, SF State is known for valuing activism, social engagement and service to community. The University is one of a select group of schools that Princeton Review calls "Colleges with a Conscience" -- institutions of higher learning that possess both "an administration committed to social responsibility and a student body actively engaged in serving society.
A pioneer in learning through community, SF State offers more than 500 courses that combine academic study with community involvement through the Institute for Civic and Community Engagement (ICCE). SF State is one of 62 colleges and universities to receive the Carnegie Foundation’s Community Engagement, Outreach and Partnerships classification, which recognizes SF State’s dedication to community service learning. SF State is one of about five universities nationwide, and the only CSU campus, to include community service learning credit on student transcripts. 14,105 students enrolled in Community Service Learning courses, internships, and volunteer work in 2010. Students helped 138,811 off-campus clients at nonprofit sites for a total of 1,912,303 hours of community service. At the City's 2010 minimum wage of $9.92 per hour, students donated more than $18 million dollars of services to San Francisco Bay Area communities.
The social integration of people with disabilities is the lifelong mission of MacArthur Fellowship ("genius award") recipient Ralf Hotchkiss, the founder of Whirlwind Wheelchair International based at SF State. The program has brought improved mobility to more than 50,000 people in Africa, Asia and Latin America by creating a global network of wheelchair inventors, designers, users and manufacturers to address the need for wheelchairs in the developing world and in disaster-stricken areas.
San Francisco State alumni are a major presence in the Peace Corps. The University ranks 20th in the nation among all U.S. colleges and universities that have produced Peace Corps volunteers. More than 1,200 SF State alumni have served as volunteers in the program. In 2008, SF State received an award from the Peace Corps recognizing the University’s long-time commitment.
SF State's Romberg Tiburon Center for Environmental Studies is headquarters for the 3,700-acre San Francisco Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, working to restore tidal marshes and protect estuarine habitat through research, monitoring and educational programs. Dedicated in 2003, the SF Bay NERR is the third such reserve in California and one of 26 nationwide.
Internationally trained health professionals gain a foothold in California's job market with help from the Welcome Back program, operated in partnership with City College of San Francisco. The nonprofit functions as a counseling, education and job placement service for immigrant health professionals, helping them navigate the state's licensing system and obtain the necessary credentials to work in the United States. Made possible through a $2 million grant from The California Endowment, Welcome Back also aims to increase the numbers and ethnic diversity of health professionals practicing in medically underserved areas. Almost a decade old, the San Francisco Welcome Back Center is the model and lead site for eight other centers in California, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Washington, Maryland, New York and Texas. Together, the centers have served close to 10,000 participants from 150 countries. In 2008, the center was selected from a pool of more than 1,000 national applicants as a finalist for the prestigious Innovations in Government Award, which acknowledges creative approaches and solutions to problems in the public sector.
SF State makes top-quality chamber music available to the community through the Morrison Artists Series. Since 1952, the program has offered a series of free recitals by prominent chamber music ensembles, which San Francisco Chronicle music critic Joshua Kosman describes as an "indispensable" and "invaluable" contribution to the local music scene.
SF State was among the first recipients (2006) of the President's Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll Award, presented by the Corporation for National and Community Service, in recognition of the University's community service efforts.
The University honors community leaders who have made long-lasting, widespread contributions to SF State and the city of San Francisco with the award of the SF State President's Medal. Recipients include legendary jazz bassist Vernon Alley, service learning scholar Thomas Ehrlich, arts patron Jane Hohfeld Galante, U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown, philanthropist Richard Goldman, Whirlwind Wheelchair International cofounder Ralf Hotchkiss, first dean of the College of Ethnic Studies James Hirabayashi, and the late August Coppola, dean emeritus of the SF State College of Creative Arts.