As detailed in our name, CommUniverCity is a unique partnership between underserved communities in Central San José, San José State University and the City of San José. We believe that the essence of community building lies at the intersection of education, community health, and the neighborhood environment. CommUniverCity encourages students, businesses, faith groups, residents, advocacy groups, community benefit organizations, corporate partners, and government officials to engage in an open dialogue about the needs of their community, and provides them with the tools and the framework to spring their ideas into action.
On a Mission
CommUniverCity believes that everyone deserves to live in vibrant, healthy communities. We seek to transform San José communities by expanding understanding of individual capacity and capability. Because we know that dynamic, self-sustaining community is guaranteed when the opportunity to contribute is a privilege accessible to all, we address community challenges through student service-learning projects that mutually benefit and require the participation of both students and residents. As we encourage residents to engage, and open doors for them to learn through education and mentorship, we restore community health, and build a platform on which neighborhood ownership becomes the norm and revitalization easily accomplished.
We have a Vision
We envision a cohesive, thriving community with members that recognize that they are stronger when they share knowledge, wiser when they welcome learning, and more impactful when they join together. We will accomplish this by continuing to encourage the productive relationship currently shared between SJSU students and San José’s underserved populations. The reciprocal partnership that we enjoy with San José, enables CommUniverCity to utilize our city’s contribution of resources and funding to provide both an accurate portrait of the concerns that shape community dialogue, and frameworks that best facilitate neighborhood based projects. CommUniverCity allows students to realize that the content of their studies, when shared, can positively impact and enhance their communities, and encourages residents to view themselves as change makers and to lift their voices in discussion.
How it all started
CommUniverCity began in 2005 building on the premise that the central San José communities strained to build leadership, the university prepares their students to become engaged citizens and the city’s desire to invest in its neighborhoods. We sought to contribute to a growing movement across the United States that recognizes that, by the very nature of their stability and long term presence, the future of urban institutions of higher education is intimately tied to the fate of their surrounding communities and governmental entity. CommUniverCity emerged as a means of necessity to lead the collapse of the physical, organizational and conceptual walls that kept San José State University separate from its surrounding community. Since then, CommUniverCity has placed great emphasis on measuring our impact through multiple forms of outcomes assessment. Our scope has expanded and we continue to make a significant impact in the community.
Since our inception, we’ve had over…
CommUniverCity serves Central San José neighborhoods; our initial start began with Five Wounds/ Brookwood Terrace (FWBT), a diverse area that is home to 96,000 residents. This is a low-income community where half of the population is Latino, one third were born in another country, and two thirds of households speak a language other than English. Nearly two thirds (60.4%) of households in the area are low income, earning less than 80% of the Area Median Income (AMI).
While demographics foreshadow the challenges of serving and engaging such a community, demographics don’t tell the whole story: Central San José is home to many grassroots leaders with a long history of engagement to protect their communities, and strong ties to CommUniverCity.
Since then, we have now engaged our projects with several of the downtown neighborhoods including:
- East Santa Clara Urban Village corridor
- Spartan Keyes Neighborhood
- Greater Washington Neighborhood
- South University Neighborhood (SUN)
- Northside Neighborhood
- City Hall and Coyote Creek
Engaging our service-learning students
Each year we spearhead 40 – 50 projects that engage SJSU service-learning students with their surrounding community residents. A key value of our university partnership lies in the expertise, skills and knowledge that teams of faculty and students bring to bear in participatory action research projects that involve the community. We engage students in solving real-life neighborhood issues such as food access, educational attainment, and the built environment. Residents in turn, benefit from the intellectual capital provided by the University, and both parties contribute to creating a thriving neighborhood they can proudly call home.
Project coordinators play pivotal roles for CommUniverCity’s work in the community. As Graduate or upper-division undergraduate students from San José State University, these students are engaged in conducting outreach, organizing events, and developing and administering service-learning curriculum.
CommUniverCity San José is driven by the priorities of the neighborhoods where we work. As such, we engage residents within our service area as volunteers and leaders on our projects.