Donation expands community service learning at USD


casa front

San Francisco Bay Area couple Karen and Tom Mulvaney recently donated nearly $3 million to University of San Diego’s Center for Community Service Learning. In honor of the donation, USD has renamed the Center the Karen and Tom Mulvaney Center for Community, Awareness and Social Action, CASA. This donation will also help to establish the Mulvaney Fellows Program, in which students from USD and Saint Mary’s College in northern California will participate in community service learning.

The Mulvaney family has a legacy at USD. Tom Mulvaney graduated from USD School of Law in 1977. Tom’s father worked at the university as a law professor from 1957 until 1963, and the couple’s son graduated from USD in 2009.
Staff and students campuswide are interested to see how this donation will affect the university. Some students look forward to an expansion of community service learning at USD, while others question how the donation will be spent.
Ilana Lopez, director of community-based youth programs in CASA, thinks the focus of the donation will be on continuing immersion trips and community engagement for students, locally, nationally and globally.

Lopez believes the donation shows the importance of community involvement.

“The Mulvaney family’s gift shows community engagement is important, especially with respect to the growth that students experience from immersions, service and involvement,” Lopez said. “The endowment shows that people value that, the school values and supports it, and it is important.”

Michelle Padilla, ‘13, is a recent USD graduate who has continued her work with CASA. As an undergraduate, Michelle Padilla volunteered with CASA, and now works as part of the staff.

Michelle Padilla is grateful for CASA and the ability to give back.

“I have found a deep sense of community not just here at USD or in CASA,” Padilla said. “It’s so important to build community and establish relationships in other places with other people.

As a part of CASA and community service learning, Michelle Padilla has traveled to Jamaica many times. She believes that being immersed in a new culture and place is important, and hopes the money donated will encourage others to participate in something she thinks is rewarding.

Other USD students also responded with excitement to the announcement of the donation.

Sophomore Anastasia Zuniga, co-program director for Students for Fair Trade, a club partnered with CASA, is hopeful about the impact of the donation.

“It’s an incredibly positive thing,” Zuniga said. “The endowment will help find so many new and different ways to help the community around us, and the world around us.”

With this donation, Zuniga hopes CASA can reach the entire student body and make an effective change toward USD’s commitment to service and engagement.

“I hope it creates awareness around campus of CASA, providing students with a way to inspire or to encourage service with each other for our greater community,” Zuniga said.

Junior Rosalie Polfchan, Zuniga’s co-program director of Students for Fair Trade, hopes the endowment will encourage the USD community to get involved.

“I really hope more students become involved in CASA,” Polfchan said. “This donation is an awesome opportunity to spread the word about [it].”

However, not all students view the donation as a great win for CASA. Some students involved with community service learning at USD regard the donation with more hesitation.

Sophomore Maria Speckmann has participated in community service learning through CASA at Montgomery Middle School’s Homework Club. As a volunteer tutor, she saw the needs of the community firsthand. Speckmann wondered if there were better alternatives to put the money toward.

“I feel it would be more effective to donate money directly to the schools or community centers that CASA works with,” Speckmann said.

Speckmann says that although she is hesitant, she believes the endowment will benefit USD.

“Three million dollars is a huge and generous contribution, one that will definitely be put to good use for our greater community,” Speckmann said. “Ultimately, I think their donation will have a great impact on USD’s connections to the community around us and that many people in need will benefit.”

Other USD students who are unaffiliated with CASA are also hopeful about the donation and its ability to expand service.

Sophomore Melissa Padilla was pleasantly surprised to hear about the donation and to learn more about CASA’s programs.

“I thought it was great to see the Mulvaney couple supporting many of the family members’ alma mater,” Melissa Padilla said. “I didn’t know CASA was in charge of all of this, from community service learning to immersions, and I was happy to see this donation toward a part of campus that connects learning to community.”

Through the Mulvaney family’s endowment, the university says that it hopes to expand its efforts for increased service and community engagement for faculty, staff, students and alumni.