Director of the Office of Civic Engagement recognized by Ohio Campus Compact
Ohio Campus Compact has honored Anita Ruf-Young, Director of Cleveland State University’s Office of Civic Engagement, with their 2023 David Hoch Memorial Award. In her role, Ruf-Young works with students, faculty, and staff at Cleveland State University to encourage citizenship and strong communities by building partnerships within CSU, with public, nonprofit community-based organizations, and governmental institutions.
Partnerships are designed to enhance student learning by engaging students in civic, employment, experiential, leadership, and co-curricular involvement opportunities and experiences while contributing to the civic, academic, social, and economic well-being of Cleveland, its neighborhoods, and the Northeast Ohio region.
Cleveland State University President, Laura Bloomberg, Ph.D., describes Ruf-Young as “strategic servant leader who inspires the ethos of service in everyone with whom she works.”
Under Ruf-Young’s leadership, CSU’s Office of Civic Engagement has worked tirelessly to make civic engagement a part of the University’s culture, including a more traditional Campus Vote Project as well as joint programming with the Office of First Year Experience, the Michael Schwartz Library, and the CSU Athletics’ Department which, this November, organized the Vikings men’s basketball team to walk to the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections to cast their ballots in early in-person voting.
CSU was recognized by the ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge (ALL IN) as a 2022 ALL IN Most Engaged Campus for College Student Voting, a national awards program which recognizes colleges and universities for their commitment to increasing student voting rates.
Impressively, 89% of CSU’s student body is registered to vote.
Each year, OCE hires and places eighty students in service learning opportunities. Over the past five years, 30,228 youth and other community members throughout Northeast Ohio have benefitted from the work of these students. For 14 years, with generous grant support provided by the Cleveland Public Library, Ruf-Young and her team have helped to build CSU’s America Reads/Viking Corps programs.
Recruiting and placing CSU students in community service-learning positions, children from kindergarten through high school are tutored and mentored, free of cost, within CPL branches. America Reads tutors gain real-world work experience developing soft skills, building their resumes and networks, while earning stipends to defray their educational expenses.
Equally significant, they develop a lifelong commitment to service in communities that are diverse economically and educationally under-resourced.
“Every day I have the unique opportunity to connect our CSU students and campus community with the broader Cleveland community in very meaningful and measurable ways through community service-learning and civic engagement initiatives” said Ruf-Young.
“I am fortunate to work at a University that wholeheartedly embraces and drives my work. At CSU we proudly state that The City is Our Campus, and we promote active Engaged Learning. I am proud to see the impact of my work manifest daily.”
Many have congratulated Anita on her receiving the 2023 David Hoch Memorial Award.
- "Anita has done an outstanding job of increasing civic participation among the students at CSU. Her ability to partner, both internally and externally with individuals and organizations committed to civic engagement, has led to significant increases in voter participation at CSU. As an office of one full time person, she had led the effort to transform CSU into a national leader of student civic engagement on a college campus. Cleveland State is a much better place because of her presence." - Julian Rogers, Assistant Vice President, Case Western University
- "[Because of] Anita Ruf-Young’s outstanding commitment to each program she supports, the effort and care that she puts into maintaining our partnership, and the immense impact her work has on CMSD schools and local community, it is my honor to recommend her for The David Hoch Memorial Award for Excellence in Service." - Lauren Bowen, Former Model Lead Teacher Davis Aerospace and Maritime High School
- "I witnessed her tenacity, and her commitment to student success and public service. Anita does not work in this field for personal recognition or glory. She does this work because she truly cares for her community, and she understands the positive impact her work has on it. Working with Anita was a great professional and personal growth opportunity for myself. Anita frequently embodied the idea that everyone has value and that everyone can make a positive impact on their community with the right tools. I frequently recall Anita always striving to make any possible opportunity “a teachable moment”. If Anita was able to provide guidance or assistance to a student, a community organization, or a colleague she was always more than willing to jump in and offer her expertise and time. If the nomination committee is truly looking for a champion of their community, they can look no further than Anita Ruf-Young."- Anthony Kukura, Strategy Associate of Programs at Koinonia Homes, Former Graduate Assistant, Office of Civic Engagement, Maxine, Goodman, Levin College of Urban Affairs
- "I reached out to Ms. Ruf-Young in the spring of 2021 because we had an immediate need for tutors at John Marshall High School in Cleveland. Our program (...) served 35 refugee students from countries including Syria, Afghanistan, Sudan, Nepal and Somalia. After explaining the needs of our students, she was on board and began interviewing CSU students for our program. In a matter of weeks, she found amazing tutors for us. This partnership could not have happened without Anita’s determination to bring our two groups of students together. Anita Ruf-Young is a tenacious, smart, compassionate, inspirational leader who I highly recommend for the David Hoch Memorial Award for Excellence in Service. -Kim Wheeler, Teen Response Program Manager
- "[Anita's] experience, leadership, and passion for civic engagement definitely qualify her for this award. Civic engagement and partnerships do not just happen. They are created and maintained with commitment and expertise. I have personally observed Anita’s work in building the civic engagement infrastructure that embeds voting and civic engagement in CSU’s systems and culture. Our partnership has grown exponentially over the years since 2018, the year Anita Ruf-Young became the Interim Director of the OCE. Due to Anita’s leadership, we are able to be on campus throughout the year connecting with students to increase turnout and election readiness. Along with NOVA, I recognize and sincerely appreciate Anita’s civic leadership, partnership, and strategic initiatives since they support student voting, deepen urban engagement, uniquely impact CSU, and the Cleveland community."-Susan Alcorn, NOVA
- "Anita seized this leadership opportunity and went all out to not only keep the office alive, but also to create innovative programming and partnerships that did not previously exist. Her performance and creativity in leading the Office of Civic Engagement qualifies her for this award. Anita has established an impressive list of partnerships and has expanded our reach as an anchor institution Northeast Ohio and beyond. Anita Ruf-Young is a tireless ambassador for student engagement in the civic life of Cleveland and Ohio." -Roland Anglin, Dean and Professor, Levin College of Public Affairs and Education
- "Anita exemplifies all that a leader should: she is both strategic and empathetic in her thinking and approach; inspirational to the students and constituents she serves; always thoughtful, engaging and genial in every interaction, and ever mindful of the inimitable role CSU plays as a citadel of Cleveland’s urban landscape and the generations of future leaders our institution shapes. There are many reasons pointing to the program success. But at the heart of it all is Anita, who has worked in higher education administration for nearly 25 years and takes CSU’s “The City is Our Campus” motto and “Engaged Learning” tagline to heart. What she is doing is legacy building, but not for herself. She’s on a mission to help students—future leaders in Cleveland and beyond—see ways to make an impact and “flip the script.” With an experiential learning approach rooted in building interpersonal relationships, building trust and building understanding, Anita and her partners on- and off-campus are helping students see (and see beyond) the causality of communities and connect the dots to affect real measurable change around them. They see her lead by example and are inspired to follow suit. In my mind, there’s no one walking the walk quite like Anita does in Cleveland."-Peter Chakerian, University Marketing and Communications
- "Anita conducts herself professionally with the utmost respect for others, expresses empathy and concern for the wellbeing of all students and colleagues, and provides many opportunities to all CSU students that want a meaningful job experience while attending CSU. Anita has also inspired me to not only work with nonprofit organizations but to guide other CSU students that show interest in wanting to work out in the community to work for the Viking Corps and CPL America Reads program." -Gabriella Pridemore, Office of Civic Engagement Graduate Assistant
For more information on the CSU Office of Civic Engagement, please visit urban.csuohio.edu/oce/office-of-civic-engagement.