The Leo T. McCarthy Center for Public Service and the Common Good

In order to fashion a more humane and just world, the Leo T. McCarthy Center for Public Service and the Common Good educates leaders committed to lives of ethical public service by implementing academically rigorous programs, cultivating authentic community partnerships, and creating transformational experiences.


Public service is viewed as activities that directly contribute to the achievement of a common objective or value, on a public policy level, in areas such as government, business, the environment, healthcare, and education, particularly policies that may affect the poor and disenfranchised. Thus, public service can be performed in the public, nonprofit or private sectors.

The Center will be a national model for interdisciplinary education, research and action that promotes effective, principled civic engagement. Students and faculty who participate in Center programs will contribute to the forging of sound public policies and programs. Goals for the Center include promoting the common good for all and contributing to the creation of just social and economic structures that respect and incorporate the needs of all, including the poor and disenfranchised.

The Center is dedicated to sponsoring academic programs, public events, service learning opportunities, conferences and faculty and student research that encourage civic engagement and ethical public leadership. The Center will embody the mission of USF which is "to educate leaders who will fashion a more humane and just world."

Core Values That Guide Our Work

These values are prompted, in part by the “big questions” that we reflect upon and carry with us as a Center. These include:

  • How do we move students from a conception of service as charity to a notion of service as justice?
  • How do we develop ethical, smart activists?

How do we model authentic, democratic, and transformational relationships with the community?
These questions are grounded in the vision of USF, “The University of San Francisco will be internationally recognized as a premier Jesuit Catholic, urban University with a global perspective that educates leaders who will fashion a more humane and just world,” USF's Vision 2028, and in particular, our mission statement.

The core values that permeate and anchor all of our work, guide our decision-making and are aligned with our beliefs and practices include:

  • Diversity and inclusion: We believe that our work is enriched by the intentional inclusion of diverse perspectives, participants, ideas/ideologies and disciplines.
  • Social justice: We aspire to inform and complicate our programs, actions, decision-making processes, learning and teaching by incorporating concepts of social justice*.
  • Academic rigor: We implement high impact pedagogical practices within a liberal curriculum framework to develop the knowledge, skills and competencies necessary for students to contribute to the common good.
  • Invitational dialogue: In recognition that the quality of communication contributes to the quality of community, we create brave spaces that invite the discussion of discordant ideas to understand and examine issues inherent in our work.
  • Collaboration and co-determination: We believe our mission is enhanced by connecting and collaborating with a variety of stakeholders at USF, in the Bay Area, and beyond.
  • Accountability: We are accountable to multiple stakeholders. We strive for excellence in all of our programs and relationships.
  • Humility: We recognize that humility and self-reflection are vital to connecting authentically with others and receiving knowledge in all of its forms.
  • Problem solving and practical outcomes: We solve problems creatively and critically in an effort to find practical outcomes and achieve strategic goals.
  • Growth and improvement: We assess the work of the Center to examine the effectiveness of our programs and practices and better meet student and community outcomes. Our staff, students, programs and relationships grow and improve as they are informed by new experiences, information and research.
  • Innovation and experimentation: We recognize that informed risk taking, creativity, and dynamic thinking are integral to our work.

*Adams, Bell and Griffin define social justice as both a process and a goal, “The goal of social justice is full and equal participation of all groups in a society that is mutually shaped to meet their needs. Social justice includes a vision of society in which the distribution of resources is equitable and all members are physically and psychologically safe and secure. We envision a society in which individuals are both self-determining…and interdependent…”Adams, Maurianne and Lee Anne Bell, Pat Griffin. Teaching for Diversity and Social Justice. New York: Routledge, 2007. Print.