Jennifer Pigza

Jennifer M. Pigza, Ph.D.


Professional Overview: 

Jennifer M. Pigza, Ph.D., is the director of the Catholic Institute for Lasallian Social Action and Adjunct Assistant Professor in Leadership (Kalmanovitz School of Education).

School of Education » Master of Arts in Leadership
SMC Email Address: 
Contact Information: 

203 Ferrogiaro Hall

Box 4595, 1928 St. Marys Road, Moraga CA 94575


Additional Education:

Professional Experience

Since 2005, I have provided leadership to the Catholic Institute for Lasallian Social Action (CILSA) at Saint Mary’s College of California as the Director (June 2015-present) and Associate Director (July 2005-May 2015). CILSA is an academic department whose mission is to be a catalyst in creating and sustaining transformative educational experiences inspired by the Catholic, Lasallian, and Liberal Arts traditions through partnerships with students, faculty, staff, and community partners. We aim to be a national leader in the scholarship, theory, and practice of community engagement. We advocate, inspire, model and support.

As Director, I collaborate with senior leadership across campus, students, faculty, staff, community partners and funders to strengthen existing programs and seek further ways to integrate service-learning, community-based research, internships, and engaged leadership with traditional academics and co-curricular programs. CILSA's portfolio includes academic and logistical support to all community engagement courses as part of the undergraduate core curriculum, faculty development for community engagement, the MICAH Summer Fellowship program in collaboration with the University of San Diego, and year-long leadership and service programs including Engaged Learning Facilitators, Social Action Leadership Team, and Jumpstart. Key responsibilities of the director include:

  • Departmental vision and leadership
  • Program development and supervision
  • Fiscal management and resource development
  • Engaged teaching, learning and scholarship
  • National and regional leadership and professional development
  • Recognition and reporting
  • Campus-wide collaborations

Prior to Saint Saint Mary's College of California

My professional experience began in the non-profit sector through the Jesuit Volunteer Corps, a full-time domestic service program akin to the Peace Corps. I then proceeded to work at three colleges and universities: the University of Vermont, Saint Mary’s College of Maryland, and the University of Maryland. I worked in traditional student affairs areas, as well as community service-learning and civic engagement. This section provides a summary of my expertise and experience from 1990 through 2005. A full resume is available upon request.

 Faculty Development & Support

  • Mentored service-learning and CBR faculty in curriculum development and critical reflection strategies.
  • Established training and development network with over 10 living and learning communities; assisted in institutionalizing service-learning as a requirement in programs including the arts, pre-med, and honors.
  • Collaborated with center for teaching excellence to provide instructional improvement grants; disbursed over $20,000 to service-learning initiatives.
  • Managed and taught an undergraduate teaching assistant program serving faculty in multiple disciplines.
  • Designed and delivered faculty training on service-learning, student development, cross-cultural issues in service-learning, community-based research, and developing partnerships.
  • Created faculty handbook for service-learning for two institutions; managed library and syllabi resources.

Community Partnership

  • Provided leadership to semester-long Campus Compact Engaged Campus grant project in which students, faculty, staff and community partners explored the meaning and actions of an engaged campus.
  • Developed agency orientation program to encourage community-university partnerships.
  • Coordinated web-based database linking over 600 community agencies with potential volunteers.
  • Maintained relationships with over 20 non-profit agencies who hosted full-time volunteer interns.

Co-Curricular Service & Leadership Development

  • Advised student service organizations, including an organization involving over 500 active members and an alternative break program involving 100 students.
  • Lead campus-wide service events involving 200-500 students, faculty, staff and community.
  • Designed week-long immersion experience for first-year students linking service and leadership.
  • Taught three-credit service-learning course “Leadership and Community Service.”
  • Assisted in the development and facilitation of a three-day student retreat linking service and leadership.
  • Provided direct support and training to America Reads*America Counts, student leadership programs, resident life, and fraternity and sorority life.

Management & Supervision

  • Coordinated service-learning assessment of students in curricular, co-curricular, and work-study settings.
  • Managed day-to-day operations, budget, purchasing, scheduling, publications, and annual reports.
  • Supervised course instructor, graduate staff and interns, and undergraduate staff and interns.
  • Provided leadership during nearly 100% staff turnover, two reorganizations and three moves in two years.
  • Assumed colleagues’ responsibilities during six maternity leaves in four consecutive years.

Student Affairs

  • Provided leadership to student activities, group advising, leadership development and collaborative programming. Initiated lecture, film and discussion programs focused on issues of diversity and social justice; gained faculty support for course integration of co-curricular programs.
  • Coordinated student and family programs for groups of 400 and 1,800 students at two institutions. Executed transition to technology-assisted advising and course registration.
  • Served as individual hearing officer, judicial board advisor, trainer of resident assistants and judicial board members, and member of graduate student academic honesty board. Redesigned student handbooks and policies. Focused on educational outcomes of the judicial process.
  • Created programming to support commuter students. Implemented system-wide transition of 650 properties and landlords to new web-based housing and roommate search service.

Community & Faith-Based Organizations 

  • Served two years as a full-time domestic volunteer, first as a parent aide to low income families involved with social services, and then as a trainer to women opening child care businesses in their homes.
  • Worked as area director responsible for full-time volunteers, community partnerships, and recruitment in four cities; designed faith formation experiences; managed finances and payroll.

Courses Taught


Saint Mary’s College of California (Moraga, CA)

  • Foundations of Justice (graduate)
  • Public Service Internship (undergraduate service-learning)
  • Crossing Borders Inside & Out: Rwanda (undergraduate international service-learning immersion)
  • Remaking & Reconciling Rwanda (undergraduate)
  • Doing Faithjustice (undergraduate domestic service-learning immersion)

University of Maryland (College Park, MD)

  • Experiences in College Teaching: Undergraduate Teaching Assistants for Service-Learning (undergraduate)
  • Leadership & Community Service (undergraduate service-learning)

University of Vermont (Burlington, VT)

  • College Success (undergraduate)



Saint Mary's College of California (Moraga, CA)

  • Organizational Change & Innovation (graduate)

University of Vermont (Burlington, VT)

  • Race & Culture (undergraduate)



Saint Mary's College of California (Moraga, CA)

  • Values & Ethics (graduate)
  • Social Movements (graduate)
  • Global Perspectives in Social Justice Leadership (graduate)
  • Jumpstart, psychology course (undergraduate)
  • MICAH Summer Fellowship, theology and religious studies course (undergraduate)
  • Leadership for Social Justice Living-Learning Program, sociology course (undergraduate)
  • Exploring Leadership, education course (undergraduate)




  • Committee on the Integrated Undergraduate Education Experience (2018-Present)    
  • Institutional Strategic Plan Implementation Team: Faculty Research about Poverty & Marginality, member (2015-Present)    
  • Undergraduate Core Curriculum, Community Engagement & Common Good Working Group, ex officio member (2015-Present)    
  • Sustainability Committee, student life sub-committee member (2015-Present)
  • Justice, Community & Leadership (undergraduate major), advisory council member (2013-Present)
  • Cummins Institute for Catholic Thought, Culture & Action, member and budget committee member (2005-Present)
  • First Year Experience Committee, member (2010-2016)           
  • Institutional Strategic Plan Development Committees (2014)
    • Facilities and Footprint, co-chair
    • Vision and Mission, member
    • From De La Salle to Lasallian, member
  • Social Justice Coordinating Committee, founding member and chair (2005-2014)
  • Mission Effectiveness & Assessment Council, member (2010-2012)           

Departmental: Leadership Department, Saint Mary’s College of California (Moraga, CA)

  • M.A. in Leadership, curriculum redesign team member (2014-2015)  
  • M.A. in Leadership, departmental review team member (2012)
  • M.A. in Leadership for Social Justice, curriculum design lead team (2011-2012) 


  • Place-Based Justice Network: Institutions of Higher Education Engaged in Their Communities, organizational team member (2018)                   
  • Lasallian International Research Symposium, conference planning committee member (2014)
  • Huether Lasallian Symposium, conference planning committee member (2012)
  • Catholic Lasallian Assessment Program, external reviewer (2011)
  • Mills College Civic Leadership Program, external reviewer (2010)
  • Association of American Colleges & Universities: Network for Academic RenewalConference, national conference planning committee member (2009)
  • Engaging Communities and Campuses Project, Council of Independent Colleges, field consultant (2001-2003)
  • ACPA: College Student Educators International (1997-2002)
  • Maryland President and Past-President, 2000-2002
  • National convention special events committee, 2000
  • East Coast Graduate Fair Coordinator, 1998-2000
  • Standing Committee to Executive Council, 1997-1999
  • The Forum on Volunteerism, Service & Learning, national conference planning committee member (2001)
  • Corporation for National & Community Service, federal grant reviewer (1994 & 1997)


  • Jesuit Volunteer Corps, support person for Oakland community (2011-2013)       
  • Ignatian Solidarity Network, national conference redesign team (2011)
  • Youth Engagement Advocacy & Housing, cook for winter shelter (2006-2010)          
  • Jesuit Volunteer Corps: East, annual staff decision-making process facilitator (2000-2005)           
  • Steps to End Domestic Violence, hotline volunteer (1994-1996)          
  • Jesuit Volunteer Corps, full-time volunteer (1990-1992)         



  • Donahue, D., Pigza, J. M., & Merritt, J. (2017, January). Place-based initiatives in higher education: Embracing tensions in learning, research, and community development. Presented at the annual meeting of Association of American Colleges and Universities, San Francisco, CA.
  • Howard, J., Bott, K., Furco, A., Kirklighter, C., Kowal, M., Olszowy Jones, D., Pigza, J. M., & Underwood, T. (2016, March). Service-learning/community engagement journal editors panel. Presented at the Campus Compact 30th Anniversary Conference, Boston, MA.
  • Pigza, J. M. (2016, March). Maximizing community development and impact through community-based research. Presented at the Campus Compact 30th Anniversary Conference, Boston, MA.
  • Wagner, W., Pigza, J. M., & Ray, V. F. (2016, March). Linking leadership development and community engagement in theory and practice. Presented at the Campus Compact 30th Anniversary Conference, Boston, MA.
  • Owen, J. E., Clegorne, N., Haber-Curran, P., Pigza, J. M., Rocco, M., Torrez, M., & Wagner, W. (2015, March). Innovative learning for leadership development: Pathways to civic engagement. Presented at the meeting of the ACPA College Student Educators International, Tampa, FL.
  • Pigza, J. M. (2014, April). POWERful community-based research: A framework for justice-oriented community engagement. Presented at the Research Justice Symposium, University of California Berkeley, Berkeley, CA.
  • Pigza, J. M. (2012, March). Creating 4+1 pathways to graduate study for first generation students. Presented at the meeting of the ACPA College Student Educators International National Conference, Louisville, KY.
  • Pigza, J. M. (2010, November). Student leadership in service-learning and CBR. Presented at the Bonner Foundation Conference, Asheville, NC.
  • Beckman, M., & Pigza, J. M. (2010). Community-based research (CBR): A vital curriculum for faculty, students and communities. Presented at the annual meeting of Association of American Colleges and Universities, Washington, DC.
  • Pigza, J. M., Anderson, S., & True, M. (2009, October). Faculty development for personal and social responsibility: An engaged pedagogy framework. Presented at the Association of American Colleges and Universities Network for Academic Renewal Conference, Minneapolis, MN.
  • Pigza, J. M. (2008, November). Engaged pedagogy: Teaching for social justice in higher education. Presented at the Huether Lasallian Conference, St. Louis, MO.
  • Pigza, J. M. (2008, October). Deliberative dialogue. Presented at the Association of American Colleges and Universities: Core Commitments Symposium, Long Beach, CA.
  • Pigza, J. M. (2008, January). Promoting commitment to the common good: What makes a difference. Presented at the annual meeting of the Association of American Colleges and Universities, Washington, DC.
  • Pigza, J. M., & Kelley, K. (2006, June). Student development: From theory to practice. Presented at the meeting of the Bonner Foundation Leadership Institute, Defiance, OH.
  • Pigza, J. M. (2009, March). Teaching and learning for social justice: A phenomenological model for professional development. Presented at the meeting of the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators, Seattle, WA.
  • Pigza, J. M. (2006, April). Developing a continuum of opportunities for community service and leadership. Development. Presented at the Ninth Annual Continuums of Service Conference, Western Region Campus Compact, Seattle, WA.
  • Pigza, J. M. (2005, October). Articulating a discourse of teaching for social justice. Paper presented at the Society for Phenomenology and Existential Philosophy, Salt Lake City, UT.
  • Pigza, J. M. (2004, September). Teacher seeks student: Must be willing to change the world. Paper presented at the Sharpe colloquium: Research-in-progress in service-learning and immigrant communities. Symposium conducted at the College of William & Mary, Williamsburg, VA.
  • Pigza, J. M. (2000, March). The university as citizen: Establishing benchmarks for the engaged campus. Presented at the ACPA College Student Educators International Annual Conference, Washington, DC.


  • Pigza, J. M. (2017, August). Transforming university systems and structures to support place-based engagement. Presented at the Place-Based Institute, Seattle University, Seattle, WA.
  • Pigza, J. M. (2017, March). Leadership for social justice. Presented at Leadership Contra Costa County, Walnut Creek, CA.
  • Pigza, J. M. (2017, February). ABCs of community-based learning. Presented at Notre Dame de Namur University, Belmont, CA.
  • Pigza, J. M., Kletz, A., Kono, S., Mansur, A., & Perry, E. (2014, June). Next-gen leaders for the non-profit sector. Presented at Social Media for Non-Profits: Boot Camp, Mountain View, CA.
  • Pigza, J. M. & Sweeney, F. M. (2014, May). Fall in love, stay in love. Keynote address presented at the Lavender Graduation, Saint Mary’s College of California, Moraga, CA.
  • Donahue, D. & Pigza, J. M. (2011, October). Inquiry into service-learning: From learning outcomes to dissemination. Presented for the Campus Compact Webinar Series.
  • Pigza, J. M. (2011, January). Leadership for social justice. Keynote address presented at the Ignatian Solidarity Network, Burlingame, CA.
  • Pigza, J. M. (2010, October). Critical reflection toolbox: Enhancing learning and development. Presented for the Kansas Campus Compact Webinar Series.
  • Pigza, J. M. (2009, April). Organizing community-based research on campus. Presented at the Bonner/Princeton CBR Networking Initiative Conference, Princeton, NJ.
  • Pigza, J. M. (2004, January). Making meaning of social stratification and systemic oppression in the United States. Pesented at the Catholic University of America, School of Social Work, Washington, DC.
  • Pigza, J. M. (2002, June). Three paradigms of service: Charity, project and social change. Presented at the National Conference for College Student Women Leaders, National Association of Women in Education, Washington, DC.
  • Pigza, J. M. (1997, 1999, 2000). Apostolic communities: A home for faith that does justice. Keynote address presented at the Jesuit Volunteer Corps: East fall retreats, Various locations.


Honors, Awards & Grants



  • Bonner National Institute on Social Action Curriculum Development, invited participant (one of 25; 2017)
  • California Campus Compact Richard E. Cone Retreat for Excellence & Leadership in Cultivating Community Partnerships in Higher Education, invited participant (one of 25; 2015)
  • Saint Mary’s College of California Faculty Writing Retreat, selected participant (one of 12; 2012)
  • K. Patricia Cross Future Leaders Award, Association of American Colleges & Universities (2005)
  • Graduate Student Distinguished Service Award, University of Maryland (2005)
  • Kellogg Forum on Higher Education and the Public Good, invited graduate discussant (2002-2003)                                                                    
  • Theta Alpha Kappa National Theology Honor Society (1990)
  • Cura Personalis Graduation Award for Leadership, Scholarship, and Service (1990)


  • Catholicism and the Common Good: Theology and the University Colloquium, Duquesne University/The Henry Luce Foundation. (invited participant to 12-person national cohort; 2017-2020)
  • High Impact Practices for Student Success, Association of American Colleges & Universities. Led a team of faculty and staff to develop a 4+1 degree pathway for underrepresented students to pursue a graduate degree in leadership. (PI; one of 40 teams nationally; 2011-2012)
  • Core Commitments Project, Association of American Colleges & Universities. Co-facilitated a team of faculty and staff to develop academic and co-curricular initiatives to advance students’ personal and social responsibility. Resulted in 12+ new courses, 4 world café-style campus dialogues, 75 students trained in deliberative dialogue, and an assessment of campus climate for personal and social responsibility. (co-PI, one of 17 schools nationally; 2007-2010)
  • Community-Based Research Grant, Princeton University/Bonner Foundation. Facilitated a campus team to establish community-based research in the undergraduate curriculum. Additional result: Co-edited a volume highlighting impact-oriented CBR which later became a book. (PI, one of 20 schools nationally; 2006-2009)
  • Civic Engagement Initiative, Fund for the Improvement of Post-Secondary Education. (FIPSE)/Bonner Foundation. Facilitated faculty in the strengthening the interdisciplinary Justice & Community minor, which later became part of the Justice, Community & Leadership major. (PI, one of 15 schools nationally; 2005-2007)


Scholarly Interests: 

Grounded in a critical pedagogical framework and the belief that social justice is both an outcome and a process, my scholarship and practice explore higher education’s responsibility to advance social justice and inclusion. I explore three streams of inquiry: teaching and learning for social justice/critical pedagogy (particularly through community engagement), leadership for social justice (by multiple stakeholders), and the organization of higher education itself toward social justice aims.

Personal Interests:

  • Music: I am a beginning ukulele player who enjoys singing as much as playing.
  • Sewing: I designed and crafted a quilted wall-hanging inspired by a stained glass window in Vienna, Austria, and I am waiting for my recently-acquired Rwandan fabric to tell me what it wants to be.
  • Baking and cooking: My chocolate hazelnut biscotti are a favorite holiday treat, and I enjoy the art and science of trying new recipes—most recently tamales.
  • Spanish: I am trying to keep up with my six-year old son as he learn Spanish.