CSU Monterey Bay is a recognized national leader in the field of service learning. CSUMB is unique in higher education, having made service learning a required element of the academic program. Students learn about community involvement and social change through required service learning courses in both their lower division general education program and in their major. Each academic year, 50 percent of CSUMB students enroll in service learning courses, contributing thousands of hours of work to over 200 schools, non-profit organizations and government agencies in the region.

CSUMB's outcomes-based academic program, and its campus-wide commitment to issues of diversity and social justice, further distinguish CSUMB's service learning program. Through service learning, all CSUMB students work to develop the knowledge, skills and attitudes to participate sensitively in multicultural communities, and to work effectively to address deep-seated social inequities. The goal is to help CSUMB students become multicultural community builders: students who are able to work sensitively and effectively in a diverse society to create more just and equitable workplaces, communities and social institutions.

CSUMB has received significant national and international recognition for its leadership in the field of service learning and civic engagement. CSUMB is the only two-time (in 2006 and 2010) winner of the prestigious White House President's Award for Excellence in Higher Education Community Service.  CSUMB was one of three President's Award recipients in the inaugural year of 2006, when over 500 universities applied. In 2010, CSUMB was one of six President's Award winners, out of over 800 applicants. In addition, CSUMB has consistently been recognized for excellence in service learning by US News & World Report. 

The Service Learning Institute is the home of CSUMB's award-winning service learning program: CSUMB.EDU/serviceIn addition to supporting service learning campus-wide, the Service Learning Institute offers courses that meet both the Lower Division (D3) and Upper Division (D4) service learning requirement. Students who develop a strong interest in service learning are able to graduate with a Minor in Service Learning Leadership.