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Department of Recreation Administration

SPARCI is affiliated with the EPIC-N Program which coordinates with nearly 30 universities spanning the country. 


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A University Community Engagement Program

The SPARCI (Sustainable Parks and Recreation Community Initiative) Project is a partnership between Fresno State’s Department of Recreation Administration and parks and recreation agencies in the San Joaquin Valley. SPARCI is a pilot project to determine if communities are interested in engaging the broader university community in idea generation and problem solving. If accepted into the program, park and recreation agencies will have access to many faculty and students to focus on needs of the agency.

Students, through their course work, engage in meaningful real-world projects and contribute to the quality of life of residents in a community in the valley.  Students from across the University assist local governments with partner-directed projects that address their smart growth, quality of life, parks, recreation programs, and sustainability goals.

Students and faculty connect with high-priority, high-need community projects, thereby generating interest and fresh ideas that create momentum and provide real service to the community. The interface provided by students and faculty provide an avenue for the city to engage the community on a controversial issue.

The SPARCI project is based on the highly successful and award winning Sustainable City Initiative (SCI) program at the University of Oregon. Over 20 other universities and colleges in the United States have developed similar programs to the University of Oregon model.  Like the project in Oregon, the SPARCI project at Fresno State will engage hundreds of students who invest thousands of hours assisting communities in our region as they seek to build a more equitable and sustainable future through parks and recreation.

The SPARCI Project embodies the University’s commitment to serving students, engaging alumni, and contributing to the public good by focusing thousands of hours of course-based student involvement with high-impact activities in a community in the valley. The program allows students to create solutions to meet community needs for a diverse audience in the community. The program benefits students, faculty, city/county/special district staff, residents and elected officials.

Cities, counties and specials districts are challenged to meet community needs, service delivery, and new demands of sustainability. Course projects are tied directly to the work plan of the city/county/special district, ensuring products are meaningful and student work is focused on real world problems. Each year, the SPARCI program will work with one governmental entity that has identified the projects as top priorities. Therefore, the ideas, designs, products, and service students generate can have real-world impact by addressing critical but unmet community needs.

 The SPARCI Project promotes student success by providing Recreation Administration classes with opportunities for applied learning, service in local communities, and research. Students in these classes engage in meaningful work that helps address a city’s key sustainability challenges related to parks and recreation. Students acquire skills and experiences that they can list on their resumes; and they develop a professional network while working to solve issues.

Using existing courses offered within Fresno State’s Department of Recreation Administration, faculty develop assignments, readings and field experiences based on the projects that are part of the city/county/special district work plan. Interested faculty devote all of their courses to the agreed upon project. A coordinator at Fresno State works with professors and a coordinator at the contracted organization provides management, communications and coordination services to ensure the projects are completed. A fee is charged to cover the costs of the Fresno State coordinator and pay for travel expenses for students and faculty. Projects are selected based upon scope, student learning, and feasibility. Each year there is a request for proposal process that is sent out by the Department of Recreation Administration.

If your city or department is interested in connecting with the SPARCI project, please contact Sam Lankford at or 559.278.2624


                       Stepping into the Future Together