Quite a Team

USD's community engagement award winner Maria Silva


Chris Nayve and Maria Silva have the same approach to community engagement service. The focus is team-first, followed by action. It’s all about working alongside the community and — ideally — developing a deep relationship.

Nayve and Silva, who are both connected to USD’s Karen and Tom Mulvaney Center for Community, Awareness and Social Action, are strong proponents for collaborative success. But neither of them seeks the spotlight. So, it’s no surprise that when both Nayve and Silva learned they were recognized for their respective work by the Campus Compact organization in the spring of 2020, they were quick to share their success with others.

USD Associate Vice President for Community Engagement and Anchor Initiatives Chris Nayve.

USD Associate Vice President for Community Engagement and Anchor Initiatives Chris Nayve.

Nayve, a triple USD alumnus (‘98 BA, ‘06 JD, ‘07 MBA), is the recipient of the Nadinne Cruz Community Engagement Professional Award. Silva, who earned her undergraduate degree in sociology in 2012, received the California Campus Compact’s Richard E. Cone Award for Emerging Leaders in Community Engagement.

“Nadinne Cruz has been a friend and mentor to me for many years,” says Nayve, associate vice president for community engagement and anchor initiatives. “To receive an award named after someone who wholeheartedly lives justice and equity and focuses on how academic institutions can more equally partner in justice-focused ways, I’m standing in awe of that.

“I’m so appreciative of the team and people who put this together; the way I think about it is that I’m just a representative of our collective work. This award is a shared recognition.”

Silva calls her selection “humbling” and “unbelievable.” She’s been working within the Mulvaney Center since her first year as an undergraduate student, and acknowledges the guidance she’s had working alongside Nayve, John Loggins and former director Elaine Elliott.

“I’ve had incredible role models in Chris, John and Elaine,” says Silva, who is from Nogales, Mexico. “This award makes me stop and reflect on the trust I’ve been able to establish with our community members and to think of myself as an emerging leader as a woman of color.”

California Campus Compact Executive Director Elaine Ikeda, PhD, says, “We are grateful for Maria’s powerful leadership. She epitomizes what this award truly means. We’re excited to highlight her exemplary work in the field of service-learning and civic engagement.”

Nayve says Silva’s binational orientation to Mexico and the United States is critical to her approach, giving her a unique insight in navigating literal and figurative border crossings.

“Maria is one of the very few people I have met who unambiguously and wholeheartedly lives and practices the concept of radical hospitality in a way that truly holds the academy accountable to equity, community, love and mutuality,” he says.

Silva believes the award is proof of the value of collaboration, building relationships and partnerships. As a woman of color, she’s aware that receiving the Cone award isn’t just about recognizing her, but those coming up after her.

“It’s validation that this work matters and is valued,” Silva says. “It’s a special recognition because of the inclusive spaces that have been created for diverse voices to be heard.”

A multitude of partnerships, programs and initiatives keep Nayve and his colleagues busy, year-round. He and his staff have worked everywhere from Linda Vista to Tijuana and New Orleans to Duncans, Jamaica. His earliest work in San Diego while a USD student led to programs implemented by at least five individual schools.

“What I find most valuable is his ability to remain humble and to be a true believer in the power of collaborative work,” says Emalyn Leppard, a STEAM Resource teacher in the San Diego Unified School District and USD graduate alumna. “After all of these years — the travel, accolades, speaking engagements and rise to a prestigious position with the university community — Chris is still at the table, sleeves rolled up, working to address ongoing issues and new problems as they arise.”

As USD moved to remote learning during the spring semester due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Nayve and Silva were determined to adapt to the circumstances. “A sociology course that Chris and I co-teach along with two community partners has transitioned to remote community engagement projects,” says Silva.

“These include creating a digital portfolio of songs and poems written inside immigration detention center, designing ‘know your rights’ visuals/infographics/materials for asylum seekers and doing call-ins with folks inside detention centers to check in on them.”

Clearly, the work doesn’t stop, even when you’re already winners. — Ryan T. Blystone


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