UA receives top engagement classification

12/19/2008

The University of Akron's innovative and dedicated efforts in community engagement have been recognized by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching through the awarding of a Community Engagement Classification in Curricular Engagement and Outreach and Partnerships.

Unlike the foundation's other classifications that rely on national data, this is an elective classification, meaning institutions such as UA elected to participate by submitting documentation describing the nature and extent of their engagement with the community. The foundation used this approach to address elements of institutional mission and distinctiveness that are not represented in national data on U.S. colleges and universities.

The successful institutions were classified in one of three categories: Curricular Engagement, Outreach and Partnerships, or Curricular Engagement and Outreach and Partnerships. To be selected into any of the categories, institutions provided descriptions and examples of institutionalized practices of community engagement that showed alignment among mission, culture, leadership, resources and practices.

Focus on engagement

The Carnegie Foundation recognized the university's mission and philosophy of engagement, partnership and reciprocity that have existed between UA and its communities for more than a century, says Dr. Luis M. Proenza, president of The University of Akron.

"In the past decade, we have broadened our collaborative initiatives to engage other institutions, industries and communities in our region in mutually beneficial partnerships," Proenza says. "We have formalized and focused our internal processes and policies to emphasize and grow engagement strategies and practices. The historic symbiosis that arose 138 years ago from a pragmatic, Midwestern ethos of mutual support is today being directed, amplified and expanded through a systematic development toward the ideals of community engagement."

Campus-wide effort

The overall impression UA conveyed to the Carnegie Foundation was of continuous quality improvement in terms of engagement, outreach and partnerships, adds Dr. Elizabeth Stroble, UA's senior vice president, provost and chief operating officer. Although the Carnegie recognition has been received, the university will continue to use the best practices metrics developed by the Carnegie Foundation to enrich and more fully realize its interdependence with the community, she says.

 "It is an honor to be recognized by the Carnegie Foundation," Stroble says. "This designation would not be possible without the commitment of university colleagues who engage in relevant initiatives that benefit our communities as well as our students and faculty. Our designation as an engaged university signifies the strong ties of our service and engagement to our academic programs and the openness of our community partners to working with the university to address issues of societal, cultural and economic significance. While many examples can be provided, many individuals have been involved in University Park Alliance, Medina County University Center, the National Inventors Hall of Fame STEM Middle School, and last year's new events: the Black Male Summit and Rethinking Race: Black, White and Beyond."

UA is one of 119 colleges and universities nationwide to receive the new classification.

For the classifications, the Carnegie Foundation defined:

  • Community Engagement as the collaboration between institutions of higher education and their larger communities (local, regional/state, national, global) for the mutually beneficial exchange of knowledge and resources in a context of partnership and reciprocity.
  • Curricular Engagement includes institutions where teaching, learning and scholarship engage faculty, students and community in mutually beneficial and respectful collaboration. Their interactions address community-identified needs, deepen students' civic and academic learning, enhance community well-being, and enrich the scholarship of the institution.
  • Outreach and Partnerships includes institutions that provided compelling evidence of one or both of two approaches to community engagement. "Outreach" focuses on the application and provision of institutional resources for community use with benefits to both campus and community. "Partnerships" focuses on collaborative interactions with community and related scholarship for the mutually beneficial exchange, exploration and application of knowledge, information and resources (research, capacity building, economic development, etc.).

Other Ohio colleges receiving the classifications include Bowling Green State University in Curricular Engagement; Kent State University, Owens Community College and University of Cincinnati in Outreach and Partnerships; and Defiance College, Hocking College, Ohio State University, Otterbein College and Xavier University in Curricular Engagement and Outreach and Partnerships.

Founded by Andrew Carnegie in 1905 and chartered in 1906 by an act of Congress, the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching is an independent policy and research center with a primary mission to do and perform all things necessary to encourage, uphold and dignify the profession of the teacher and the cause of higher education. More information on the Carnegie Foundation is available at http://www.carnegiefoundation.org/index.asp .

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