January 6, 2011 — The University of Utah has been given a 2010 Community Engagement classification by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. This is the same organization that classifies the level of institutional research activity, commonly referred to as a “research one” designation.
The Lowell Bennion Community Service Center and University Neighborhood Partners (UNP) together headed up an interdisciplinary task force of faculty members and administrators at the university to apply for the designation, a process that took nine months.
To receive classification, an institution is required to provide evidence of multiple levels of engagement. That is, it must show programs in many areas of campus that are successful in curricular engagement, such as the U’s rigorous service-learning program, as well as outreach and partnerships, like youth camps, student-directed programs at the Bennion Center, and UNP, which provides educational resources to seven neighborhoods on the west side of Salt Lake valley.
Among the many examples included in the application were such efforts as the School of Computing’s First Lego League, which encourages children to pursue careers in computer science and engineering; U-FIT, an Exercise and Sports Science program for youth with special needs; and Utah Area Health Education Centers (AHEC), helping eliminate the shortages of health care professionals in rural and medically underserved communities.
“Our service-learning program was really the core of the curricular engagement, but what cemented the designation for us was providing real evidence of multi-disciplined outreach and partnerships, such as our efforts in the office of continuing education, youth camps, and university sponsored partnerships,” says Nancy Basinger, service-learning manager of the Bennion Center. The task force succeeded in reflecting the breadth and depth of partnerships at the university as well as the administration’s level of commitment to community service, according to Basinger.
The University of Utah and other 2010 recipients join 196 institutions nationally. Sixty-six of this year’s designees are public institutions; 35 of them are classified as research universities.
“This is a wonderful honor for all the faculty, staff and students who long ago recognized the importance of a serious community engagement to a major research university,” notes Senior Vice President David Pershing. “The U has long been a leader in its commitment to the community, and this national recognition confirms that.”
Unlike other classifications given by the foundation, community engagement is termed “elective” because it is based on information given voluntarily by institutions themselves, rather than on an analysis of specific data collected by an outside party. An elective classification is the foundation’s attempt to “address elements of institutional mission and distinctiveness that are not represented in the national data on colleges and universities.”
When the U joins the PAC-12 conference later this year, it will become the sixth member of the conference to hold this distinction, which was also awarded to two schools in the conference during this round of classification.
While there is no financial award associated with this designation, Linda Dunn, director of the Bennion Center, is confident that “the designation will increase the university’s community impact by expanding resources and visibility to support more community engagement in the future.”
A full press release from the Carnegie Foundation can be found online at http://www.carnegiefoundation.org. To learn more about the Lowell Bennion Community Service Center and campus-wide service programs, visit http://www.sa.utah.edu/bennion/.