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Carnegie lauds WMU community engagement

Jan. 12, 2011

KALAMAZOO--Western Michigan University is among 115 colleges and universities nationwide to earn a special designation this year for community engagement from the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.

Photo of Entrance to Western Michigan University.Colleges and universities selected by the foundation for listing in the 2010 Community Engagement Classification join 196 schools named to the category during the 2006 or 2008 selection rounds. Only schools with an institutional focus on community engagement were invited to apply for the classification, which began in 2006 as part of an extensive restructuring of the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education.

Unlike the foundation's other classifications that rely on national data, this is an elective classification. Institutions choose to participate by submitting required documentation describing the nature and extent of their engagement with the community, be it local or beyond. This approach enabled the foundation to address elements of institutional mission and distinctiveness that are not represented in the national data on colleges and universities.

"The Carnegie application process afforded us an opportunity to comprehensively evaluate the manner in which community engagement is embedded in our curriculum; expressed through the collaborative provision of health, research, education and counseling, among other services in the community; and reflected in our longstanding outreach programs and partnerships," says Dr. Kathy Purnell, University Service Learning coordinator.

Highlights of the WMU application

  • WMU has numerous campus awards, such as Golden Broncos and Distinguished Service Awards, which recognize faculty, staff and students for service excellence.
  • Service-learning courses are offered in six of WMU's colleges.
  • During the past eight years, the nonprofit administration program has graduated and certified 90 nonprofit leaders.
  • WMU supports numerous advisory boards and innovative long-term collaborations, including a unique partnership with the Kalamazoo Promise.
  • All student organizations have a service component and many, such as Habitat for Humanity and Engineers Without Borders, have a community service focus.

"Through a classification that acknowledges significant commitment to and demonstration of community engagement, the foundation encourages colleges and universities to become more deeply engaged, to improve teaching and learning and to generate socially responsive knowledge to benefit communities," said Carnegie President Anthony Bryk. "We are very pleased with the movement we are seeing in this direction."

To create this elective classification, the foundation developed a documentation framework to assess the nature of an institution's community engagement. This year, 305 institutions registered to receive the application, and 115 were successfully classified as community engaged institutions.

Sixty-six are public institutions and 49 are private. In terms of Carnegie's basic classifications, 35 are classified as research universities, including WMU; 41 are master's colleges and universities; 25 are baccalaureate colleges; 12 are community colleges and two institutions have a specialized focus, such as arts, medicine and technology.

The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching is an independent policy and research center that supports needed transformations in American education through tighter connections between teaching practice, evidence of student learning, the communication and use of this evidence, and structured opportunities to build knowledge. The foundation is located in Stanford, Calif. More information may be found at carnegiefoundation.org.

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Media contact: Thom Myers, (269) 387-8400, thom.myers@wmich.edu

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