Northeastern University has recently been recognized as one of 361 institutions for community engagement by The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. The recognition is centered around community and global involvement, including both institutional relations with surrounding areas and community service.
“The importance of this elective classification is borne out by the response of so many campuses that have demonstrated their deep engagement with local, regional, national and global communities,” John Saltmarsh, director of New England Resource Center for Higher Education (NERCHE), said in a press release from the Carnegie Foundation on Jan. 7. “These are campuses that are improving teaching and learning, producing research that makes a difference in communities and revitalizing their civic and academic missions.”
The recognition is based on a voluntary application process by universities and is an evidence-driven documentation of an institutional practice to be used for self-assessment and improvement, as stated by NERCHE. The NERCHE is the administrative partner of the Carnegie Foundation, managing and administering the classification.
“The Community Engagement Classification represents a significant affirmation of the importance of community engagement in the agenda of higher education,” Anthony S. Bryk, president of the foundation, said in a statement. “The Foundation believes that the Classification provides campuses of every institutional type an opportunity to affirm a commitment to community engagement as an essential aspect of institutional mission and identity.”
Out of the 240 institutions selected in 2015, 83 are receiving the classification for the first time and 157 are receiving reclassification since their original classification in 2006 or 2008.
“I would say that for the university to thrive in the 21st century it’s really vital for students to engage globally and locally in urban settings,” Michael Ferrari, director of government relations and public affairs at Northeastern, said.
Ferrari helped to prepare the university’s application for the classification.
Ferrari said that this recognition is in part due to President Joseph E. Aoun’s focus on global engagement since becoming president as well as student involvement.
“It’s an impressive honor and it’s an important recognition that Northeastern is one of only a select few universities in the country that is truly engaged locally and globally to engage in communal and societal needs,” Ferrari said.
In Massachusetts, 25 institutions were recognized, and out of large Boston-area research universities, Northeastern and University of Massachusetts Boston are the only two to receive the recognition. Northeastern is a first-time recipient and will hold this recognition until 2025 when it can apply for reclassification.
“Northeastern University is engaged with our community and with the world,” Aoun said in an article by news@northeastern on Jan. 7. “This engagement is central to our mission. Our faculty and students impact communities worldwide, and are impacted by them. The enrichment is mutual.”
Since 2006, Northeastern students have performed over 1.2 million hours of community service, with roughly 600 students involved in local community service.
“If you look at it, there are so many different ways that our students are working with the global community,” Ferrari said. “Over 1,100 students last year participated in Boston area community-based co-ops, so that’s just an indication of the breadth of our interaction with surrounding neighborhoods. Today, there are more than 250 separate community engagement activities impacting more than 85 surrounding organizations in the neighborhoods.”
Currently, the university offers community involvement programs surrounding youth mentoring, such as a partnership with Balfour Academy to help students obtain the skills necessary to confidently succeed in college, as well as STEM education programs like Early College Experience, which allows Boston Public School students in Advanced Placement Calculus access to tutoring and enrollment in an engineering design course. Other community programs are also sponsored through various colleges, student-led groups and athletics.
The university plans to open a new Center for Community Engagement and Neighborhood Opportunity in August 2015. The center will coordinate, track and assess all of Northeastern’s community engagement efforts and will act as a central point of contact for community members.
“[The Center for Community Engagement will] be a front door basically for us to better coordinate with the community, to better understand the needs of community groups and help us to provide a better overall strategy for our engagement,” Ferrari said.
This piece was originally published by the Huntington News.
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