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College Receives Prestigious Carnegie Community Engagement Classification

January 7, 2015

St. John Fisher College has received the 2015 Carnegie Community Engagement Classification from the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and the New England Resource Center for Higher Education (NERCHE). This was the first time Fisher applied for the prestigious classification, and only the second round of national classification done by Carnegie and the NERCHE.

Student Volnteers At PCC

The College was just one of 240 institutions across the nation to receive the classification. Of the 240 institutions, 83 are receiving the classification for the first time, while 157 are now reclassified, after being classified originally in 2006 or 2008.

Carnegie defines 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.” From college-wide community service events and service-learning in the classroom to Fisher’s Service Scholar and First Generation Scholar Programs, the College lives that very definition each and every day.

The classification is elective, and involves data collection and documentation of important aspects of institutional mission, identity, and commitments. It takes place on a five-year cycle.

According to Dr. Lynn Donahue, Director of Fisher’s Center for Service-Learning and Civic Engagement, applying to the Carnegie Classification self-study has resulted in a comprehensive story of community engagement at the College, and has helped to identify best practices. In addition, it puts the College’s motto, “Teach me goodness, discipline, and knowledge,” into action.

“Achieving this classification will raise the profile of the College and distinguish us among our peers,” said Donahue. “Community engagement provides us with countless opportunities for student enrichment, professional skill building, and civic development. It assists with the recruitment and retention of students and leads us to create sustainable, positive, and impactful partnerships with community organizations. It’s a win-win for both our students and our community.”

In 2013, the College established the Center for Service-Learning and Civic Engagement, further solidifying its commitment to this type of engagement. This academic year, a total of 676 students are enrolled in one or more of 45 service-learning courses offered, while partnering with 52 community organizations. In the College’s Service Scholar and First Generation Programs, a total of 200 students are working with 60 community organizations. In addition, all five Schools of the College have a focused commitment to community engagement. In the Schools of Nursing and Pharmacy, students and faculty often travel on global medical mission and rotations. In the School of Education, a Literacy Center was recently created. And in the Schools of Business and Arts and Sciences, students enroll in a wide variety of service-learning courses every semester.

Donahue also stressed the strong impact that community engagement has on Fisher students, as they often cite how the course prepared them for more than just a grade. Last year, of the 500 participating service-learning students, nearly 98% said that service-learning increased the meaning of the course for them, their job-ready skills, and their civic development. Furthermore, 95% of the community partners indicated that student-created products met their needs when resources were slim.

“Community engagement and service have told the College’s story since our beginning. It is part of the College’s mission and vision, and is central to the student-authored Fisher Creed document, which each new student signs at the start of every academic year. This type of service and teaching are simply part of our culture, it’s who we are. Our educational goal is to help our students build lives, create careers, and serve the community.  To achieve this classification from the Carnegie Foundation further affirms our work, and is a true testament to our faculty, staff, and students,” said Dr. Donald E. Bain, President, St. John Fisher College.

John Saltmarsh, Director of the NERCH, talked about the significance of the classification.

“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. These are campuses that are improving teaching and learning, producing research that makes a difference in communities, and revitalizing their civic and academic missions,” he said.