Fredonia earns prestigious Carnegie Classification for community engagement

Michael Barone
Carnegie CEC digital seal

Initiatives to expand relationships with surrounding communities have earned Fredonia the 2015 Community Engagement Classification by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.

President Virginia Horvath said she was delighted that the university’s long-standing and new work in community engagement has been recognized with the Carnegie Foundation's designation as an Engaged Campus.

“Achieving this elective category for institutional classification is a goal in the Power of Fredonia plan,” Dr. Horvath said. “It recognizes the many kinds of efforts across our institution to partner with and make a difference in the communities we serve, and for community engagement to be an important part of student learning.”

Criteria used to evaluate applications for Carnegie Engagement Classification are not easy to meet, noted Fredonia’s Vice President for Engagement and Economic Development Kevin Kearns.

“Applicant schools must embrace community engagement as a core value in their mission statement. This commitment must be evident through a high level of community service, and it must be sustained over time,” Dr. Kearns explained.

Institutions must also demonstrate that they have mechanisms in place to evaluate the outcomes of their community engagement, and they must be committed to incorporating community needs into their current and future plans.

“This means that universities recognized by the Carnegie Foundation have a culture of engagement and a level of community involvement that others may not,” Kearns added.

With this designation, Fredonia joins a select list of 240 colleges and universities across the nation that have demonstrated a 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,” commented John Saltmarsh, director of the New England Center for Higher Education.

Eight SUNY campuses are among 24 colleges and universities across New York State to be either newly classified or reclassified as community engaged institutions.  Fredonia was among 83 first-time recipients nationwide that included both public and private institutions.

Earning the Carnegie Classification was by no means assured, as only one third of first-time applicants were successful this year, Horvath noted. “But we went forward because the application process itself encouraged us to collect information and use existing measures to give us a clear sense of Fredonia’s community engagement.”

She added that having reviewers agree that Fredonia’s work is significant serves to affirm this work, and that’s especially valuable for Fredonia as a regional public university.

“Scholarship that focuses on community issues, collaborations with community agencies, economic development efforts that assist with quality of life in our region, coursework and service learning that see engagement as an important part of learning, public service by students, faculty, staff and efforts — all of these are important parts of Fredonia’s mission,” Horvath explained.

A broad-based committee of staff, faculty and administrators, led by Fredonia Technology Incubator Interim Director Charles Cornell and former Associate Provost Adrienne McCormick prepared the application. Volunteer and Community Services Coordinator Joyce Harvard Smith was also a key member of the team that conducted extensive data collection and analysis.

“One of the most rewarding aspects of the application process was to observe the high level of community engagement, and amazing diversity of activities that occur across the university,” Kearns noted. “Our students, faculty and staff and staff are passionate about their community, and they are committed to making a difference.”

The application process establishes a pathway for Fredonia to become even more purposeful and impactful in its community engagement activities in the future, while the designation provides a baseline for continued community engagement measurement. Horvath added that the designation, which remains valid until 2025, is not an end unto itself, as such work continues to evolve as the community’s needs change and new collaborations arise.

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