How Do We Define Community Engagement?

The Carnegie Foundation’s Classification for Community Engagement is “based on voluntary participation by institutions…and requires substantial effort invested by participating institutions…to determine whether the institution qualifies for recognition as a community engaged institution.”  Colleges and universities apply to be recognized for the Carnegie Classification because of the prestige it carries. As a classified campus, UWM joins an impressive list of colleges and universities who are national leaders in community engagement.

Carnegie Foundation logo

What are the purposes of Community Engagement?

On this question, the Carnegie Foundation is clear: “The purpose of community engagement is …to enrich scholarship, research, and creative activity; enhance curriculum, teaching and learning; prepare educated, engaged citizens; strengthen democratic values and civic responsibility; address critical societal issues; and contribute to the public good.” These purposes of the Carnegie Classification embrace the very definition of a liberal education that informs the University of Wisconsin System Shared Learning Goals. These shared learning goals guide undergraduate education at each of our campuses across the state. UW campuses are charged with shaping in our students, Critical and Creative Thinking Skills, Effective Communication Skills, Intercultural Knowledge and Competence, and Individual, Social and Environmental Responsibility, which includes civic knowledge and engagement (both local and global), ethical reasoning, and action. When we embarked on the Carnegie Classification application we did so as a campus that had embedded the values and practices inherent in the classification in our teaching, research and engagement efforts decades earlier.

What Happens Next?

First and foremost, we must recognize the scores of collaborations that make up the UWM Family. The Carnegie Classification demands we mutually share the recognition with the many communities that make up the UWM Family. More than ever, our collaborations have the capacity to define and address important issues affecting our region and state.

Second, we must herald our community engagement efforts, highlighting the many rich and impactful collaborations across the region, state, nation and globe.

Third, and not in the least, we must do more to maintain our status as a classified campus. In fact, the Carnegie Foundation is clear again: “Maintaining authentically collaborative, mutually beneficial partnerships takes ongoing commitment, and we urge institutions to continue their attention to this critical aspect of community engagement.” In order to maintain the Carnegie Classification we must reapply in five years, and show concrete evidence that our community engagement efforts are better integrated, more pervasive and sustainable. In 2020, the depth, quality and sustainability of our collective efforts will experience rigorous review.