Carnegie Foundation Recognizes UConn for Public Outreach

<p>Migrant worker Homero Gonzalez gets a physical exam from medical student Christopher Binette,'08 SOM, at a clinic for migrant farm workers run by UConn Health Center medical students at one of the tobacco farms in Connecticut. Photo by Al Ferreira</p>
A migrant worker gets a physical exam from medical student Christopher Binette, '08 SOM, at a clinic run by UConn medical students at one of Connecticut's tobacco farms. Photo by Al Ferreira

The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching announced on Jan. 5 that it is recognizing the University of Connecticut for the school’s ongoing commitment to public engagement and service to the community.

UConn is one of 115 institutions to earn the organization’s prestigious elective “Community Engagement” classification this year. Since the system was created in 2006, a total of 311 institutions have been chosen, representing fewer than 10 percent of colleges and universities in the U.S. There will not be another round of schools selected for five years.

“The Carnegie Foundation is among the most prestigious educational organizations in the world, and they have very high standards for awarding this designation,” says Preston Britner, associate professor of family studies, who co-chairs the University’s Public Engagement Forum with Susan Nesbitt, director of the Center for Continuing Studies.

Robert McCarthy, dean of the School of Pharmacy and director of the Provost’s Commission on Public Engagement, says, “As a public land grant university, a third of UConn’s mission is service, outreach, and public engagement. It is an honor to be recognized for our efforts, which are substantial.”

When reviewing a university’s application, the foundation considered several criteria, among them:

  • Mission: does the university have a structure in place and the resources available to show a true commitment to public engagement? Is public engagement part of its academic plan?
  • Curriculum: does the university have significant service-learning opportunities for students?
  • Engaged scholarship: is community outreach and public service a strong component in different areas of faculty research?

UConn excels in each category, with public engagement being one of five critical areas in the University’s Academic Plan.

“You will find that that virtually every college, school, and department at UConn has a strong service-learning component,” says Provost Peter Nicholls. “And we also have faculty across the board who are engaged in research that incorporates public service on the state, national, and even global level.”

This public service through academics takes many forms at the University, including computer science faculty securing and auditing new electronic voting machines for the state; marine sciences faculty working to help determine the severity of the ecological damage done by the Gulf oil spill; faculty from the School of Medicine working to reduce childhood obesity and other medical school faculty offering health clinics for migrant farm workers; and the numerous public service legal clinics at the Law School, among many others. Further examples, and the full UConn Carnegie application, are available on the Public Engagement web site.

The Carnegie Foundation was created by Andrew Carnegie in 1905 and chartered in 1906 by an Act of Congress. It serves as an independent policy and research center. The foundation’s current mission is to “support 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.”

<p>Carnegie Foundation logo</p>