Carnegie Foundation Selects Fairfield for Community Engagement Re-Classification
Fairfield University has been selected by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching for its prestigious 2015 Community Engagement Classification, recognizing exemplary institutions for exceeding in student volunteerism, academic service-learning, and faculty community engaged research. Fairfield is one of 157 colleges and universities nationwide reclassified for the honor after being originally awarded it seven years ago.
“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,” said John Saltmarsh, Director of the New England Resource Center for Higher Education, who helps oversee the classification program. “These are campuses that are improving teaching and learning, producing research that makes a difference in communities, and revitalizing their civic and academic missions.”
It is an exceptional designation because it demonstrates and affirms that the Fairfield University community is living out its mission as a Jesuit institution, said Melissa Quan, Associate Director of Fairfield University’s Center for Faith and Public Life and Director of Service Learning. “And, in the context of today’s society, we know that our global community is counting on higher education to produce graduates prepared to address society’s most pressing challenge,” Quan observed. “Fairfield is not only preparing our graduates to address those challenges through community-engaged teaching and learning but as an institution we are contributing to the health of communities around the globe through faculty research, campus-community partnerships and institutional engagement in the economic development of our local communities.”
In 2008, Fairfield University was among less than 200 universities, nationally, to receive the Community Engagement Classification, and was among the first institutions to undergo the voluntary “re-classification” process.
“This is the first time that there has been a re-classification process,” noted Amy Driscoll, Consulting Scholar for the Community Engagement Classification, “and we are seeing renewed institutional commitment, advanced curricular and assessment practices, and deeper community partnerships, all sustained through changes in campus leadership, and within the context of a devastating economic recession.”
The application process included a rigorous self-study that asked the Fairfield campus community to document and reflect upon its community engagement efforts through all facets of the university. A 20-member “Re-Classification” Task Force composed of individuals representing Academic Affairs, Student Affairs, Marketing and Communications, Advancement and Athletics, was formed. Quan and Dr. Jocelyn Boryczka, associate professor and chair of politics and faculty chair of Service Learning, co-chaired the Task Force.
Among the areas examined was the significant growth of service-learning at Fairfield, which offers 47 different courses delivered by 42 faculty in each college and professional school. At the time, Dr. Boryczka commented, “Our work over the coming months will grant us the opportunity to build on this solid foundation and chart an exciting future for service-learning at our University.”
The Foundation, through the work of the Carnegie Commission on Higher Education, developed the first typology of American colleges and universities in 1970 as a research tool to describe and represent the diversity of U.S. higher education. The Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education (now housed at Indiana University Bloomington's Center for Postsecondary Research) continues to be used for a wide range of purposes by academic researchers, institutional personnel, policymakers and others.
A listing of the institutions that hold the Community Engagement Classification can be found on NERCHE’s website.
Image: School of Nursing students teach Bridgeport schoolchildren about nutrition and wise food choices as part of a service-learning course.