College Receives Community Engagement Classification

Among Swarthmore's array of activities and programs that serve local and global communities is Science for Kids

Among Swarthmore's array of activities and programs that serve local and global communities is Science for Kids.

Supporting its mission of “helping students realize their full intellectual and personal potential combined with a deep sense of ethical and social concern,” Swarthmore College received the 2015 Community Engagement Classification from The Carnegie Foundation.

Earlier this week, the Foundation bestowed this classification, valid for 10 years, upon 240 institutions in the U.S., in recognition of key aspects of their institutional mission and identity.

“I am deeply gratified that the College has been selected to receive the 2015 Community Engagement Classification,” says Joy Charlton, executive director of the Lang Center for Civic & Social Responsibility. “This award recognizes and affirms the College’s long-standing, demonstrated commitment to ethical intelligence and the common good.”

The New England Research Center for Higher Education (NERCHE), which partners with the Carnegie Foundation on classifications, regards community engagement as “collaboration between institutions of higher education and their larger communities (local, regional and state, national, global) for the mutually beneficial exchange of knowledge and resources, in a context of partnership and reciprocity.” The goal is to enrich scholarship and creativity to strengthen civic responsibility.

The Lang Center provided extensive documentation to the foundation on an array of activities and programs across campus — such as Dare 2 Soar, the Global Nonviolent Action DatabaseScience for Kids, and Trash 2 Treasure — that serve local and global communities and address societal issues, says Charlton.

The College’s application “documented excellent alignment among campus mission, culture, leadership, resources, and practices that support dynamic and noteworthy community engagement,” say Carnegie Foundation President Anthony S. Bryk, NERCHE Director John Saltmarsh, and consulting scholar Amy Driscoll.

Institutions of higher education pursue the classification voluntarily, seizing an opportunity for self-study. The application process gave Swarthmore the chance to assess and reflect on the level of community engagement across campus, says Charlton. Among key findings was 73,125 service hours provided to local communities by 1,397 Swarthmore students in the 2012-2013 academic year — valued at more than $1.6 million, according to the Independent Sector's Value of Volunteer Time.

This campus-wide self-examination also allows the College to consider strategies to deepen its efforts. In its feedback to applying institutions, the Carnegie Foundation and NERCHE stressed the value of continual improvement. In particular, they recommend acknowledgment and support for faculty who show commitment to community engagement, increased evidence-based assessment, mutually beneficial partnerships, and program integration across all levels of academics and campus life.

The classification follows the College’s inclusion on the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll in December. Granted by the Corporation for National and Community Service, the award represents the highest level of recognition a school can receive from the federal government for civic engagement and community-based learning. The College was named with distinction in the category of “General Community Service.”

“These are college-wide awards, shared by our students, faculty, staff, alumni, and community partners who have invested their time and effort in meaningful ways to create a more just and compassionate world,” says Charlton. “I am proud to have been part of this.”