UM Earns National Recognition for Student Engagement, Service

January 13, 2015

MISSOULA – The University of Montana recently earned recognition from two prominent civic engagement organizations. 

The Corporation for National and Community Service honored UM with a place on the 2014 President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll, and the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching awarded UM a 2015 Community Engagement Classification. 

During the 2013-14 academic year, 2,991 students engaged in volunteer service through student-group activities, AmeriCorps service and service-learning courses. In total, UM students spent 221,832 hours volunteering during the academic year. 

The President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll is the highest federal government recognition that a university or college can receive for its commitment to service-learning and civic engagement. Honorees are chosen based on a series of selection factors that demonstrate a strong culture of service, including exemplary community service through volunteerism, academic service-learning and national service, and achievement of meaningful outcomes in the community. UM was recognized in three categories on the honor roll. 

UM also is among 240 colleges and universities selected to receive a Community Engagement Classification from the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. In 2008, UM was the first institution of higher education in the state to earn this classification.

“This recognition confirms what we’ve known for years – that our students are engaged global citizens who make their communities better places by giving back,” said UM President Royce Engstrom.

UM is among 157 institutions that are now re-classified, after being classified originally in 2006 or 2008. The 240 institutions join 121 institutions that earned the classification during the 2010 selection process. 

Colleges and universities with an institutional focus on community engagement were invited to apply for the classification, first offered in 2006 as part of an extensive restructuring of The Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education. 

“This is wonderful validation and recognition of the important and impactful engagement efforts of the university,” said UM’s Director of the Office for Civic Engagement Andrea Vernon.  “We should be very proud of the collaborative community partnerships we have that helped us achieve this noteworthy accomplishment.”  

Unlike the foundation’s other classifications that rely on national data, this is an “elective” classification. Institutions participated voluntarily by submitting required materials describing the nature and extent of their engagement with the community, be it local or beyond. This approach enabled the foundation to address elements of institutional mission and distinctiveness that are not represented in the national data on colleges and universities.

“We had a great team of folks from across campus working throughout the past academic year to assist in the lengthy and detailed application process,” Vernon said.  

Some examples of UM’s service partnerships where students give back to the greater community include Improving Health Among Rural Montanans, spectrUM Discovery Area and the PEAS Farm. Through these organizations and others, UM students gain hands-on experiences while improving the larger community. From conducting freshwater ecosystem research at Flathead Lake Biological Station, to providing free and low-cost health services to rural Montanans throughout Montana, UM collaborates with and serves a broad range of community members across the state. 

  “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. “These are campuses that are improving teaching and learning, producing research that makes a difference in communities and revitalizing their civic and academic missions.”

Central to the classification process is a “documentation framework” developed by a team of advisers to help applicants and reviewers assess the nature of an institution’s community engagement commitments. 

This year, 241 first-time applicants registered to receive the application, 133 institutions submitted applications and 83 were successfully classified as community-engaged institutions. Similarly, 188 campuses were eligible for re-classification, 162 submitted an application and 157 were successfully re-classified.

In order to be selected, institutions had to provide descriptions and examples of institutionalized practices of community engagement that showed alignment among mission, culture, leadership, resources and practices.

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, which is 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 online at http://bit.ly/1FurZPF

For more information about UM’s application, call Vernon at 406-243-5159 or email andrea.vernon@umontana.edu

###

Contact: Andrea Vernon, director, UM Office of Civic Engagement, 406-243-5159, andrea.vernon@umontana.edu.