Alvernia University has earned the 2008 Community Engagement Classification designation by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. The elective classification in Curricular Engagement and Outreach and Partnerships places Alvernia University among an elite group of institutions across the nation so recognized this year including Duke, Georgetown, Purdue, and Emory Universities.
The designation brings national recognition to Alvernia and marks an alignment among mission, culture, leadership, resources, and practices that support dynamic and noteworthy community engagement the Carnegie Foundation categorized as “excellent.”
Alvernia was one of fifteen Pennsylvania schools to receive the 2008 classification, most of whom were larger, such as the Main Campus of Penn State University, Villanova, and Duquesne. Alvernia is among a handful of schools in Eastern Pennsylvania to hold such a credential.
“This coveted classification validates that we are living and teaching our mission—preparing our students to be engaged citizens in the local and global communities,” said Alvernia University President Thomas F. Flynn. “It is also a testament to Alvernia’s lifelong commitment to service, informed by our foundresses, the Bernardine Sisters, whose values and vision instilled in our institutional culture this tradition of community engagement.”
The designation also recognizes the establishment of the Holleran Center for Community Engagement in 2006, whose work includes the following: increasing the University’s effectiveness in creating community-based learning experiences for students; making the community an essential part of the University curriculum; and effecting and improving the quality of life in local and regional communities.
“Community-based learning and service learning allow students to bridge theory to practice by serving as mentors and community volunteers and also as interns and externs in professional experiences,” said Ginny Hand, director of the Holleran Center for Community Engagement. “It requires compassion, commitment, and creativity to do this sort of work in the community, just the sort of qualities that help make Alvernia University graduates engaged citizens in their professions and in their communities.”
The Holleran Center works in partnership with numerous organizations to provide sevices such as programming for inner-city youth at Institute for the Arts, resources for the Angelica Park Project working in concert with the City of Reading, and a Non-Profit Roundtable with the Greater Reading Chamber of Commerce and Industry. Other Holleran Center initiatives include offering a slate of campus events for the Greater Reading Literary Festival and a free community lecture series.
A University work group led by Hand compiled and submitted the successful application. Other members included Dr. Jodi Radosh, assistant director for community-based learning; Dr. Evelina Panayotova, director of institutional research; Beki Stein, registrar; Betsy Stiles, assistant to the president; and Dr. Shirley Williams, provost.
This year 119 colleges or universities were successfully classified as engaged institutions; 68 are public institutions and 51 are private, representing 34 states and Puerto Rico.
Universities and colleges with an institutional focus on community engagement were invited to apply for the classification since institutional mission and distinctiveness are not represented in national data on colleges and universities. The application process included submission of mandatory documentation describing the nature and extent of their engagement with the community, be it local or beyond.