The Next Step for TU

It’s time again for Towson University to apply for the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching Elective Community Engagement Classification for the 2015 re-classification cycle. TU first applied for and received this classification in 2008 and was among 119 institutions to receive the newly created designation during that cycle. You can review TU’s 2008 application here.

The Community Engagement Classification is awarded to colleges and universities that show a strong commitment to community engagement across the institution. It requires applicants to complete an extensive review and document the institution’s mission and vision as it relates to engagement.

Carnegie Post - cf logo-smaller

Deborah Elwell Arfken and Susan Ritz recently did a study on the effects of receiving the Carnegie Classification on universities in the Coalition of Urban and Metropolitan Universities (CUMU), of which TU is a member, and found that the classification has had many positive effects on the institutions receiving it.

  • They found that universities who have received Carnegie recognition rated the impact of it a 3.7 on a 5.0-point scale, meaning that the classification had a moderate to very good impact on the institution.
  • They found that the most positive effect was on institutional commitment (rated a 3.8), though all of the areas (outreach and partnerships, curricular engagement, and identity and culture) had positive ratings (Arfken & Ritz, 2013).

The classification has certainly had positive effects on TU, as our efforts have continued to grow and strengthen since receiving it.

Because Towson is applying for the 2015 re-classification, we are expected to show how we have improved our community engagement efforts since 2008. Areas for improvement, as outlined by Carnegie in 2008, include assessment, partnerships, and faculty rewards. It should be noted that these areas were noted as “need improvement” for most institutions that applied in 2008, not just TU.

So how is Towson University approaching the 2015 re-classification process? We have already brought together a Baseline Working Group, whose main purpose is to evaluate those improvement areas to see what progress has been made. This group is chaired by our Vice President, Dyan Brasington and Vice President for Student Affairs, Deb Moriarty. I serve as the program manager and the group includes those individuals on campus who are most involved in community engagement.

Out of the working group, an Assessment Subgroup was formed and tasked with evaluating current assessment processes in place and developing an assessment tool to measure community engagement activities across the entire university. Currently, each unit does their own type of assessment, which makes it difficult to know everything that is happening across campus. The new centralized tool will make it easier to collect and evaluate information related to community engagement at the university level.

In September, the larger Comprehensive Application Committee will be brought together to actually begin filling out the re-classification documentation framework. This Committee, like in 2008, will include individuals from all areas across campus, to ensure we capture everything that is happening across this large, complex university.

This whole classification effort is helping the university evaluate its community engagement activities to see what we are doing well and what still needs work. Getting re-classified as a community engaged institution does not mean we are finished with our work. We will continue to grow and improve our efforts in the community.

We are optimistic about the 2015 re-classification process and will know in January 2015 if we have been granted the Carnegie Community Engagement Classification for the second time.