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University earns first Community Engagement Classification from Carnegie Foundation

From left, Class of 2023 classmates Nate Silverman, Ebram Youssef, and Bryce Gautreau spend the day with children from the Boys & Girls Club during Wilson Day 2019. Launched in 1988, Wilson Day is an annual day each fall where new students learn the first steps in community engagement. Wilson Day has become a proud tradition that celebrates community engagement as a core feature of the University’s mission and of undergraduate education. (University of Rochester photo / J. Adam Fenster)

The University of Rochester is among 119 colleges and universities in the United States to receive 2020 Carnegie Community Engagement Classification, an elective designation that indicates institutional commitment to community engagement. This is the first time that the University has earned the classification from the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, and Rochester is now one of 359 nationwide to hold the distinction.

To earn Community Engagement Classification, institutions voluntarily submit an extensive application describing the nature and extent of their work with the community. The University’s application outlined the ways in which the University’s mission, culture, leadership, resources and practices support sustained and mutually beneficial community engagement. The process of completing the University’s application began under the leadership of recent University President Richard Feldman and was carried out by a workgroup composed of faculty and staff from across the University.

In her October 2019 inauguration address, University President Sarah Mangelsdorf reaffirmed the University’s longstanding commitment to partnering with local citizens and organizations to improve the well-being of the entire greater Rochester community. “Without a vibrant Rochester, the University cannot thrive,” she remarked in her speech at Kodak Hall at Eastman Theatre. “Issues facing our community and many other communities—poverty, unemployment, and lack of access to education and health care—are our shared responsibility. We must be a committed community partner, working together to achieve success. We must build on our shared past and work together on our shared future.”

Through the Carnegie self-study, the University identified the University-community collaborations that are helping drive the University’s commitment to community-based research, education, and service. In 2017–18, undergraduate students recorded 4,100 hours of community service through student organizations, complementing more than 53,000 hours of community engagement made possible through the University’s Rochester Center for Community Leadership. These efforts alone have benefited more than 35,000 community members.

As a leading research institution with expertise in health care, education, the arts, and public health, among other areas, University faculty, staff, and students are partnering with local agencies and organizations to alleviate urgent community needs, enrich lives through arts and music, and develop new initiatives that are improving our region and the city of Rochester in many ways. The community also enriches the lives of University students by providing real-word environments and lived expertise to enhance the educational experiences.

The Carnegie workgroup was co-led by Glenn Cerosaletti, assistant dean of students and director of the Rochester Center for Community Leadership (RCCL), and Theresa Green, faculty member in the Center for Community Health & Prevention at the University of Rochester Medical Center.

“The process of compiling the University’s application for the classification benefited from input from many collaborators across the University, as well as from community partners,” said Cerosaletti. “It not only helped us to appreciate our strengths and the collective impact of the University’s many partnerships with the community, but also to identify opportunities to improve our efforts. We hope that the process will inform the University’s efforts going forward, and propel us to become ever better.”

“We are excited about the Carnegie designation and are so very thankful for our community partners who continue to support the mission of the University, teach our students at every level from undergraduates to medical residents, and inform our research agenda,” said Green. “The collaboration and self-study that led to the Carnegie designation provides a strong foundation for exciting work ahead.”

Wade S. Norwood ’85, CEO of Common Ground Health, agreed. “Carnegie is recognizing what we in Rochester have experienced for many years: that the University is a true community partner in health care, anti-poverty initiatives, access to education and social justice,” said Norwood.

Here are just some of the University’s local programs and partnerships:

  • East High Educational Partnership Organization (EPO): A partnership between the University and Rochester’s East High has helped the school forge a new culture and commitment to revival. Various additional partnerships with the University are contributing to this great academic progress, including the provision of needed mental, social-emotional, and physical health services to scholars, parents, and families. Through the Center on Urban Education Success, Warner School faculty members are conducting evaluation work for East Upper and Lower Schools on culture and climate.
  • David T. Kearns Center for Leadership and Diversity: Home to four federal Department of Education TRiO grants (Talent Search, Upward Bound, Upward Bound Math/Science, and McNair), the Kearns Center serves more than 1,000 low-income, first-generation, and/or under-represented minority students from the Rochester City School District and from around the country. Students who participate in the Upward Bound and Upward Bound Math/Science programs have a 100 percent persistence and retention rate from year to year, a 97 percent high school graduation rate, and a 90 percent college-going rate. Of the students who participate in McNair, 99 percent have graduated from college, and more than 85 percent have gone on to graduate school, with more than 100 doctorates earned.
  • MAGconnect: The Memorial Art Gallery (MAG) partners with various community organizations to design museum tours for more than 300 individuals who might not have come on their own. MAG underwrites transportation and admission to the museum and offers free family memberships for the year following the visit. The MAG collaborates with the Rochester chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association to offer monthly tours for individuals with early-to-mid-stage dementia. For individuals in elder-care facilities who can no longer visit the museum, MAG staff bring reproductions of artworks to the residents. This program, known as Art at the Bedside, is implemented by MAG docents and student volunteers from the University.
  • School-based health centers: Located on-site at several schools within the city school district, health center services include complete physical exams, health screenings, risk behavior screenings, care for acute and chronic illnesses, medications and immunizations, sexually transmitted disease and pregnancy testing and prevention, and mental health counseling. The SMILEmobile aims to decrease dental health disparities in the community by providing regular accessible, affordable, and convenient dental services to RCSD students.
  • Partners in Reading: A student organization in Arts, Sciences and Engineering dedicated to aiding school children in the learning process. Its goals include bettering the academic experience for Rochester school students; promoting higher education by means of tutoring, mentoring, and various activities; and encouraging students to pursue their goals through education. Partners in Reading has been in existence for over 25 years, and and actively manages projects with four different community partners.

The Carnegie Foundation’s Classification for Community Engagement is an elective classification involving data collection and documentation of important aspects of institutional mission, identity, and commitments, and requires substantial effort invested by participating institutions. The documentation is reviewed by a National Review Panel to determine whether the institution qualifies for recognition as a community-engaged institution. Rochester’s Community Engagement Classification from the Carnegie Foundation is valid until 2026. Of the 119 institutions classified in the 2020 cycle, 44 are receiving the classification for the first time while 75 are now re-classified after being classified originally in 2010 or 2015.

President Mangelsdorf has appointed a University-wide steering committee to coordinate the advancement of community engagement efforts, informed by the Carnegie self-study and the recommendations developed by the work group in the process.

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