ORONO – The University of Maine is one of 240 colleges and universities in the United States selected to receive the 2015 Community Engagement Classification of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.

UMaine and 156 other institutions received reclassification; 83 colleges and universities received first-time classification.

In 2008, UMaine and Bates College were the first two institutions in Maine to receive the Carnegie Community Engagement Classification. The 2015 reclassification is valid until 2025.

Today, five colleges and universities in Maine — UMaine, Bates, Saint Joseph’s College, Unity College and the University of Maine at Machias — are among the 361 institutions nationwide that have achieved the Community Engagement Classification from the Carnegie Foundation.

“Community engagement is an institutional priority that is critical to helping meet the needs of communities in Maine and beyond,” said UMaine President Susan Hunter. “Since its inception, UMaine has been committed to public service as part of its statewide land grant mission. Today, community engagement is an important component of the UMaine student experience, and more integral than ever to our research and economic development initiatives.

“This reclassification by the Carnegie Foundation recognizing our commitment to community engagement is a fitting tribute to UMaine’s 150-year legacy that we’re celebrating in 2015.”

The Community Engagement Classification recognizes those colleges and universities with an institutional focus on community engagement. Unlike the other Carnegie Classifications of Institutions of Higher Education that rely on national data, the Community Engagement distinction requires colleges and universities to voluntarily submit materials documenting their community engagement.

In order to be selected, the colleges and universities provided descriptions and examples of institutionalized practices of community engagement that showed alignment among mission, culture, leadership, resources and practices. For reclassification, UMaine and the other institutions also had to provide evidence that the ongoing community engagement has become “deeper, more pervasive, better integrated and sustained.”

In UMaine’s application to the Carnegie Foundation, numerous university-community partnerships and projects were highlighted. University of Maine Cooperative Extension, Maine Sea Grant, all six colleges and many university centers were represented, demonstrating the range and depth of the university’s commitment to engagement, according to Claire Sullivan, associate dean for community engagement in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Several efforts are geared toward the creation of collaborative networks across disciplines, institutions and state organizations.

Partnerships include collaborations with local schools, as well as those that work toward the promotion of the arts and humanities. For example, one cultural project called Tree and Tradition featured a collaboration with the Hudson Museum, the Native American Studies Program, the School of Forest Resources and the Maine Indian Basketmakers Alliance, whose mission is to preserve the ancient tradition of brown ash and sweetgrass basketry among Maine’s tribes.

UMaine’s community partnerships also serve an economic development function. That includes the Foster Center for Student Innovation, which has a leadership role in the Blackstone Accelerates Growth internship project.

The university has placed an emphasis on aiding the people of Maine through projects devoted to youth, the elderly, families and diverse populations, as well as tackling important societal and health-related issues, such a hunger, autism spectrum disorders and substance abuse. Cooperative Extension, UMaine’s largest outreach component, has a presence in every county, putting research to work in homes, businesses, farms and communities.

UMaine also has focused on its natural resources through such initiatives as Sea Grant’s Marine Extension Team, linking coastal communities with scientists to address pressing issues, and the Cooperative Forestry Resource Unit, working with Maine’s forest landowners to ensure effective public policy and sustainable forest management practices. The university has been instrumental in developing alternative energies research, education and partnerships, and connects knowledge with action through the Sustainability Solutions Initiative, promoting strong economies, vibrant communities and healthy ecosystems in Maine and beyond.

At UMaine, community engagement is integral to the student experience. Student participation in the Bodwell Center for Service and Volunteerism programs has increased 192 percent in the past three years, with 5,975 students completing 19,400 service hours in 2013. Students are involved in service-learning courses, music end theater ensembles, Alternative Breaks, Engineers Without Borders, sustainable agriculture projects, Black Bear Mentors and the University Volunteer Ambulance Corps, to name a few.

“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.”

Amy Driscoll, consulting scholar for the Community Engagement Classification, noted that, in this first reclassification process, there is “renewed institutional commitment, advanced curricular and assessment practices, and deeper community partnerships, all sustained through changes in campus leadership, and within the context of a devastating economic recession.”


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