Penn State recognized by Carnegie Foundation for community engagement

As a result of Penn State’s far-reaching community partnerships, including cancer prevention efforts in Appalachia and sustainable greenhouse design and production in Africa, the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching has selected the University for its 2015 Community Engagement Classification. Initiatives at Penn State Berks are cited extensively in the report that led to this classification.

The classification recognizes “excellent alignment among campus mission, culture, leadership, resources and practices that support dynamic and noteworthy engagement,” according to the Carnegie Foundation. Some 361 U.S. colleges and universities have earned the classification.

“Penn State Berks defines itself as a learning-centered college,” stated Penn State Berks Chancellor R. Keith Hillkirk. “We believe that student engagement in real-life problem solving must be at the heart of their education. I deeply appreciate the leadership of our faculty and staff in working with community partners to support hands-on learning.”

Several community engagement initiatives at Penn State Berks were cited in the Carnegie Foundation report. Some of these initiatives include:

Center for Service Learning and Community-Based Scholarship
The Center for Service Learning and Community-Based Research grew out of efforts by individual faculty members to challenge students to become engaged citizens. These efforts go far beyond “community service” in the traditional sense. Through service learning at Penn State Berks, students are connecting rigorous academic coursework in fields as diverse as economics and English, ecological science and education, with real issues facing our community. Whether they are preserving the history of the Mennonite population or working at a local food bank, students are both providing meaningful, hands-on assistance and developing a deeper and more complex understanding of core concepts in their fields.

The report cites several books that were published by students in the Center working with members of the local community. Students worked closely with the African American community to publish Woven with Words: A Collection of African American History in Berks County, Pennsylvania. This project set the stage for several other publications, in which students worked with community groups including the Hispanic/Latino community to publish "Hispanics/Latinos in Reading and Berks: A Portrait of a Community;" and the Jewish community to publish two books: one printed locally, "A History of the Jewish Community in Reading and Berks County," and the other published by a commercial press, "Jewish Reading and Berks," a photographic history of Berks County’s Jewish community. Most recently, students researched and wrote about the history of the first three decades of the Olivet Boys and Girls Club of Reading. Their work culminated in the publication of a book titled "A History of the First Three Decades of the Olivet Boys & Girls Club in Reading, Pennsylvania."

The faculty involved with the center also founded the Undergraduate Journal of Service Learning and Community-Based Research, a refereed, multi-disciplinary, online journal that invites undergraduates from all over the world to contribute to the academic conversation on service learning and community-based research.

Berks Learning Factory
The Penn State Berks Learning Factory was cited in the report as an example of community engagement in the classroom. In the fall of 2010, after benchmarking the Learning Factory at Penn State University Park, the Berks Learning Factory was created as an academic center that integrates industry-sponsored design projects into both first-year and senior engineering design courses. Industry projects are identified and integrated into the classroom for experiential learning purposes and as a method of community engagement. Local industry benefits from fresh, new solutions for real-world design challenges generated by students and by building relationships with students who may serve as future interns and employees. Meanwhile, students gain applied experience, which is essential in training future engineers to undertake design challenges with real-world constraints. Hands-on problem solving teaches students to apply technical knowledge and helps to prepare them for engineering careers by exposing them to the technical demands, potential pitfalls, and professional expectations of practicing engineers.

– First-Year Experiences
The report also cited the Penn State Berks Outdoor Adventure Program. First-year students may enroll in an Outdoor Adventure Course and begin their semester early by participating in one of three different excursions, designed to assist them with the transition to college. In the “Building for Tomorrow” program, students learn civic responsibility by sharing time with a child, rehabilitating the surrounding community, and broadening cultural horizons through community service. In the past, students have volunteered with such agencies as Opportunity House, Gring’s Mill Recreation Area, the Humane Society of Berks County, The Reading Hospital and Medical Center, and Nolde Forest.

Project Management Courses in the Business Major, Management/Marketing Option
At Penn State Berks, students enrolled in the Project Management course, a senior-level required course in the Management and Marketing Option of the Business major, are working with community partners on several projects. Students have worked with Opportunity House, a multi-service organization and homeless shelter in Reading, in developing a business plan for its planned mattress recycling initiative. Recently, students have worked with the Reading Public Library on ways to develop a marketing identity and to help make the library relevant to city residents.

–The Creativity, Entrepreneurship and Economic Development Center
In an effort to inspire an entrepreneurial spirit among students and to seek partnerships with business and industry that foster economic growth for the local community, the Creativity, Entrepreneurship and Economic Development Center (CEED) was established in the fall of 2011. CEED is an extension of the college’s Entrepreneurship Minor, which was established in 2009. This interdisciplinary 18-credit minor is designed to foster an entrepreneurial spirit, creativity, and leadership in students.

Since CEED was established, it has sponsored several Entrepreneurship Speaker Series panel discussions, composed of both student entrepreneurs who have started their own businesses and local entrepreneurs from the business community. In addition, several collaborative initiatives have been undertaken between students, faculty, and business and industry leaders, and members of organizations from around the world.

Students from the Entrepreneurship Minor have held workshops for middle and high school Reading School District students in the Penn State Educational Partnership Program (PEPP). The PEPP students learned about entrepreneurship, self-assessment, and starting a business plan. These workshops are supported by National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance (NCIIA) to build an ongoing program educating and engaging Penn State Berks and Kenyan university students in international and interdisciplinary projects while exploring technology-based solutions for participating communities’ challenges.

In a letter supporting Penn State’s candidacy, President Eric J. Barron noted the University’s role as Pennsylvania’s only land-grant university and its long history of commitment to local, regional, state, national and international communities. “We are poised to align our land-grant legacy with today’s innovative research, teaching and service portfolio, and to reinforce our national leadership role in community engagement and engaged scholarship.”

Penn State is working to create opportunities for every undergraduate on every campus, including online students, to have at least one out-of-classroom engagement experience that complements their classroom learning.

Penn State first earned the classification in 2008. The Carnegie Foundation defines community engagement as “collaboration between institutions of higher education and their larger communities (local, regional/state, national, global) for the mutually beneficial exchange of knowledge and resources in a context of partnership and reciprocity.”

 

Last Updated February 12, 2015