Community engagement earns SUNY Oswego a coveted honor

The Carnegie Foundation has awarded SUNY Oswego a prestigious Community Engagement Classification, recognizing that the college has deeply intertwined community engagement in its leadership, curriculum, outreach programs, strategic planning and community partnerships.

Students working on a Habitat for Humanity home.“We are honored that SUNY Oswego has been designated an ‘engaged campus’ by the Carnegie Foundation,” President Deborah F. Stanley said.

“Starting with our Engagement 2000 strategic plan, our college has magnified its efforts to put community service, outreach and partnerships at the very center of what we do. The 2010 Community Engagement Classification recognizes the energetic, generous and diverse efforts across the campus—and among our many community partners—to make this goal come to life. More and more, our faculty, staff and students are engaging community needs in the classroom, through research and as volunteers.”

The Carnegie Foundation named 115 colleges and universities for the community service distinction this year among 305 that signed up to apply. Another 196 institutions have received it since the program began in 2006. Applications are now closed until 2015.

Nine New York colleges and universities received the classification in 2010. The others are Cornell University, Hobart and William Smith Colleges, St. John’s University, Skidmore College, Jefferson Community College, SUNY Stony Brook, SUNY Oneonta and the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry.

Central to mission

Oswego’s application details a wealth of community service initiatives and partnerships, from alternative break projects in places like New Orleans and Jamaica, to student-driven efforts to benefit local residents like Adopt-a-Grandparent and Miss-a-Meal.

But the designation goes beyond service programs, insisting that successful applicants demonstrate the importance of community engagement to the institution, from faculty to students to staff, across the curriculum and campus.

“In order to be selected,” the foundation noted, “institutions had to provide descriptions and examples of institutionalized practices of community engagement that showed alignment among mission, culture, leadership, resources and practices.”

“This is absolutely a campus-wide honor,” said Christy Huynh, associate director of the Compass and part of the team that completed the rigorous application process for the designation.

Paul Roodin, director of Experience-Based Education; Alyssa Amyotte, coordinator of the Center for Service Learning and Community Service; and Nola Heidlebaugh, then coordinator of the Civic Engagement Office, along with Huynh, conducted an extensive inventory and information-gathering process last spring and over the summer.

“This did require a lot of time from different offices on campus, not just us,” said Heidlebaugh, who recently retired. “This is quite a coup for this campus.”

Among the findings:

* In 2009-10, more than 1,500 student volunteers and 700 unpaid interns logged 110,000 community service hours. In surveys, the offices found that 78 percent of first-year Oswego students say they intend to be engaged, and upon graduation 72 percent report they did engage in community service.

* Through student, faculty and staff organizations and community partnerships, the campus has sought to engage and serve: the Benin Calculator Project, Adopt-a-School, Leadership Oswego County, the Oswego Children’s Project, Sustainability Fair and community service components for at least 30 courses are just a few examples.

* SUNY Oswego has been a founding member since 2001 of the New York Campus Compact to encourage community service and civic engagement, and has been on the national President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll since its inception in 2007.

* The Office of Business and Community Relations and its sub-units, such as RSVP and the Small Business Development Center, actively engage seniors and the business community, respectively; and the Division of Extended Learning and its courses and programs serve nontraditional students at the SUNY Oswego Metro Center, SUNY Oswego Phoenix Center, main campus and online.

Huynh said the designation provides an impetus to continue weaving community engagement into the college’s fabric.

“It recognizes—and I think it provides almost an obligation to invest in and to continue to develop—those programs,” she said.

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PHOTO CAPTION: Helping hands – SUNY Oswego students Kaitlin Inzero, left, and James Denig work on framing for a Habitat for Humanity house in Waynesburg, Pa., during spring break last year. The Carnegie Foundation has honored the college for its campuswide culture of engagement with a 2010 Community Engagement Classification. (Photo by Patrick Looney)

(Posted: Jan 20, 2011)

Tags: engagement, civic engagement