Carnegie Foundation Names UMass Amherst a ‘Community-Engaged University’

AMHERST, Mass. – The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching has named University of Massachusetts Amherst a “Community-Engaged University” under a rigorous classification process developed to document community engagement in the college curriculum and in campus-community partnerships.

The foundation, an independent policy and research center dedicated to the improvement of teaching and learning, recognized UMass Amherst for its engagement initiatives integrating research and teaching with the community. Among the activities highlighted in the campus’ application are an adoption mentoring partnership, an alliance with community health organizations in Hampden County, support for a community in the Himalayas forced to move to a new site, and a 24-hour crisis hotline for Hampshire County residents.

UMass Amherst joins 360 other schools across the U.S. that have received the classification since 2006. There are more than 4,100 degree-granting colleges and universities in the U.S.

“The Carnegie Foundation’s designation recognizes one of the fundamental tenets that has guided the development of UMass Amherst since its founding: a commitment to using the discoveries we make and the knowledge we create to improve the quality of life for the citizens of Massachusetts and beyond,” says UMass Amherst Chancellor Kumble R. Subbaswamy. “Our emphasis on advancing the human condition through active engagement is as imperative as it was when the Morrill Act created the university and other land-grant institutions more than 150 years ago.”

The classification follows a year-long documentation and application effort by the UMass Amherst Faculty Senate Council on Public Engagement and Outreach and the office of Civic Engagement and Service-Learning (CESL), along with members of the faculty, leaders of major campus engagement initiatives, deans and associate deans.

The application, submitted last April, documents dozens of initiatives that, in the words of the foundation, exemplify “collaboration between institutions of higher education and their larger communities for the mutually beneficial exchange of knowledge and resources in the context of partnership and reciprocity.”

The Carnegie application focused, in part, on 15 major initiatives being pursued by UMass Amherst with external partners. Some of the exemplary community partnerships reviewed by the Carnegie Commission include:

  • The Adoption Mentoring Partnership is a collaboration between the Rudd Adoption Research Program in the psychological and brain sciences department at UMass Amherst and Big Brothers, Big Sisters of Hampshire County. The program seeks to match UMass students who are adopted with adopted children in the community. Matched across a variety of factors, the mentors and children are able to form friendships grounded in the similarities between them, such as gender, race, ethnicity and adoption story. By providing a same-gender, same-race mentor for adopted children, the mentors become not only friends, but role models as well.

  • The Springfield/Holyoke Health Alliance for Research and Engagement (SHHARE) builds linkages among Public Health and Health Sciences faculty, students and community, applying principles of community-based participatory research to enhance joint efforts to solve pressing health problems in Holyoke and Springfield. Forums in Holyoke and Springfield have highlighted the work of community members, including the Holyoke Food and Fitness Policy Council, Gardening the Community, and Men of Color Health Awareness. SHHARE has also created a Who’s Who in Public Health in Western Massachusetts database, and has funded numerous internships in community health organizations.

  • The Himalayan Climate Change Adaptation Programme provides design/build services to Kumik, a village in the Indian Himalayas, where chronic drought caused by climate change is forcing an entire community to move to a new site. Faculty work with villagers to help envision this process and plan with digital tools. Planning and design solutions will conserve scarce water, harness the region’s abundant solar energy, incorporate local materials and building wisdom, and generate much-needed income, as well as opportunities for improving the health, energy-efficiency and economic conditions.

  • The Center for Women & Community for 30 years has provided free general and trauma-based counseling and information and referral services for all Hampshire County residents. Services include online and in-person information and referral services; empowerment-based short-term counseling, support groups and referrals; support services for survivors of sexual assault; a 24-hour crisis hotline; access to medical and legal advocacy; peer counseling in Spanish and English; specialized services for teens and the Latino community; academic and social service advocacy, and outreach services in schools and community organization in Spanish and English.

CESL director John Reiff, who spearheaded the application, said the partnerships outlined for the Carnegie Foundation “illustrate that community engagement is deeply integrated with teaching and research--the other core functions of the university.”

“This recognition is one step of our work,” said Reiff. “When we ask, ‘What does an engaged institution look like?’ we can say, in part, it looks like UMass Amherst. Community-engaged research and teaching is the primary way we fulfill our land-grant mission to improve the quality of life in the Commonwealth, the nation and the world.”