EMU earns Carnegie Foundation Community Engagement Classification

Eastern Michigan University received recognition for exceptional levels of community engagement with the Carnegie Foundation’s 2015 Community Engagement Classification, the foundation said in a statement Wednesday.

Eastern is one of 240 campuses in the United States to receive the classification. More than 4,500 public and private two and four-year colleges and universities applied.

“The university has long promoted and supported involvement beyond the campus as a way of improving the lives of individuals as well as the community, as a means of enhancing learning,” EMU president Susan Martin said in the foundation’s statement.

Eastern first received Carnegie’s Community Engagement Classification in 2008. All those who qualified for classification in 2006 and 2008 were required to reapply by April 2014. Eastern is one of six Michigan institutions to earn Carnegie reclassification in 2015.

Instrumental in EMU’s reclassification application was Decky Alexander, a professor of communication, media and theater arts and director of the Office of Academic Service-Learning. Joining Alexander were Russ Olwell, a professor of history and director of EMU’s Institute for the Study of Children, Families and Communities; David Clifford, a professor of health sciences and director emeritus of the ISCFC; Claudia Petrescu, a professor of public administration; and Darlene Leifson, a lecturer in communication, media and theater arts.

Alexander said EMU has a “deep and longstanding commitment to community engagement, particularly helping at risk populations achieve both academic success and greater civic engagement.”

Eastern applied for reclassification in 2014. The process included a university-wide survey that gauged the scope of community engagement activities at EMU.

According to Alexander, successful reclassification for EMU depended largely upon the university’s ability to demonstrate improved community engagement programs and activities since the initial classification in 2008.

Olwell said that their goal was to cut down on the number of programs and activities in order to create deeper and more meaningful community partnerships.

“We wanted to make sure both sides were getting something,” Olwell said. “We used to do one or two day activities whereas now we are involved in multi-year programs.”

Alexander said a big difference between the 2008 and 2014 applications was that this time around they had a specific mission and vision.

“We had a strategic plan that clearly outlined research, student development and curriculum,” she said.

As listed in the statement, among these community engagement activities and programs are:

  • The Upward Bound program, which for 47 years has helped high school students in Ypsilanti attain college.
  • The new College Access Coach program, which places EMU graduate students in high schools to encourage college application and attendance.
  • The Bright Futures program, which provides after-school programming and enrichment for more than 600 children each day.
  • A partnership with the Japanese School of Detroit to foster language learning.
  • The Legal Resource Center, which has assisted more than 13,000 patrons with civil court forms.
  • The Business Side of Youth, which has provided entrepreneurship education to more than 600 at-risk area youths.
  • The Southeast Michigan Stewardship Coalition, which provides professional development for teachers and school leaders in Ecojustice education.
  • Hamilton Crossing, which is a family empowerment program for a rebuilt housing development on Ypsilanti’s south side, in partnership with the Ypsilanti Housing Commission and the federal government.

“This is a really important recognition of years of work from many individuals,” Alexander said. “And not just in the last five years. This is representative of years and years of work.”

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