University recognized for outstanding community engagement
By Jennifer Sobolewski
Bowling Green State University’s ongoing commitment to community engagement has again been recognized nationally. The University was selected as one of only 240 institutions to receive the 2015 Community Engagement Classification from the Carnegie Foundation.
BGSU is a longtime leader in the area of service-learning and student community engagement. According to the National Survey of Student Engagement, the University has one of the highest participation rates in the country.
According to the foundation, BGSU “documented excellent alignment among campus mission, culture, leadership, resources, and practices that support dynamic and noteworthy community engagement.”
Just 361 colleges and universities—less than 10 percent of the more than 4,000 institutions nationwide—now hold this prestigious designation.
“The classification is a wonderful recognition for the day-to-day work of faculty, staff and students who are engaged in the community as volunteers, as part of a service-learning course, as interns, as researchers, and active citizens committed to linking their skills, expertise, and passion to making a change in the world,” said Dr. Jane Rosser, director of service-learning. “It builds on a deep and pervasive legacy of community engagement at BGSU and it puts us in an elite category of institutions who are deeply committed to civic engagement and public service.”
In its more than 100 page application, the University had to show how it had improved partnership practices and relationships, how faculty have incorporated community-based teaching and learning into courses as well as research, document the changes and trends that have taken place, and demonstrate how BGSU has integrated community partnerships into study abroad programs, internships and co-ops, and student research.
“This honor is a wonderful recognition of the significant strides we’ve made to strengthen existing, and to create new, community partnerships,” said President Mary Ellen Mazey. “BGSU is able to accomplish its goal of educating personally and socially responsible students by collaborating with the community to address vital community needs.”
The classification is valid until 2025.
Within the application BGSU highlighted over a dozen notable community partnerships including:
- Ongoing, strong ties with the city of Bowling Green.
- The collaboration with Wood County Hospital on the creation of the Falcon Health Center.
- A partnership with the Ohio Attorney General for the construction of the new Bureau of Criminal Investigation building, which allowed the University to establish academic programming in forensic science at the undergraduate level and provide new research, outreach and training opportunities.
- The Common Core for Reasoning and Sense-making partnership to help elementary and secondary teachers respond to the Common Core standards adopted by Ohio in 2010. Four faculty members developed an intensive teacher training program and together with K-12 teacher participants created curriculum materials.
- Participation in the Not In Our Town initiative, a national grassroots effort that has inspired hundreds of communities to take action against hate. This collaboration involves faculty, staff, administrative leaders, community leaders and partners, and community members.
- An ongoing service-learning course that creates murals in underserved areas of Toledo.
- The Music Plus Program, in which high school band and string students from Toledo Public Schools come to campus for private lessons and special classes.
- The Office of Campus Sustainability’s efforts to make BGSU a more environmentally sustainable institution through collaboration with all areas of campus, which is demonstrated through regular and special service- learning opportunities for the institution and community with resulting positive impacts.
- The creation of Intergroup Communication Intervention (ICI) classes for seniors. BGSU communication students show seniors how to use the latest technology.
Dr. Kate Magsamen-Conrad, an assistant professor in the School of Media and Communication, developed the ICI classes through a partnership with the Wood County Committee on Aging.
“I am passionate about engaged scholarship,” she said. “I have watched as older adults who called themselves ‘stupid’ when it came to technology cheer as they easily completed a new task with their tablets. Older adults in the ICI classes have often expressed their gratitude for an education that provided them with needed abilities to stay in communication with their families and navigate a little more easily through daily errands. I share their joy and find it motivates me to continue and become even more committed to community engaged research and teaching.”
In a joint statement, Drs. Nancy Orel, Melissa Burek and Mamta Ojha from the College of Health and Human Service (CHHS) expressed their pride in the recognition. “From the collaborative partnerships between college faculty and students and the Wood County Committee on Aging, Wood County Reentry Coalition, Project Connect, and the Speech and Hearing Clinic, we are proactive in responding to key community needs, concerns, and expectations. This classification values the heart of CHHS in the experience of making a difference.”
Student engagement in community service has been one of the keys to the University’s success. BGSU senior Maddi Georgoff is one of the driving forces in the expansion of the University’s alternative spring break program that encourages students to spend their spring break on a service project instead of the beach.
"Civic engagement has defined my college experience and shaped my values as a BGSU student, community member and leader,” said Georgoff. “The University's commitment to making the world a better place has grounded me in a firm foundation of active citizenship and community engagement that will support my future career in social justice and non-profit work. I am so proud and grateful to be a part of a culture of service that challenges, supports and empowers students to pursue social justice within an academic setting."
Scott Brummel, a senior liberal studies major who also works with the Civic Action Leaders, said the culture of community engagement at BGSU has created an environment that allows students and faculty to combine classroom academics and real-world experiences.
“In some cases, these experiences have come in the form of whole classes visiting a community partner to assist with a project related to a course concept,” he explained. “For others, the experience has been co-curricular, as is the case with the 800 students participating in our annual MLK Jr. Day of Service. And other experiences may be more solitary, like a single student completing her capstone project as a volunteer with a local agency.
“What's potentially the most significant is that we also can grasp a real sense of ownership of our education as we now see it as a tool-set, equipping us to solve the issues facing our community here in northwest Ohio, and in those communities we will call home in the future.”