The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching recently cited USC as one of 115 colleges and universities notable for their collaborations with neighboring communities.
The Carnegie Foundation, an independent policy and research center committed to transforming and improving American higher education, issues classifications every few years naming colleges and universities that meet various goals outlined by the foundation’s mission.
This year, the foundation invited schools with exceptional commitment to community engagement to apply for the Community Engagement Classification, which was first offered in 2006. USC applied in September, and was notified this month that they had received the classification.
“Through a classification that acknowledges significant commitment to and demonstration of community engagement, the Foundation encourages colleges and universities to become more deeply engaged, to improve teaching and learning and to generate socially responsive knowledge to benefit communities,” said Anthony Bryk, president of the foundation, in a press release.
Bryk said that in awarding the classification, the foundation went beyond national data and evaluated the specific community outreach programs at each of the schools.
After receiving applications for the classification, the foundation worked with the New England Resource Center for Higher Education to review examples of the schools’ work in their communities.
For USC, the classification is a welcome acknowledgement of a focus on community interests that was a hallmark of former President Steven B. Sample’s administration and continues to be a priority under President C. L. Max Nikias.
One of the programs that helped earn USC its classification from the Carnegie Foundation was the Joint Educational Project. Since its founding in 1972, JEP has become one of the nation’s largest service-learning programs, said Tina Koneazny, associate director for administration and educational outreach with JEP.
“It’s a huge honor and it really validates all the work we’ve been doing in the community for the last several years,” Koneazny said.
The programs at JEP aim to turn community service into service-learning by combining volunteer work with academic coursework. At the center of the project are eight-week programs that give students opportunities to volunteer in the community in roles such as mentoring and tutoring.
“We’re giving USC students the opportunity to learn and grow through their work in the community, while the community still benefits,” Koneazny said.
Cole Finney, a freshman majoring in theater, said he thinks collaboration between the university and the surrounding community is good for USC.
“Helping out in the community improves USC’s image with our neighbors,” Finney said. “It benefits both sides and is important for the growth of the school.”
In addition to JEP, a number of other student-run service organizations and projects at USC were also cited as part of the classification, including Trojan Health Volunteers, Writers in the Community, Troy Camp and the Neighborhood Academic Initiative.
Maxine Welcome, co-executive director for Troy Camp, said the volunteers seem to gain just as much from the experience as the community children do.
“As long as we continue with the philosophy of helping our community and getting involved with the neighbhorhood that we live in, we’ll be in a good place,” Welcome said. “From what I see, I’m really impressed.”
Koneazny said the collaboration between students in different academic schools contributes to JEP’s ability to affect a variety of sectors in the community.
“It’s really all across campus, not just at JEP or a specific volunteer center,” she said. “It’s all different pieces of the university coming together for this honor.”