Occidental College once again has been recognized as a community engagement institution by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, one of a small group of liberal arts colleges to be so designated for their commitment to mutually beneficial collaboration with communities, locally and globally.
Unlike other Carnegie classifications – the standard for categorizing U.S. colleges and universities – community engagement is a voluntary classification for which colleges and universities must apply. Occidental was first classified as a community engagement institution in 2008, reapplied last year, and will maintain its designation for another five years.
"These are campuses that are improving teaching and learning, producing research that makes a difference in communities, and revitalizing their civic and academic missions," said John Saltmarsh, director of the New England Resource Center for Higher Education.
A total of 240 colleges and universities received the community engagement classification. Not all those that applied received the designation.
With half of the student body participating in community-based learning courses taught by one-third of the faculty, the renewed classification underscores Occidental’s mission that includes "a deeply rooted commitment to the public good."
"This designation truly demonstrates the value of the ongoing collaborative work of so many faculty, students, and community partners –and a number of offices on campus - here at Occidental," said Celestina Castillo, director of the Center for Community Based Learning.
Being reclassified by Carnegie "is a testament to the work the College has been doing to actualize its mission on community engagement. We appreciate that this was a joint effort with many of our campus stakeholders and believe the process will propel our work to wonderful new levels." added Ella Turenne, assistant dean for community engagement.
Occidental’s tradition of community outreach dates back to 1963, when the college’s Community Literacy Center was founded to provide one-on-one reading and writing instruction for local K-6 children. Home to one of California’s oldest and largest Upward Bound programs for disadvantaged high school youth, Occidental is also one of the few liberal arts colleges in the country with an applied research institute. Founded in 1997, the Urban & Environmental Policy Institute (UEPI) provides a space for students, faculty, staff and community partners to collaborate on research, policy and programs.
Over the past decade Occidental has woven community engagement into its curriculum. A new overarching structure brings together three programs – the Office for Community Engagement, the Center for Community Based Learning, and UEPI – to connect curriculum, co-curricular activities, and research and community- based efforts.
The designation by the Carnegie Foundation is just the latest recognition for Occidental’s community-based learning programs. In 2014 Occidental was named to the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll with Distinction for exemplary service efforts.
Founded by Andrew Carnegie in 1905 and chartered in 1906 by an act of Congress, The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching is an independent policy and research center with the primary mission "to do and perform all things necessary to encourage, uphold and dignify the profession of the teacher." The improvement of teaching and learning is central to all of the Foundation’s work.