The designation indicates the university’s exemplary practice of institutionalized community engagement.
By Tatyana Hopkins
The George Washington University has received the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching’s 2020 Community Engagement Classification, an elective designation that indicates institutional commitment to community engagement.
GW was awarded the endorsement based on its documented excellence in the alignment of its mission, resources and practices that support dynamic and noteworthy community engagement.
“We are delighted to have been recognized with this most prestigious designation for community engagement,” said Amy Cohen, executive director of the GW Honey W. Nashman Center for Civic Engagement and Public Service. “The Community Engagement Classification reflects how deeply embedded community engagement is in GW's mission, policy and infrastructure.”
Ms. Cohen spearheaded the university’s efforts to receive the designation with a core team comprising Sharon Lambert, professor of clinical and community psychology; Wendy Wagner, the Nashman Center’s program manager for community-engaged scholarship; and Lauren Daneilowski, M.A. ’19.
“This award recognizes the long-term and significant partnerships that GW faculty, staff and students in every school have had with nonprofit and government organizations—partnerships that contribute to the quality of life and aim to bring about equity in our city and region,” Ms. Cohen said.
Last year, more than 5,000 members of the GW community completed 759,891 hours of service and the university awarded 902 President’s Volunteer Service Awards, a national recognition for service issued by the White House.
Students are introduced to GW’s commitment to community engagement during the First-Year Day of Service and Convocation, where the entire incoming class completes community service projects throughout the metropolitan area alongside faculty, staff and administrators.
Service learning continues throughout the year in the university’s 69 community engagement courses, in which faculty and students partner with community members to address issues of the common good. They range from the Milken Institute School of Public Health’s “Autism Experience,” in which GW students and young adults with autism work together to design and implement research relevant to the autistic community, to the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences’ “World on a Plate,” in which students explore food and social issues led by renowned chef and humanitarian José Andrés.
Ms. Cohen said these community engagement courses both facilitate learning academic course objectives as well as invite students to reflect on their sense of purpose and civic engagement.
Eighty-five percent of GW seniors indicated that their awareness of social problems was stronger since coming to GW on the 2018 graduating Senior Survey, and 87 percent indicated their ability to apply what they learned at GW to solve real problems in society also got stronger.
The Carnegie Community Engagement Classification has been a leading framework for institutional assessment and recognition of community engagement in U.S. higher education for the past 14 years.
It is awarded following an assessment of each institution’s self-study report by a national review committee led by the Swearer Center for Public Engagement at Brown University, the administrative and research home for the Carnegie Community Engagement Classification.
GW was one of 119 colleges and universities in the country to receive the classification this year and one of 44 institutions receiving the classification for the first time.
“These newly-classified and re-classified institutions are doing exceptional work to forward their public purpose in and through community engagement that enriches teaching and research while also benefiting the broader community,” said Mathew Johnson, executive director of the Swearer Center.
In total, 359 institutions hold Carnegie’s community engagement endorsement.
GW’s classification will be valid until 2026. It will need to re-apply to retain its status beginning in 2024.
“The developing strategic plan dovetails beautifully with our continued excellence in community engagement,” Ms. Cohen said. “To be re-designated in 2026, we will have to continue to ensure that our community partnerships are rooted in, and intrinsically tied to, research and teaching and helping our students to become creative, contributing, democratic citizens in our diverse democracy.”