Bates doubly recognized for community engagement

A longtime leader in building community engagement into the liberal arts education, Bates College recently received national recognition for that work from both a federal agency and a major foundation.

Bates men's lacrosse coach Peter Lasagna (with back to camera) works with fourth-graders at Martel School on Jan. 21, 2015, during the annual Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Read-In. (Phyllis Graber Jensen/Bates College)

Bates men’s lacrosse coach Peter Lasagna (with back to camera) works with fourth-graders at Martel School on Jan. 21, 2015, during the annual Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Read-In. (Phyllis Graber Jensen/Bates College)

The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching has selected Bates for its Community Engagement Classification for the second time, a distinction held by only 157 colleges nationwide.

The recognition is based on myriad aspects of community engagement, from impacts on student learning, to ways in which a college evaluates and rewards faculty involvement, to the community’s assessments of Bates’ value as a partner.

At the same time, Bates has again been named to the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll With Distinction. Through the Honor Roll, the federal Corporation for National and Community Service recognizes colleges and universities that embody exemplary community service while raising the visibility of effective practices in campus-community partnerships.



“The Carnegie Foundation’s classification is the gold standard for community engagement work in higher education,” says Darby Ray, director of the Harward Center, the Bates office that facilitates the college’s partnerships with the community. She adds, “To earn a place on the Honor Roll year in and year out, usually ‘With Distinction,’ is a wonderful affirmation of the college’s commitment to innovative pedagogy and the public good.”

Colette Girardin '16, Rusty Epstein '13 and Nancy Weidner '13 perform "Seussical the Musical" in May 2013 during the Robinson Players' annual production for local schoolchildren. (Mike Bradley/Bates College)

Colette Girardin ’16, Rusty Epstein ’13 and Nancy Weidner ’13 perform “Seussical the Musical” in May 2013 during the Robinson Players’ annual production for local schoolchildren. (Mike Bradley/Bates College)

Among the programs in Lewiston and beyond that Bates cited on its President’s Honor Roll application were initiatives in environmental education, the arts and childhood literacy. Bates and Saint Joseph’s College are the only Maine schools on the 2014 honor roll. Bates has been listed on the roll every year since the program’s inception, in 2006.

According to Ray, the President’s Honor Roll evaluates an institution’s most noteworthy projects and partnerships in a given year, and it considers the annual participation rates of students and faculty in community-engaged work.

Bates has long recognized that mutual relationships and shared action are essential if both the college and its surrounding communities are to flourish. Students’ community-engaged work includes learning or participatory research connected to courses; senior thesis research, research fellowships or summer fellowships; one-time or ongoing volunteer opportunities; and leadership development projects.

From September 2012 through August 2013 (the most recent year for which data is available):

  • The Harward Center awarded $202,666 in grants or fellowships to faculty, staff, students and community partners to support civic engagement work.
  • 1,143 Bates students performed 50,363 documented hours of academically based community work.
  • 12,629 of those hours were provided in connection with the public schools.
    Fifty-one courses included a community-engaged learning component, representing 23 of the college’s 32 academic departments and programs.

In contrast to Carnegie’s standard system of classifying colleges and universities, which is based on public data and includes virtually all U.S. schools, the Carnegie Community Engagement Classification results from an elective, rigorous application process. This approach enables schools to spotlight aspects of their missions and programs that Carnegie would not find in public data.

“What they’re looking for is that community engagement is truly an embedded, systemic institutional priority,” Ray says. “They push colleges and universities not only to report on past accomplishments, but also to establish improved systems and practices for the future.

“For Bates, where our institutional mission emphasizes the cultivation of informed civic action and responsible stewardship of the wider world, the Carnegie classification is a vitally important confirmation of past accomplishments and future direction.”

Bates students Kat Harling '17, left, and Grace Boueri '16 weigh twigs in Garcelon Bog, an im-portant wetland in Lewiston, as part of carbon-sequestration research carried out by a Bates College environmental studies course. (Sarah Crosby/Bates College) weigh a packet of twigs in Garcelon Bog, an ecologically significant wetland in Lewiston. The shrub clippings and other plant samples will be used to figure out how much carbon is sequestered in the bog in the project conducted in Holly Ewing's environmental studies course Scientific Approaches to Environmental Issues. (Sarah Crosby/Bates College)

Kat Harling ’17, left, and Grace Boueri ’16 weigh twigs in Garcelon Bog, an important wetland in Lewiston, as part of carbon-sequestration research carried out by an environmental studies class. (Sarah Crosby/Bates College)

Bates, which first received the Community Engagement Classification in 2008, was one of 157 schools to be reclassified this year. Eighty-three colleges and universities received the classification for the first time in 2015, while 121 earned the classification during a selection process in 2010. All told, 361 institutions hold the classification.

In Maine, besides Bates, those schools are Saint Joseph’s and Unity colleges and the University of Maine System campuses at Orono and Machias.

On the President’s Honor Roll, meanwhile, Bates was one of 121 schools honored “With Distinction” in the General Community Service category, and one of 22 so designated in the Education category. (The other categories are Interfaith Community Service and Economic Opportunity.)

Established in 1993, the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) is a federal agency that engages more than 5 million Americans in service through programs such as AmeriCorps and the Social Innovation Fund.

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