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Salem State University Receives Carnegie Community Engagement Classification

Salem State among 359 colleges and universities nationally with special designation

Salem State University has announced that it is one of the 119 newly and reclassified U.S. colleges and universities to receive the Carnegie Community Engagement Classification, which indicates significant institutional commitment to community and civic engagement. Receiving Carnegie Classification puts Salem State among a total of 359 institutions nationally and just 26 in Massachusetts with this designation.

“Civic engagement is embedded in our classrooms, our programs and our culture,” said Salem State University President John D. Keenan. “This prestigious designation reflects the exceptional energy that has gone toward making civic and community engagement a fundamental part of the Salem State experience and identity.”

To receive Carnegie Classification, universities must undergo a rigorous process of self-study to demonstrate a deep and intentional commitment to advancing community engagement at all levels of the institution. Applications are sent to 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. Of the 109 U.S. institutions that applied for first-time classification during the 2020 cycle, 44 were successful.

“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,” noted Mathew Johnson, executive director of the Swearer Center.

“From our first-year day of service to our advocacy education curriculum to our full complement of co-curricular activities, we have created a culture that ensures students are met with countless opportunities in and out of the classroom to engage with their communities to explore and help address a variety of local and global issues,” said Cynthia Lynch, director of the center for civic engagement. “We have long strived for this classification, and receiving it is not an endpoint, but a starting point for all that lies ahead.” 

Carnegie Classification comes on the heels of Salem State announcing the creation of the Frederick E. Berry Institute for Politics and Civic Engagement and a new minor in interdisciplinary civic engagement that launched in January 2020. The university has also received recent accolades for its student voter engagement. These include a gold seal from the All In Campus Democracy Challenge for its 46.8 percent midterm election student voter rate—above the 39.1 percent national average—and being named by Washington Monthly as one of “America’s Best Colleges for Student Voting 2019.”

“We couldn’t achieve such high-quality programming without the work of our students, faculty, staff and engaged community partners,” said Lynch. “This designation is all of ours to celebrate.” 

Salem State’s Center for Civic Engagement launched in 2015 and is the nexus for community-based initiatives, civic learning, and public engagement at the university. To promote equitable and sustainable community relationships, and to reflect Salem State’s institutional value of equity, partnership and collaboration, the center has shifted away from the needs-based language of service-learning and toward critically engaged civic learning (CECL).

CECL promotes incremental and holistic social change through faculty, students, community members and community organizations exploring and addressing the root causes of inequality and injustice in the community. The full continuum of civic engagement at Salem State includes curricular community service, community-oriented research, CECL, and Community-based participatory research (CBPR).

Under Lynch’s direction, the Center has established the Salem State Civic (student) Fellowship, the annual First Year Day of Service, Advocacy Day, Community Partner Advisory Board, Community-Based Participatory Research workshops in collaboration with the Center for Research and Creative Activities, campus-wide voter registration drives, intensive educational election programming, and has sponsored countless talks and workshops aimed at engaging students, faculty and staff in learning about important public issues.

The Carnegie Community Engagement Classification has been the leading framework for institutional assessment and recognition of community engagement in U.S. higher education for the past 14 years with multiple classification cycles in 2006, 2008, 2010, 2015 and 2020.

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Center for Civic Engagement
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