Carnegie Picks Mercer for Highly Selective National Designation

Mercer earned national recognition from the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching for its commitment to community engagement, the foundation announced Dec. 18.

Mercer is the only college in Georgia, and one of just 119 in the United States, to be selected by the foundation for its 2008 Community Engagement Classification. Mercer joins 76 other institutions identified in the 2006 selection process, including Emory University and Spelman College, the only other Georgia institutions to achieve the classification to date.

“Strong community engagement has long been a Mercer University hallmark,” said President William D. Underwood. “Robust service-learning programs, a culture of volunteerism and major institutional investments in the neighborhoods surrounding our campuses have all contributed to this designation by the Carnegie Foundation. This kind of national recognition is further validation of the institution’s commitment to community engagement.”

The foundation invited colleges and universities with an institutional focus on community engagement to apply for the classification, previously developed and offered in 2006 as part of an extensive restructuring of The Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education. Unlike the Foundation’s other classifications that rely only on national data, this is an “elective” classification – institutions elected to participate by submitting extensive documentation describing the nature and scope of their engagement with the community. This approach enabled the foundation to address elements of institutional mission and distinctiveness that are not represented in the national data on colleges and universities.

This year, 147 institutions applied to document community engagement. Applications were reviewed by an expert advisory team and 119 were successfully classified as community engaged institutions. Mercer was one of only 51 private colleges and universities in the United States to achieve the designation.

“I have long known and taken pride in the commitment to service and community outreach exhibited by Mercer faculty and staff, but even I was surprised by the depth and broad scale of service-learning and community engagement revealed through the process of preparing our Carnegie application,” said Dr. Mary Alice Morgan, co-chair of the application committee and senior vice provost for service-learning. “This designation truly testifies to the ethics of community engagement that are a distinctive part of the Mercer mission and ethos.”

“Mercer has a long tradition of community engagement and assessment based on that engagement, as do many of the other fine institutions in this new classification, including Duke University, Tulane University and Emory,” said Dr. Peter Brown, chair of the application committee and senior vice provost. “With our inclusion in this classification, we will be able to more closely measure our progress along with these peer institutions, as we further our goals of increased community engagement laid out in the University’s 10-year strategic plan.”

In addition to its decades-long commitment to service-learning, which engages students in community service as part of their coursework, Mercer has a long history of partnering with organizations throughout the communities it serves to leverage University resources to advance those communities. Mercer’s partnerships with dozens of agencies and organizations bring in millions of dollars in grant funding to help the community, engage students in service-learning and aid in community-focused faculty research.

Because of those commitments, the foundation selected Mercer for the highest category, “Curricular Engagement and Outreach and Partnerships,” a combination of the two other categories within the classification. In Georgia, only Emory University shares this designation. According to the foundation, to be categorized in curricular engagement, schools must engage in teaching, learning and scholarship that addresses community needs, deepens students’ learning, enhances community well-being and enriches the scholarship of the institution. The outreach and partnerships category describes two different but related approaches to community engagement. The first focuses on the application and provision of institutional resources for community use with benefits to both campus and community. The latter focuses on collaborative interactions with community and related scholarship for the mutually beneficial exchange, exploration and application of knowledge, information and resources. Twenty-one schools were selected in only one category, including Spelman College, which is in the curricular engagement category.

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