January 05, 2011

Bucknell students regularly volunteer at Dreamcatcher Farm as part of the local farm's Community Supported Agriculture program.

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By Julia Ferrante

LEWISBURG, Pa. - Bucknell University has received the 2010 Community Engagement Classification from the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching in recognition of the University's exceptional commitment to community service, educational outreach and service-learning

The University is among 115 institutions to be added to the classification this year, bringing the total to 311 since 2006, according to Foundation President Anthony S. Bryk. The award is given to institutions that demonstrate a mission, culture, leadership, resources and practices that support "dynamic and noteworthy community engagement" as well as exemplary programs to promote civic engagement.

"I think students are hungry for meaningful opportunities to use their time and their talents to make a difference," said Bucknell Director of Civic Engagement Janice Butler. "This special honor documents what we have known for a long time - that Bucknell is helping students become good citizens for the future and learn to care for their community. Students want to be engaged, and they want to know they are making a difference through their education."

In a letter to Bucknell officials, Byrk said it is "heartening" to see such a high level of commitment and activity among the award recipients.

"Clearly, higher education is making real strides in finding ways to engage with and contribute to important community agendas," he said. 

To receive the classification, universities and colleges must show that they are not only involved in service-learning but also serve as a community partner to improve conditions for local residents, Butler said. Civic engagement must be mentioned in the institutions' mission statement and strategic plan, and the impact that such programs have on students, faculty and staff must be tracked.

"In the 36-page application, we had to answer questions about whether the community has a voice and role in civic engagement and if there is a reward system for faculty and staff involved in civic engagement," Butler said. "In gathering the information for this award, I have learned things that I didn't know about Bucknell that made me proud to be associated with the institution."

Bucknell has a long history of service-learning and civic engagement. For the past 10 years, students, faculty and staff have traveled to Nicaragua twice each year to help survivors of Hurricane Mitch rebuild their community through sustainable businesses, health clinics and educational outreach. For five years, groups have traveled to New Orleans to build and rebuild houses for survivors of Hurricane Katrina.

Professor of Geography Paul Susman, who has served as a faculty leader on many of the Brigade trips, turned his involvement into a research project that studies the successes and failures of worker-owned cooperatives in developing countries. Susman teaches a summer class that travels to Nicaragua every other year for a first-hand look at conditions there.

Mike Toole, an associate professor of civil and environmental engineering, and Charles Kim, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering, worked with a group of students and community members to design and build a waterline to bring running water for the first time to El Porvenir, a mountaintop village in Nicaragua where families sustain themselves through an organic, sustainable coffee cooperative. Brigadistas sell coffee grown there on campus.

"One thing I am very proud of and that makes Bucknell stand out is that service-learning is incorporated in many different disciplines," Butler said. "It is not just in social science but also engineering, biology, theater and dance, and English. There are 56 classes at Bucknell with a service-learning component."

Other initiatives that incorporate civic engagement:

  • Associate Professor of Education Sue Ellen Henry teaches a multicultural education class that raised money to buy pool passes for low-income families through the Lewisburg Area Recreation Authority.
  • Associate Professor and Director of Women's and Gender Studies Coralynn Davis teaches a class in which Bucknell students visit the Muncy women's prison each week and learn about legal and social justice issues, side-by-side with inmates or "inside" students.
  • Professor of Geology Carl Kirby has conducted research on the potential environmental impact of natural gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale. The Bucknell Institute for Public Policy and the Environmental Center organized a symposium on the Marcellus shale including Kirby and other experts on all sides of the issue.
  • Bucknell's Small Business Development Center helps local entrepreneurs formulate business plans while the Product Development Lab can help test prototypes.
  • Community Harvest provides hot meals for 200 people in the Milton area each week in partnership with Parkhurst Dining Service, St. Andrew's United Methodist Church, and local organizations.
  • Scholars in Service, an educational award program supported by Americorps, provides funds for about a dozen Bucknell students to offset tuition costs, school loans, or the cost of books and school supplies.  These students commit to providing at least 300 hours of community service in a year.

The Carnegie Foundation encourages designees to serve as an example for other institutions and to set goals for improvement as national leaders in civic engagement. Among the goals are to enhance assessment of existing programs; to better track student, faculty and community successes; to further develop reciprocal partnerships in the community; to ensure faculty are  rewarded for their involvement in civic engagement; and to align such goals with other institutional initiatives.

Contact: Division of Communications 

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