Deep Dive into the 2020 Carnegie Community Engagement Classification

On January 24, 2020, 119 campuses were notified of receiving the Elective Carnegie Community Engagement Classification in this year’s cycle. Of these 119 campuses, 44 were first-time applicants. The Carnegie Foundation has been classifying higher education institutions since the 1970s, when they organized institutions according to degree level, specialization, and more. The Elective Carnegie Community Engagement Classification was introduced in the early 2000s, with the first classification cycle occurring in 2006. Further information about the history of the classification can be found in “The Elective Carnegie Community Engagement Classification: Constructing a Successful Application for First-Time and Re-Classification Applicants” edited by John Saltmarsh and Mathew Johnson of the Swearer Center at Brown University.

Institutions choose to apply for the classification for a variety of reasons. It is a prestigious classification, based upon a rigorous application process with a foundational framework to challenge institutions to think forward. Many institutions apply to receive the classification — and by applying, institutions will put themselves into a process of evaluating  their institution-wide community engagement commitments. The by-product of going through this framework will be a chance to get a multi-faceted deep dive and reflection on community engagement commitments and practices at your institution. Institutions who do not receive the classification receive feedback to inform their community engagement roadmap, and can reapply in the next classification cycle. Institutions may also recognize areas in which increased efforts in data collection will improve their strategic plans, shifting their operations to gather this data before the next cycle.

The Elective Carnegie Community Engagement Classification is a prestigious classification, based upon a rigorous application process with a foundational framework to challenge institutions to think forward. 

Moving forward, the classification is renewed every six years and reclassification is available every two. Between the 2015 and 2020 classification cycles, a total of 359 institutions are now classified as Community Engaged campuses. Of the 119 campuses that were either newly classified or reclassified in the 2020 cycle, 67 were public and 52 private. 3 were two-year institutions, while the remainder were four-year. Institutions that received the classification were wide-ranging in their research interests, program offerings, and location, with 47 of the 50 states represented. 

GivePulse is excited to have provided tech and platform support to the Carnegie Management Team, housed in the Swearer Center at Brown University, as they revised and streamlined the process. Georgina Manok, Assistant Director of Research and Assessment at the Swearer Center at Brown University, says that having everything together in one online portal allowed real time evaluation. Updates to the online Carnegie framework included the creation of a review process to evaluate and maintain reviewer notes on an application, an improved workflow, and access to data critical to the evaluation process. For Manok, “to access all this information and be able to analyze it in real time with all sorts of metadata has been amazing.” “Now we are beginning to think about how to use this technology to maximize transparency and participation in the review process for the 2023 cycle,” says Mathew Johnson, Associate Dean of Engaged Scholarship and Executive Director of the Swearer Center at Brown University. 

“To access all this information and be able to analyze it in real time with all sorts of metadata has been amazing.” 

Revision of the application process has gone well beyond the application portal. According to a document created by the Swearer Center, the revision process considered “both changes in the field and gaps in the framework.” Oversight of the framework revision process was led by Manok, Johnson, and Saltmarsh. Primary goals of the revision were to incorporate input from scholars in the field, to review current literature, to listen for emergent fields at national convenings, and to solicit formal input on identified issues. These revisions incorporated changes proposed by members of the National Advisory Committee. In her informational work for campuses, “So You’re Carnegie Classified, Now What?”, Manok suggests that classification is the moment “to plan what the next chapter of community engagement looks like on your campus.” Many campuses who receive the classification use this recognition to guide strategic planning for the institution, particularly looking forward toward reclassification in ten years’ time. The momentum of the classification process can be used to create sustainable infrastructures and to educate a campus (its departments, programs and institution) about the importance of the classification and commitment to it. 

The momentum of the classification can be used “to create sustainable infrastructures and to educate your campus about the importance of the classification and your commitment to it.” 

The collective community engagement data captured through GivePulse from the applications in this 2020 cycle as well as earlier ones, has benefits beyond those to individual institutions. The aggregate dataset can help tell a national story about how community engagement ebbs and flows, particularly regarding how engagement continues to evolve and be prioritized by in institutions as a way to develop the next generation of citizens and leaders for our communities.

The continuous improvement exemplified by campuses who continue to evolve their practice will be embodied in the revisions for the 2023 classification cycle. Those revisions are  already in the works. The 2023 revision cycle will open an online portal for contributions to the revision process in the next month. The classification is also piloting internationally. “It’s been really enriching to see the context of community engagement in different places,” Manok says. “This brings a lot of great learning back to the US.” They are halfway through the pilot project, with representatives from institutions in Canada and Australia doing their midpoint convenings this month. Looking forward, we hope to do more collaborations in the global south and in non-English speaking countries.”

“We are learning a lot from the reciprocal process we have been following in the international pilot that will undoubtedly be iterated onto the 2023 revisions,” said Mathew Johnson. ”We are grateful for the tech support that GivePulse volunteered for this round of application submissions and look forward to utilizing their tech expertise to also add to our continuous improvement.”