The University of New Mexico is one of the 119 U.S. colleges and universities to receive the 2020 Carnegie Community Engagement Classification, an elective designation that indicates institutional commitment to community engagement.

This important classification is awarded following a process of self-study by each institution, which is then assessed by 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.

Carnegie Classification Seal

“I’m so proud that the Carnegie Foundation has awarded UNM this prestigious designation,” said University of New Mexico President Garnett S. Stokes. “Our leadership, faculty, and staff strive to ensure that we are truly the University for New Mexico, actively embracing and engaging with communities across the state to take on challenges facing us locally and globally. The Community Engagement Classification by Carnegie recognizes that our efforts are indeed changing lives in communities across our state—and around the world.”

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. Of the 119 institutions classified in the 2020 cycle, 44, including UNM, are receiving the classification for the first time, while 75 are now re-classified after being classified originally in 2010 or 2015. UNM is one of 359 institutions that now hold the Elective Carnegie Community Engagement Classification endorsement nationwide.

“This recognition by the Carnegie Foundation reinforces and celebrates what we already know about UNM—that our students, faculty, staff, community partners and alumni are deeply committed to and engaged with New Mexico’s communities, “said former Director of Community Engagement Initiatives Monica M. Kowal, who led the data collection process and submitted the University’s application. “During our data collection process, I was inspired by the extent to which colleges, departments and programs were working in, for and with communities to address the global issues that affect us all.”

The purpose behind the effort that launched the Elective Carnegie Community Engagement Classification was to honor those higher education institutions who chose to express their commitment to public purpose in and through community engagement, a commitment that undergirds American higher education. The classification identifies institutions that have achieved the highest distinction in this particular embodiment public purpose.

While the classification is not an award, it is an evidence-based documentation of institutional practice, similar to an accreditation process of self-study, to be used in a process of self-assessment and quality improvement. The application is formidable and requires substantial effort by participating institutions. Universities and colleges who apply conduct an institution-wide self-study where data is collected and documented to highlight the important aspects of institutional mission, identity and commitments to community engagement in several categories, including institutional identity and culture, curricular and co-curricular engagement, and community partnerships. Applications are then reviewed by a National Review Panel to determine whether the institution qualifies for recognition as a community engaged institution.

UNM applied for the 2015 classification, but was not successful. Over the past five years, key leadership initiatives were instituted by the Office of the Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs to address the gaps noted in the University’s application. One important initiative was the recognition of community engaged scholarship in faculty rewards and incentives.

“As a research university, it is important for us to use our knowledge and expertise to address the issues that affect our state and the world over,” said Dr. Kowal. “Over the past five years, it was essential for us to recognize what barriers might exist to faculty whose research agendas are to do just that. Tenure and promotion policy played a huge role. When we applied for the 2015 designation, only two programs had explicit language that formally recognized and rewarded community engaged research. Today, fourteen colleges and programs have such language to support community engaged scholars in various fields.”

“The faculty leaders who spearheaded this work in their respective colleges know how important this is to the success of our faculty, the success of our students, and our ability as a university to helping communities thrive,” Kowal said, noting also that the University now recognizes excellence in community engaged scholarship through the Community Engaged Research Lecturer Award. The award, which is sponsored by the Faculty Senate Research Policy Committee (RPC) and the Office of the Vice President for Research, was instituted in 2016.

Among the 2020 recipients of the classification, 67 are public institutions and 52 are private. For Carnegie’s Basic Classification, 52 are classified as research universities, 39 are master’s colleges and universities, 22  are baccalaureate colleges, three are community colleges, and three institutions have a specialized focus—arts, medicine, and other health professions. They represent campuses in 37 states and U.S. territories. 

“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. 

Johnson also note that many more institutions who are not receiving classification today are doing similar important but may be facing difficult times and finding it challenging to maintain and advance their community engagement in the current climate.

“It is our hope that by celebrating these classified campuses others might come to see community engagement as part of the strategy to address the current set of challenges in higher education,” he said.

UNM’s application can be found at 2020 Elective Community Engagement Classification. Dr. Kowal said it was important to note that the application limited the amount of evidence universities could share to highlight the various evidence required in the application.

“It was challenging to narrow down UNM’s impact to 500-words or less per category,” Kowal continued. “There were so many courses, degree programs and initiatives that truly embodied this work. We could not possible include them all, but the impact was significant.”

The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching aims to build a field around the use of improvement science and networked improvement communities to solve long standing inequities in educational outcomes. The Foundation, through the work of the Carnegie Commission on Higher Education, developed the first typology of American colleges and universities in 1970 as a research tool to describe and represent the diversity of U.S. higher education. The Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education (now housed at Indiana University Bloomington’s Center for Postsecondary Research) continues to be used for a wide range of purposes by academic researchers, institutional personnel, policymakers and others. For more information, visit  

In 1986, Brown University President Howard Swearer founded one of the first public service centers in the nation, now named for him — the Swearer Center for Public Service. The Swearer Center is a hub of community, scholarship, and action at Brown University. Through innovative programs and fellowships that reach across Rhode Island and around the globe, the Swearer Center connects people to co-create knowledge and positive social change, advances the field of engaged scholarship, and integrates social innovation with community engagement. In 2017, the Swearer Center became the administrative and research home of the Carnegie Community Engagement Classification. For more information, visit