Virginia Scharff, associate provost for faculty development and academic and international initiatives, is spearheading an effort to document all community engagement activities and programs at the University of New Mexico.

Scharff has convened a steering committee of UNM faculty, staff and students, which is distributing surveys during the week of November 18. In the survey, individuals or departments engaged in community-based teaching, research, outreach or partnerships are asked to complete the survey prior to the end of the fall semester.

The process is part of a larger initiative designed to help UNM obtain the prestigious Community Engagement Classification awarded by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, the Stanford, Calif.-based, policy and research center that routinely organizes U.S. colleges and universities into categories based on institutional data.

The Foundation also offers an elective classification for Community Engagement that recognizes an institution’s commitment to engagement through teaching, research, service, and partnerships. The application involves data collection and documentation presenting evidence of the university’s involvement and engagement with community at all levels and requires substantial effort invested by participating institutions.  More information on the classification can be found here.

Associate Provost Scharff, who is also a Distinguished Professor of History, said, “We are excited to be taking stock of the many and varied ways in which UNM engages with surrounding communities--here in Albuquerque, across New Mexico, and beyond."

She added that the effort will also facilitate and support the university’s commitment to promoting and sustaining the research and partnerships that not only benefit students and faculty, but that also aim to enhance the quality of life for all New Mexicans.

The Carnegie Foundation defines community engagement as the “collaboration between institutions of higher education and their larger communities (local, regional/state, national, global) for the mutually beneficial exchange of knowledge and resources in a context of partnership and reciprocity."

The steering committee is looking  for descriptions of courses, programs or research that involves students and faculty working in, for, or with community partners. Sample courses might include a service-learning or community-based research component, while at the program level work might include outreach efforts that provide a service or resources to community members. They are also interested in larger community-based research partnerships.

English Department Lecturer Monica Kowal is guiding the data collection process. She said, “We’re casting a very wide net. We recognize that some schools or departments might define community engagement in many different ways. We don’t want people to think that what they’re doing is not relevant to this process because of narrow definitions. If you are not certain that your course or program fits our purpose, by all means, ask. We are here to help.”

Kowal added that the steering committee will be available to meet with individual faculty, program directors, department chairs, deans or others to assist them with filling out the surveys and describing their programs. They will also accept other forms of documentation, such as strategic plans or annual reports, as a means of cataloging and describing these initiatives.

“Regardless of whether we are awarded the classification, the information collected by this initiative will be important. It will give us the ‘big picture’ of the many ways UNM is fulfilling its mission as a public university,” Kowal said.

The deadline to respond to the survey is Dec. 31, 2013. The team will them be following up with individual colleges, schools, and programs through January and February.  Any questions can be directed to Associate Provost Scharff or Dr. Kowal (