Carnegie Foundation bestows coveted ‘Community Engagement’ designation on OSU

OSU’s outreach efforts,including the college’s Extension 4-H and Family and Community Development programs, earn national distinction.

Oregon State University’s deep collaboration with the communities it serves beyond the borders of its campuses has been recognized by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching with its “Community Engagement” designation – a classification earned this year by only 114 other universities nationwide, the Foundation announced.

4H cooking class

OSU President Ed Ray congratulated the team, led by 4-H program leader and College of Public Health and Human Sciences faculty Roger Rennekamp, that undertook the extensive preparation leading to the successful application for the new designation.

“And to those of you whose work helps to connect OSU every day to the communities we endeavor to serve, I offer a heartfelt thanks.  There are many attributes that we hope Oregonians associate with our university, but our outreach to and engagement with the people of this state is certainly a the top of the list,” said President Ray.

“OSU values outreach and engagement – from the President’s office to our county offices.  It’s simply part of our institutional culture,” says Roger.  “We are fortunate to have the foundational pieces to extend the walls of campus and reach across Oregon and around the world with our outstanding and often life-changing programs. This designation recognizes our myriad programs that exist because we listened to the needs of local communities and because we provide student opportunities beyond the classroom in service-learning and internships.”

OSU has long been recognized for exceptional community outreach throughout Oregon via programs such as the Extension Service, Agricultural Experiment Station, and the Forest Research Laboratory, as well as such efforts as OSU Extended Campus (“Ecampus”) and myriad programs that serve K-12 students. For instance, OSU connects with one out of every five school-age children in Oregon each year through its 4-H program, which has long since expanded beyond the stereotype of “kids and cows at county fairs.” Now, 4-H is just as likely to be providing computer instruction to urban students or a soccer league for children of migrant farm workers.

4-H soccer game

A total of 311 institutions out of more than 3,000 colleges and universities nationwide now hold the Community Engagement classification, a status earned through a voluntary participation process by the campuses that have sought it. OSU is already the only Oregon university and one of only three in the Pacific Northwest to hold the top Carnegie designation for research universities, a classification based on analysis of existing national data sources. The new “elective” designation, only owned elsewhere in Oregon by Portland State University, involves “additional data collection and documentation, with substantial effort invested by participating institutions,” according to the Foundation.

“Your application documented excellent alignment among mission, culture, leadership, resources and practices that support dynamic and noteworthy community engagement, and you were able to respond to the classification framework with both descriptions and examples of exemplary institutionalized practices of community engagement,” wrote Carnegie Foundation President Anthony S. Bryk in a notification letter to OSU.

“OSU’s land grant mission perhaps comes to life most tangibly in the outreach and engagement work taking place around our university, and this new designation formally recognizes the power and impact of those wonderfully diverse and wide-ranging activities,” said OSU President Ed Ray. “We take very seriously our historic responsibility to provide high quality education to the people of this state. I’m grateful to the Carnegie Foundation for recognizing our commitment in this way.”

Much of the work recognized in the designation takes place through the OSU Division of Outreach and Engagement, led by Vice Provost Scott Reed, who also directs the OSU Extension Service. The division expects to expand OSU’s community engagement efforts further, with ambitious goals in educational access, partnerships, scholarship that both serves and is informed by outreach activities and more.

“The Carnegie designation recognizes the mutually beneficial work we’re involved in and the reciprocity between the university and the communities we serve,” said Reed. “The opportunities to further enhance that work are rich and extensive, and we will build on this new classification with deeper work that sets an even stronger standard for what is possible when universities and communities collaborate.”