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January 7, 2015

SVSU named a community-engaged university

Saginaw Valley State University announced Wednesday, Jan. 7 that it has been selected by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching to receive its 2015 Community Engagement Classification, marking SVSU as a university that is exceptionally engaged with the community it serves.  

“Throughout my nearly 37 years here and during my first year as president, we have sought to instill in our students a deep sense of responsibility to the communities where they live and learn, and as an institution, we strive every day to advance the region we call home,” said SVSU President Donald Bachand. “This is the ultimate affirmation of meeting those goals at the highest national standard.”

Among 241 first-time applicants who requested applications from the Carnegie Foundation for 2015, SVSU was one of 83 who were successfully classified as community engaged institutions during this application cycle. To be selected, institutions provide descriptions and examples of institutionalized practices of community engagement that showed alignment among mission, culture, leadership, resources and practices. SVSU’s status will remain in effect for 10 years.

The selection is the culmination of decades of supporting and drawing support from the Great Lakes Bay Region, and years of internal planning and preparation.  Deb Huntley, provost and vice president for academic affairs, and Merry Jo Brandimore, dean of students, co-chaired a task force of 26 SVSU faculty, staff, students, alumni and supporters that was formed in 2011 to critically evaluate whether SVSU should pursue the community engagement designation.

“Receiving this classification is an important validation of one of our fundamental educational philosophies: learning is enhanced when the content and skills taught in the classroom can be applied directly,” Huntley said.  “Our partners provide opportunities for our students to learn by working in professional settings, and our students provide tangible service back to the community. Everybody wins.”

SVSU students are actively engaged in field-based learning and volunteer service throughout the region and Michigan as a whole. By their senior year, 84 percent of students have engaged with community employers and agencies in internships, field placements or some other component of their academic preparation, and more than 60 percent of students have engaged in co-curricular service outside of academic course work. [ Community Leaders Attest to SVSU’s Community Engagement » ]

In her capacity as dean of students, Brandimore sees SVSU students’ spirit of service on a daily basis.

“Our students show a strong desire to give back both on campus and in the community,” she said. “You see this through the funds they raise for charities during Battle of the Valleys and Relay for Life, and in the thousands of students who volunteer their time for community service during the course of their SVSU education. These are more than feel-good activities. They help our students learn and develop confidence and relationships that will serve them well after they graduate.”

National research has shown that students who are engaged in the community and on campus are more likely to be successful academically, and to have the critical thinking, problem-solving skills, self-efficacy, and adaptability desired by employers.

In all, 240 U.S. colleges and universities received the community engagement classification this year, and another 121 continue to hold the designation following their selection in 2010. The full list of 361 includes 12 colleges and universities from Michigan; SVSU is the only institution from the Great Lakes Bay Region to be included.