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Swearer Center to house Carnegie Classification

Center hosts initiative, hopes to become national leader in field of community engagement

The Swearer Center for Public Service aims to become a national leader in the field of community engagement by hosting the operations of the Carnegie Classification for Community Engagement — a designation that indicates a university’s exemplary service record — according to University administrators.

As the “host” of the Carnegie Classification, the Swearer Center will field applications for the prestigious designation and provide space for data concerning Carnegie-classified schools, said Matthew Johnson, director of the Swearer Center.

“The classification is like the Oscars,” Johnson said. “We didn’t win the Oscar. Instead, they came to us and said, ‘Will you run the Oscars?’”

The decision to host the Carnegie Classification is part of a larger Swearer Center project, the National Field-Building Initiative, which intends to place the Swearer Center at the heart of national attention in the field of community engagement, Johnson said. Its three primary focuses include conferences, awards and research. The initiative should interest large potential funders, Johnson said. He hopes the Swearer Center will become a “seed-bed or laboratory” for new practices.

Schools earn the classification after undergoing a complex, yearlong application process and gathering reams of data that prove remarkable student involvement, Johnson said. About 360 schools have met the necessary threshold.

As home to the Carnegie Classification, the Swearer Center will shepherd the standard and ensure universities merit the designation, said Dean of the College Maud Mandel.

The Carnegie Foundation’s previous partner, New England Resource Center for Higher Education, stepped away from the task, leaving an opening for a successor, Johnson said. The Carnegie Foundation and John Saltmarsh, the former director of NERCHE, chose the Swearer Center.

“We needed to find a place where (the Carnegie Classification) could be well-administered” and sustainable, Saltmarsh said. “Carnegie was looking for a highly respected university and center,” and Matthew Johnson’s new leadership at the Swearer Center made it “clear that Brown was the best choice,” he added.

“They chose us because it’s clear that from the top down … I have the support and institutional leadership to grow the center and reposition (it) as a national leader,” Johnson said.

The Swearer Center will administer the new applications for the 2020 cycle, receive all incoming applications and house all prior and current applications and data, Johnson said. The center will use the data to determine best practices in the field, he added.

Application for the designation occurs every five years, Johnson said, adding that the University will need to apply in the 2020 cycle in order to ensure it merits the classification. Johnson will recuse himself from the application review process at that time, he said.

He did not express concern about the University earning the designation. “I think we’re doing leading work in the field,” he said.

Johnson identified several requirements to earn the classification, all of which ensure universities integrate community engagement in learning and measure its impact.

The Swearer Center has hired one additional staff member, Georgina Manok, who is a program manager for research and assessment and spends about half her time working with the Carnegie project, Johnson said.

Hosting the classification does not require University funding, Johnson said. Instead, the program self-sustains from application fees paid to the Swearer Center, he added.

Undergraduates are likely to engage with the data and the Carnegie Classification over the next few years, Johnson said. For example, research could inspire a student’s honors theses, he said, adding that one student has already requested to work as a research assistant with Carnegie Classification. The Swearer Center will focus on sorting and analyzing the data to obtain valuable information for best practices, he said.

“We’re seeking to contribute to a national conversation in higher education about the way in which to intersect the doing and the thinking that students engage in,” Mandel said.

The National Assessment of Service and Community Engagement will join the Carnegie Classification in the research category of the field-building initiative, Johnson said. He added that the Swearer Center will partner with the Siena College Research Institute as a co-host of NASCE.

NASCE is a nationwide survey implemented across colleges and universities that “measures the rate, frequency and depth of engagement in the undergraduate student body,” Johnson said. The University participated for the first time this year and will soon receive a report about Brown’s students, which will be made public, he added.

As part of the awards section of the initiative, the Swearer Center will partner with the Coalition of Urban and Metropolitan Universities to grant the Lynton Award, Johnson said. Awarded annually to one U.S. faculty member early in their professional career, the Lynton Award is given to the applicant that exemplifies the best of engaged scholarship.

While the Swearer Center is in conversation to potentially host a number of national studies and awards, it may also create an award named after Howard Swearer, the founder of the center, Johnson said.

The Swearer Center also plans to host conferences and discussions in the field, Mandel said. Johnson said he is planning to hold a “state of the field” conference for students, scholars and researchers, where he envisions sharing the data gathered from the Carnegie Classification and setting a national agenda for the future of community engagement.


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