SUNY Cortland has re-earned the community engagement elective classification from the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, becoming the first institution in the State University of New York system to hold the reclassification distinction.
It means the College will keep the Carnegie Foundation’s prestigious community engagement endorsement for 10 years, through 2025. Fewer than 400 campuses nationwide can claim the designation and only 157 obtained re-classification in 2015.
“This truly is an exceptional accomplishment for our college because, in many ways, the reclassification process was more rigorous than obtaining our initial classification,” said Richard Kendrick, the director of the College’s Institute for Civic Engagement (ICE) and a professor of sociology/anthropology. “Reclassification signifies that we have strengthened and deepened our institutional commitments to the many communities of which we are a part.
“It’s an honor that reflects extremely well on the relationship between our campus and our community. I am thrilled that we have again been recognized in this way.”
SUNY Cortland’s 61-page application, which focused on accomplishments during the 2012-13 academic year, highlighted the contributions of every campus division (academic affairs, finance and management, institutional advancement and student affairs) and all three academic schools (arts and sciences, education and professional studies).
“At our college, community engagement isn’t just what we do, it’s part of who we are,” said SUNY Cortland President Erik J. Bitterbaum. “It gives me great pride to know that educating students to become good citizens is central to our mission and ingrained in our culture.
“It is woven into our curriculum and demonstrated in the community through the energy and involvement of our students and faculty.”
The Carnegie Foundation first offered the community engagement classification in 2006 and SUNY Cortland became the first campus in the SUNY system to earn it in 2008. Rather than relying on national data, the designation is elective, meaning institutions apply for it by submitting materials that detail their institution’s service.
Several projects, programs and partnerships benefitting both the not-for-profit and for-profit sectors were highlighted in SUNY Cortland’s application.
- The College’s service-learning efforts connect the skills of its faculty, staff and students with the needs of area schools and many not-for-profit agencies. For more than 20 years, the service-learning component of the SUNY Cortland education has improved the quality of life for local children, senior citizens and people with disabilities. Service-learning assists several grant-funded projects at the College.
- Main Street SUNY Cortland serves as a highly visible symbol of the College’s community involvement and a hub for civic engagement programs. In addition to classes, more than 140 community groups held nearly 650 meetings at Main Street SUNY Cortland in 2012-13. The location also houses the Cortland Downtown Partnership, which works with nearby businesses to promote economic development.
- The Cortland Business Innovation Center, a business incubator and assistance center, provides opportunities and resources for students and aspiring entrepreneurs. Working with the Cortland Downtown Partnership, the College helped secure the funding to establish it in 2012.
- From 2008 to 2013, dozens of SUNY Cortland AmeriCorps volunteers throughout the region were managed by the ICE and helped 14 not-for-profit community partners meet their needs. The result was a strengthened relationship between the College and the community as well as marked improvement in local education, recreation and health services. Some agencies reported that they would have struggled to sustain their services without AmeriCorps support.
- The “Explore: Education Field Experience Program” provides aspiring teachers in their first year a glimpse at their future profession. They tutor local children, which benefits local school districts academically while at the same time offering practical experience for the future educators. Volunteer time totaled nearly 4,100 hours in 2012-13.
- Free clinical screenings are provided to two local school districts thanks to the College’s Center for Speech, Language and Hearing Disorders and its students. Ten SUNY Cortland students performed hearing evaluations and 27 offered speech therapy under faculty supervision in 2012-13. As a result, local children received treatment and school nurses were free to focus on the health needs of their students.
- SUNY Cortland’s longstanding adapted physical education programs provided physical activity opportunities for more than 200 people with disabilities, from toddlers to adults, in 2012-13. Roughly 250 SUNY Cortland students, the majority of them physical education majors, offered their time to a variety of programs in exchange for valuable experience.
- The Migrant Education Outreach Program (MEOP), which serves 12 counties, provided migrant families 19,657 meals through its partnership with the Central New York Food Bank in 2012-13. Staff members also offer tutoring services for all ages, from young children to adults, with education programs that encompass English as a second language, mathematics and general education diploma preparation.
- Nine area school districts receive support from Access to College Education (ACE). The office provides resources and encouragement to high school students limited by social or economic circumstances, assisting approximately 500 high school students each year.
- The Liberty Partnerships Program (LPP) offers services such as tutoring and career counseling for at-risk teenagers in five local school districts with the goal to pursue education or employment after high school graduation. SUNY Cortland students serve as tutors and mentors for the program.
- Helping recreation destinations become more accessible and providing information about how accommodating recreation areas are to people with special needs are central missions of the Inclusive Recreation Resource Center (IRRC). The College’s Recreation, Parks and Leisure Studies Department offers information and training to improve the accessibility of New York state’s recreation facilities. Scores of SUNY Cortland students participate in “Inclusion U” training each year in order to conduct assessments of those sites.
- A robust study abroad program includes internships and student teaching experiences in countries ranging from Australia to Thailand. At the Belize Zoo, for example, recreation majors built accessible walkways for people with disabilities. SUNY Cortland’s overseas programs also were spotlighted by the American Council on Education. The College was one of three institutions recognized as a national leader in using technology to create meaningful global experiences for students.
- SUNY Cortland’s Health Department targets schools in medium-sized upstate New York cities with struggling economies for its Center for School Health Systems Change. With nearly $1 million in grant funding, the project utilizes the talents of 130 students — both undergraduates and graduates — to conduct needs assessments and improve school health programs.
- The HealthyNow Teen Program looks to boost health and physical activity among youngsters in Cortland County through the Center for Obesity Research and Education (CORE), which is housed within the SUNY Cortland Kinesiology Department. Volunteer hours provided by SUNY Cortland faculty members and students support the program, which involves 14- to 15-week sessions during the academic year and a two-week summer camp.
In 2014, for the eighth consecutive year, SUNY Cortland was named to the U.S. President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll. It also marked the fourth year in a row the College earned “with distinction” honors. The 2012-13 academic year saw 3,553 students contribute 204,024 community service hours.
SUNY Cortland’s Carnegie application process was overseen by a steering committee representing every division of campus. The group included Cynthia Guy, community innovation coordinator for ICE; Amy Henderson-Harr, assistant vice president for research and sponsored programs; Christopher Kuretich, assistant vice president for student affairs; Mary K. Murphy, interim vice president for finance and management; Frederic Pierce, director of public relations; John Shirley, director of career services; John Suarez, service-learning coordinator for ICE; and LeighMarie Weber ’14, former Student Government Association president.
Three readers for the College’s overall application included Virginia Levine, executive assistant to the president; Lori Schlicht, associate director of advisement and transition; and Carol van der Karr, associate provost for academic affairs.
The full listing of institutions that hold the community engagement classification can be found on the New England Resource Center for Higher Education website.