Michigan State University Named "Engaged Campus of the Year"

From Left to Right: Hiram E. Fitzgerald, Associate Provost for University Outreach and Engagement; Michigan Governor, Rick Snyder; Renee Zientek, Director of the Center for Service-Learning and Civic Engagement; Allyn Shaw, Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs and Services.

Michigan State University has been selected by a national team of reviewers as Michigan's 2014 Engaged Campus of the Year.

The honor goes to an institution of higher education annually for exemplary commitment to education of students for civic and social responsibility, genuine and sustained investment in community relationships, and commitment to service-learning and civic engagement opportunities for students across all disciplines.

The award was presented on April 30 at Michigan's Giving and Volunteering Celebration at the State Capitol. The program featured Governor Rick Snyder, State Representative Sam Singh, and Robin Lynn Grinnell, Michigan Campus Compact Executive Director.

The annual celebration is hosted by the Michigan Nonprofit Association, Council of Michigan Foundations, Michigan Community Service Commission, Corporation for National and Community Service, Michigan Campus Compact, Volunteer Centers of Michigan, The LEAGUE Michigan, and the Office of Services to the Aging.

Hiram E. Fitzgerald, Associate Provost for University Outreach and Engagement, Allyn Shaw, Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs and Services, and Renee Zientek, Director of the Center for Service-Learning and Civic Engagement, accepted the award on behalf of Michigan State University.

Michigan Campus Compact and Award Criteria

The award process is administered by Michigan Campus Compact (MiCC), a coalition of college and university presidents who are committed to fulfilling the public purpose of higher education. MiCC promotes the education and commitment of Michigan college students to be civically engaged citizens, through creating and expanding academic, co-curricular, and campus-wide opportunities for community service, service-learning, and civic engagement.

According to MiCC's criteria, institutions eligible for the award must articulate how the core work of the university supports a culture of engagement for faculty, students, and community partners. That includes linking civic engagement directly to the curriculum, willingness to include engagement in university priorities, supporting student involvement, and recognizing the community as an equal in the collaborative process.

Michigan State University's application was selected by a blind peer review process conducted outside of Michigan.

"It is an honor to be recognized by Michigan Campus Compact, and the network MSU joined more than 25 years ago as a founding campus. We remain dedicated to the principles that advance the public purpose of higher education," said Lou Anna K. Simon, MSU President. "We at MSU believe that academic learning is richly enhanced when students are encouraged to develop community connections and experiences. So more than 40 years ago we established a Spartan tradition that is now known as the Center for Service-Learning and Civic Engagement."

Institutional Culture

MSU's mission and purpose explicitly commit to the public purpose of higher education. President Simon has expanded MSU's reach in the state and around the world by focusing the university's strengths on solutions that enhance and protect quality of life, at home and around the globe.

Engagement is at the core of the institutional imperatives set forth by Michigan State University. In 2005, the Boldness by Design strategic framework introduced MSU's 21st century vision, values, and commitments. Among these it details the University's commitments to enhancing the student experience and enriching community, economic, and family life. In 2012, Bolder by Design renewed these commitments and accelerated action by promoting MSU's culture of high performance.

"Michigan State University is a most deserving recipient of this award, particularly as Michigan Campus Compact celebrates its 25th anniversary. MSU was one of the founding campuses of our association. Their commitment to the highest ideals of higher education inspires campuses throughout our state and across the country. The lasting impact of their work truly ripples across the globe," said Grinnell.

MSU Center for Service-Learning and Civic Engagement

In 1967, MSU established the oldest continuously operating college service-learning and civic engagement center in the United States.

2014 Engaged Campus of the Year Award

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The Center for Service-Learning and Civic Engagement reports dually to the Office of the Associate Provost for University Outreach and Engagement and the Office of the Vice President for Student Affairs and Services.

In 2012-13 nearly 21,000 student service-learning and civic engagement registrations were received, and more than 50 percent (11,632) were for academic/course-imbedded service-learning, representing every college on campus. All of MSU's 17 degree-granting colleges offers service-learning, as does the Honors College, the Associate Provost for Undergraduate Education, and International Studies and Programs through engaged Study Abroad. There were 365 service-learning courses offered by 126 faculty members.

The CSLCE works with 370 not-for-profit agencies, organizations, preschools, K-12 schools, youth-serving and neighborhood organizations, hospitals and health care clinics, museums and cultural organizations, environmental groups, municipalities, senior citizen facilities, and others.

"I've worked with some of the finest colleges and universities in our great state and across the nation. MSU is always referred to as the exemplar of the engaged campus among its peer institutions and by a large network of community partners. The 2014 Engaged Campus of the Year award is a tribute to all those who have worked tirelessly to create and sustain such an outstanding program," said Renee Zientek, Director of the Center for Service-Learning and Civic Engagement (CSLCE). Prior to MSU, Zientek served as Senior Director of Civic Engagement and Fund Advancement for the Michigan Nonprofit Association, and Executive Director of the Michigan Campus Compact.

Zientek joined the CSLCE as director in July 2013 following the retirement of Karen McKnight Casey. During Casey's tenure, MSU served as a pilot institution for the development of the Carnegie Elective Classification in Community Engagement, and was one of the first campuses to receive that classification in 2006. A little more than two years later the CSLCE was presented with the 2008 Presidential Award for General Community Service, the highest federal recognition a college or university can receive for its commitment to volunteering, service-learning, and civic engagement. The award signifies the breadth and quality of an institution's community service, and, at that time, put MSU into a prestigious group of only 18 colleges and universities across the country, including the first in Michigan, to receive the distinction.

Students as Key Partners in Civic Engagement

MSU has more than 550 registered student organizations and more than one-third list voluntary service with community as their primary reason for organizing. The CSLCE closely partners with, and directly advises, three of those organizations: Into the Streets, Alternative Spartan Breaks, and the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program. VITA leaders plan and implement community-based tax clinics for low-to-moderate income individuals, and serve on the mid-Michigan Asset Independence Coalition. There were 23 national and international trips planned and led by students in 2012-2013 for the alternative break organization. Into the Streets representatives are part of the annual all-university Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Remembrance planning committee, and are responsible for planning the university-wide MLK Day of Service.

Students can choose to serve through individual action (non-course related), and have a range of service-learning and civic engagement options available. Some of the most active participants are students of the 55-plus Greek letter organizations at MSU. The level of participation by the 3,500 registered students in the Greek community elevates the involvement of civic engagement and service throughout campus and the community.

Institutional Commitment

Multiple resources are available and accessible to faculty, students, and community partners. Among them, the CSLCE staff work strategically with not-for-profit constituencies to form sustained and sustainable collaborations and partnerships. The CSLCE supports student-led initiatives related to service and engagement, and assists faculty and university staff in identifying community partners and engagement opportunities that connect to course, departmental, and unit themes.

President Simon often refers to the "ideals and core values inherent in the land-grant tradition." For nearly half a century, MSU has worked to establish and sustain service-learning and civic engagement as a deeply-ingrained part of the student experience. The 2014 Engaged Campus of the Year designation indicates the historical, cultural, and tangible commitments by MSU administrators, faculty, staff, and students.

  • Written by Carla Hills, University Outreach and Engagement
  • Photograph Courtesy of Dar Swiler, Center for Service-Learning and Civic Engagement; Mark Szymczak, University Outreach and Engagement

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