MSU Earns 2015 Carnegie Community Engagement Classification

Carnegie Elective Community Engagement Classification Seal

"Dynamic and noteworthy community engagement" cited by reviewers from the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching

Michigan State University has earned the 2015 Community Engagement Classification from the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.

MSU's application was commended for documenting the nature and extent of engagement activities, including the alignment among campus mission, culture, leadership, resources, and practices that support dynamic and noteworthy community engagement.

"This acknowledges Michigan State's focus on supporting community prosperity and quality of life from the ground up, not the top down," MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon said. "An ethos of real collaboration is not incompatible with being a top-100 global research university."

It is the second time MSU has earned the important designation. In 2006 MSU was one of the first universities to receive the classification as a "community-engaged university."

"Our work has helped shine a light on a truly critical mission of our storied institution. We are grateful to be recognized for the continuing commitment demonstrated by Michigan State University faculty, administration, students, staff, and our community partners. The collective effort to connect and collaborate in scholarly, meaningful ways puts us at the forefront of national and international campus-community engagement," said Hiram E. Fitzgerald, Associate Provost for University Outreach and Engagement.

In 2005 MSU was one of 13 colleges and universities selected by the Carnegie Foundation to help pilot a new classification around the engagement mission. The new standards were part of an extensive overhaul of the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education system that was completed in 2006.

"Outreach (and engagement) is a form of scholarship that cuts across teaching, research, and service. It involves generating, transmitting, applying, and preserving knowledge for the direct benefit of external audiences in ways that are consistent with university and unit missions."

Provost's Committee Report on University Outreach. (1993, 2009). University Outreach at Michigan State University: Extending knowledge to serve society. East Lansing: Michigan State University. Retrieved from

Unlike the Foundation's other classifications, which rely on national data, this is an "elective" classification. Institutions participated voluntarily by conducting a self-study and submitting required materials describing the nature and extent of their engagement with the community. This approach enabled the Foundation to address elements of institutional mission and distinctiveness that are not represented in the national data on colleges and universities.

The self-study included numerous examples of MSU's culture and institutional identity as it pertains to community, civic, and public engagement:

  • MSU has taken seriously its commitment to be an "engaged university," turning the mission, principles, promise, and strategic imperatives into concrete practices in numerous forms. All units at MSU are expected to contribute to the outreach and engagement mission at the unit level, allowing flexibility for individual faculty to integrate engagement scholarship into their research, teaching, and service activities in unique ways.[1]
  • President Simon has led executive management team members in annual and long-term planning processes designed to develop an organizational structure that facilitates and accelerates innovations in academic programs at all levels, providing for enhanced transdisciplinary research efforts, enhanced commitment to community, economic, and family life through engagement scholarship, and expanded international opportunities for students and faculty.[2]
  • President Simon has also taken an active role in embracing engagement at the global level: "Global engagement, at its essence, is about committing to meaningful relationships with partners in other parts of the world. It represents a movement beyond the mechanics of carrying out more traditional campus-based international activities and implies dedication to a deeper and more prolonged commitment to international partnerships for mutual benefits."[3]

The 2014 classification renewal effort required documentation of changes to infrastructure, mission, staffing, funding, and reporting since the previous classification. Among the hallmarks of the self-study:

  • The Outreach and Engagement Measurement Instrument, an annual online survey of faculty and academic staff designed to gather quantitative and qualitative data on community engagement and specific projects, was implemented in 2004. During the past ten years respondents have documented an estimated $148,185,141 in faculty and academic staff time devoted to engaged scholarship.
  • The Center for Service-Learning and Civic Engagement (CSLCE) works with students to understand the impact service-learning has on several learning outcomes, including gaining insight into course concepts and understanding social issues. During 2013-2014 the CSLCE received and accommodated 20,817 student registrations for service and community engagement positions.
  • MSU revised its reappointment, promotion, and tenure review form to embed opportunities for faculty to report outreach and engagement activities.
  • The Office of the Associate Provost for University Outreach and Engagement participates in regional, national, and international efforts to boost the profile of engaged scholarship. UOE leaders have been increasingly invited to serve in leadership roles with these associations and other groups by invitation, including: Association of Public and Land-grant Universities Council on Engagement and Outreach executive committee and benchmarking taskforce; Academy of Community Engagement Scholars think tank and board of directors; Committee on Institutional Cooperation's Committee on Engagement chairpersonship; University Professional and Continuing Education Association board of directors; associate editorships and editorial board of the Journal of Higher Education Outreach and Engagement and Journal of Community Engagement and Scholarship.
  • In 2007, associate provost Hiram E. Fitzgerald was the founding president of the Engagement Scholarship Consortium, after the four partnering hosts of the National Outreach Scholarship Conference agreed to incorporate. Under Fitzgerald's leadership the ESC has grown to 31 member institutions, as of January 2015.

The New England Resource Center for Higher Education (NERCHE) serves as the Carnegie Foundation's administrative partner for the purpose of managing and administering the Community Engagement Classification process.

"The importance of this elective classification is borne out by the response of so many campuses that have demonstrated their deep engagement with local, regional, national, and global communities," said John Saltmarsh, NERCHE Director. "These are campuses that are improving teaching and learning, producing research that makes a difference in communities, and revitalizing their civic and academic missions."

Central to the classification process is a "documentation framework" developed by a national team of advisors to help applicants and reviewers assess the nature of an institution's community engagement commitments.

"This is the first time that there has been a re-classification process," said Amy Driscoll, Consulting Scholar for the Community Engagement Classification, "and we are seeing renewed institutional commitment, advanced curricular and assessment practices, and deeper community partnerships, all sustained through changes in campus leadership, and within the context of a devastating economic recession."

The current classification expires in 2025, and re-classification will again be available prior to that time by providing evidence of how MSU community engagement has become deeper, better integrated, and sustained.

A list of the institutions that have earned the Community Engagement Classification can be found on NERCHE's website,

  • Written by Carla Hills, University Outreach and Engagement


  1. Criterion Five: Engagement and Service, MSU Accreditation report to the Higher Learning Commission. Retrieved from Back to the article
  2. Bolder by Design. Retrieved from Back to the article
  3. Simon, L. A. K. (2012). A presidential perspective on global engagement. International briefs for higher education leaders. American Council on Education, No. 2 4-6. Retrieved from Back to the article

Like this E-Newsletter? Subscribe