Becoming chancellor at IU South Bend in 2013, I began to understand the deep connections that the campus has with the extended region it serves.
Some parts of our community engagement were quite prominent. For example, the clinic operated by our Dental Hygiene Program is used by about 2,500 patients per year. Three programs – the American Democracy Project, the Center for a Sustainable Future and the Civil Rights Heritage Center – also were well known for bringing notable individuals to campus, advancing learning while building community capacity to address long-standing social and economic challenges.
Over the past five years, I’ve come to appreciate the prominent and sometimes lesser-known efforts we have made to become a “steward of place,” the phrase used by the American Association of State Colleges and Universities to describe a defining role of a regional campus.
For example, the campus has:
Completed two studies of regional employment needs for college degree holders and launched multiple undergraduate and graduate programs to meet these needs.
Expanded community health care on campus from one to eight exam rooms while providing broader opportunities for health science students to learn.
Assumed responsibility for the Indiana Small Business Development Center that serves multiple counties in north central Indiana, fostering entrepreneurship and small business growth.
Hosted teachers and school administrators from Elkhart, La Porte, Marshall and St. Joseph counties to expand teacher training for advanced college teaching.
Expanded arts programming for K-12 schools, established the annual “Teddy Bear Concert” that supports local children in need during the holidays, created the annual “Lift Every Voice Concert” as part of Black History Month and performed several successful programs with the South Bend Symphony Orchestra.
Many other continuing efforts have expanded. With help of community partners, we have grown our entrepreneurship lecture series. The American Democracy Project has succeeded in raising student voting percentages by 7 percent in national elections and researched how to increase voter participation for all populations. Our efforts to provide free tax services have expanded. Programs of the Civil Rights Heritage Center have grown, attracting large audiences for programs such as the “school to prison pipeline” or an author talk by Colson Whitehead.
With all these successes in place, IU South Bend is in a strong position to apply to the Carnegie Foundation for its prestigious Community Engagement Classification.
In approaching this rigorous review process, our challenge will be demonstrating consistency in our highest aspirations to learn and serve. How can we ensure that every student who graduates from IU South Bend has engaged in the mutually beneficial relationship with the region that characterizes the best of campus-community engagement? Do we assess where we should do more or better? How do our reward structures recognize engagement with the community? In sum, how do we integrate, evaluate and celebrate a key priority of our strategic plan: to serve as a model of campus-community engagement?
Under the leadership of Gail McGuire, associate professor of sociology, IU South Bend has been hard at work ensuring that our community engagement efforts are recognized.
McGuire coordinates the campus effort to ensure that community engagement benefits all students while contributing substantially to the region. We have many other campus leaders at work. Our University Center for Excellence in Teaching helps more faculty integrate community engagement into coursework. Our General Education and First-Year Experience committees are designing efforts to expand what has worked well to reach all lower-division students. Each academic program is evaluating how it is involved in serving our communities and expanding curricular opportunities for students. Our Academic Senate is reviewing our evaluation structure to ensure that faculty efforts in community engagement are recognized in the promotion and tenure process.
Of course, we hope that by 2020, IU South Bend will achieve the Carnegie recognition in celebration of the multiple efforts of the campus to engage and serve our communities. What drives us, though, is not the recognition but the knowledge that our engagement with our communities greatly advances student and faculty learning while serving as substantial and lasting benefit to our region.
Terry L. Allison is chancellor of Indiana University South Bend. This column is part of a series featuring regional Indiana University leaders.