Brown University's Swearer Center Launches National Field-Building Initiative

Initiative partners include the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, Siena College Research Institute and the Coalition of Urban and Metropolitan Universities.
by Emily Wright
January 31, 2017

(PROVIDENCE, R.I.) -- On Monday, in an effort to further its mission set forth in the strategic plan “Community Engaged Scholarship and Action,” the Brown University Swearer Center for Public Service launched the National Field-Building Initiative, which aims to advance the fields of community engagement and social innovation through collaboration with students, faculty, community partners and other institutions of higher education.

"In launching the National Field-Building Initiative and becoming the host institution for the Carnegie Classification for Community Engagement, Brown is embracing its heritage,” Brown University President Christina Paxson said. “It has long been a strand of Brown’s DNA to educate leaders for service to the community, the nation, and the world. Engaged scholarship is the new standard in higher education for fostering skills in real-time problem-solving and civic engagement. And it is now central to realizing Brown’s mission."

Associate Dean of Engaged Scholarship and Swearer Center Director Mathew Johnson hosted an initiative kickoff reception at Brown’s Stephen Robert ‘62 Campus Center on the day of the launch, where he highlighted the importance of the initiative's inaugural partners, including the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, the New England Resource Center for Higher Education (NERCHE), Siena College Research Institute, and the Coalition of Urban and Metropolitan Universities (CUMU).

“Through this initiative, Brown and the Swearer Center seek to embrace and expand our institutional civic role in higher educational,” Johnson said. “We’re honored that these partners have joined us as we embark in advancing our field.”

Anchoring the initiative will be the transition of the administrative and research home for the Carnegie Classification for Community Engagement from NERCHE to the Swearer Center. There are currently 361 campuses with the elective Community Engagement Classification, which opens for application on a five-year cycle. The most recent cycle concluded in 2015. By becoming the host of the Classification, the Swearer Center will house all data from past and future classifications for research use, administer future classification processes, and build events, research projects, and other field building activities on the classification.

“We are delighted to partner with the Swearer Center for Public Service at Brown University,” Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching President, Anthony S. Bryk, said. “The Foundation has a long history of strengthening education by supporting institutions to commit their unique resources and knowledge to the service of local communities. There is no better home for the Carnegie Community Engagement Classification than the Swearer Center, with its unwavering vision of community-serving scholarship, partnership, and engagement.”

The Carnegie Classifications were first developed and offered in 2006 as part of an extensive

restructuring of the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education. The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching is committed to developing networks of ideas, individuals, and institutions to advance teaching and learning. The Foundation is known for joining together scholars, practitioners, and designers in new ways to solve problems of educational practice. Toward this end, the Foundation works to integrate the discipline of improvement science into education with the goal of building the field’s capacity to improve.

During the reception, Donald P. Levy, Director of the Siena College Research Institute and Co-Director of the National Assessment for Service and Community Engagement (NASCE), announced that Siena College Research Institute would partner with the Swearer Center for the administration and ongoing development of the NASCE. The institutional assessment measures how well participating colleges and universities fulfill their missions as they relate to service and community engagement was co-founded by Levy and Johnson at Siena.

“After working with Dr. Johnson for nearly a decade to develop and grow the National Assessment of Service and Community Engagement, we, at the Siena College Research Institute, are thrilled to move forward in partnership with the Swearer Center for Public Service and Brown University,” Levy said. “We look forward to our next steps and hope to truly make a difference in the communities our participating institutions serve across the United States.”

Similar to the Carnegie Classification, by becoming an NASCE partner, the Swearer Center will have access to all data from past and future administrations for research use, partner in development of the next version(s) of the study, and build events, research projects, and other field building activities out of the study. The survey has been conducted on more than 85 campuses to date, including Brown University which participated in Fall 2016 and offered the survey to 4,800 undergraduate students.

Valerie Holton, Executive Editor of the CUMU-published Metropolitan Universities journal, announced that the Swearer Center will succeed NERCHE in managing the Ernest A. Lynton Award for the Scholarship of Engagement for Early Career Faculty. The annual national award, named after scholarly engagement pioneer Dr. Ernest A. Lynton, recognizes a faculty member who connects his or her teaching, research, and service to community engagement.

“CUMU, NERCHE, and others have been greatly influenced and encouraged by Ernest Lynton’s wisdom and expertise,” Holton said. “The Lynton Award and the journal are a partnership – each year we invite the recipient to submit a manuscript relating to their engagement work. Their presence at the annual CUMU conference affirms the mission of the organization and encourages members to continue pursuing innovative practices in teaching, learning, research and partnerships.”

“We look forward to continuing to honor Dr. Lynton and encourage early career faculty through this collaboration with the Swearer Center,” Holton added.

John Saltmarsh, who stepped out of his role as the director of NERCHE on Dec. 31, 2016 to focus on full-time teaching in the higher education doctoral program within the College of Education and Human Development (CEHD) at UMass Boston, is pleased to know that Brown will become the next home of the Carnegie Classification and the Lynton Award.

“It was a pleasure working with the Carnegie Foundation and with CUMU as a host and administrator in my role at NERCHE,” Saltmarsh said. “I have the utmost confidence that Brown’s Swearer Center, which is forging ahead in its mission to advance the field of community engagement, is the ideal successor for the Classification and the Lynton Award.”

Representatives from each of the Initiative partner organizations signed a certificate at the event, designating the formal establishment of the partnerships. Reception speakers included Brown administrators, President Christina Paxson, Dean of the College Maud Mandel, and Associate Dean of Engaged Scholarship and Swearer Center Director Mathew Johnson. Representatives and speakers from partner organizations included  Anthony S. Bryk, President of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, Donald Levy, Director of the National Assessment of Service and Community Engagement and Director of the the Siena College Research Institute, and Valerie Holton, Executive Editor of Metropolitan Universities.

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