Blue and pink chalk covered the young girl’s hands as she stood ready to make prints on the sidewalk. Her volunteer caregiver — a University of Minnesota student — spread the chalk for her.
Shouts and laughter filled the air as children in bright white jerseys played soccer nearby. Inside, some of their parents took a computer class taught by University students.
University students volunteer at Andersen United Community School as part of a Spanish service-learning course, teaching Spanish-speaking community members and providing child care.
To gain recognition for the service work of its students, faculty and staff, the University will reapply within a year to keep its “community engagement” classification for 2015. The designation, offered by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, was created in 2006.
Andrew Furco, University associate vice president for public
engagement, said he’s confident the University will retain its classification.
As an example of preparation for the application process, Furco pointed to the University’s 2007 revamp of tenure guidelines to emphasize public engagement.
The University was among the first institutions — and one of only six research universities — to receive the classification, Furco said.
Now, 311 colleges and universities nationwide have it, said John Saltmarsh, who co-directs the New England Resource Center for Higher Education, one of the foundation’s partner organizations. He said he expects more will apply this year.
“There are a number of campuses that see themselves not only as, say, a research university but also a community-engaged campus,” Saltmarsh said.
Traditional classifications, like research university or liberal arts college, for example, didn’t allow schools to show that, he said.
All institutions that received the classification in 2006 and 2008 will need to reapply and pay a $300 fee to keep their title.
The application is not an easy process, Saltmarsh said.
To qualify, institutions must show that community service is a priority, he said. For example, campuses may have leadership positions committed to community engagement.
The University strives to integrate public engagement into its trifecta mission of research, teaching and outreach, Furco said. One way it does so is through offering service-learning courses.
The University had 73 service-learning courses in spring 2013, according to the University’s Community Service-Learning Center.
Making a difference
For students, service-learning classes provide a unique opportunity to learn by giving back.
Biology freshman Alissa Wigen, who volunteers as a child caregiver through the Spanish service-learning class, said she thinks service is an integral part of the University community.
The class helps her get out in the community and make a difference, she said.
Known as “Miss Alissa” by the children she cares for, Wigen said she most enjoys connecting with the kids when she volunteers.
“It’s going to be really sad when I have to leave,” she said.
While Wigen watches children outside, global studies and environmental science junior Alexandra Mitchell teaches computer skills to Spanish-speaking adults.
Some of her students haven’t used a keyboard or a mouse before, she said, adding that each class begins with a typing lesson.
Like Wigen, Mitchell said the best part of her job is getting to know and help individuals. She said she wants to continue to volunteer after the class ends.
University students are an essential part of the Andersen United Community School’s programs, said Irene Pizana, Latino outreach worker for Andersen Community Education.
“It’s a huge impact,” she said. “We are able to provide those programs because [of] their help.”