The Huntsville Item, Huntsville, TX

Local News

January 6, 2011

Sam Houston receives national recognition

HUNTSVILLE — Sam Houston State University has been selected by The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching to receive the 2010 Community Engagement Classification.

SHSU is among 115 colleges and universities recognized and is the only institution within the Texas State University System with the designation.  Only 311 U. S. institutions of higher education have been awarded the classification since it was established.

“At Sam Houston we strive to promote our students’ intellectual, social, ethical and leadership growth, and we do this by offering civic engagement and service-learning opportunities. I applaud all those involved for bringing a focus of being actively engaged in the community to Sam Houston State. This is a great accomplishment by our university,” said SHSU President Dana Gibson.

Colleges and universities with an institutional focus on community engagement were invited to apply for the classification.  The application asked for evidence that community engagement is incorporated into the university’s mission, campus culture, institutional assessment, resource allocation, academic research, teaching, student-learning outcomes, faculty evaluations and activities of student organizations.

The community engagement initiative at SHSU was developed by Provost David Payne, who assembled a group of faculty members interested in helping students become more civically engaged.

“He wanted our students to use the skills, knowledge and dispositions learned at SHSU to make a difference, to improve life in our community by understanding their roles as citizens of the United States and to give back,” said Joyce McCauley, chair of the Engaged Scholars Committee, which prepared the application.

In addition to McCauley, who represents the College of Education, committee members include Sanjay Mehta (Business Administration), Lee Miller (Humanities and Social Sciences), Sergio Ruiz (Arts and Sciences), and Raymond Teske (Criminal Justice).

The recognition is particularly rewarding for Payne.

“We are delighted to be classified as civically engaged university by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching,” he said.  

“It is a validation of the work of many of our faculty who for several years have prepared our students for a lifetime of civic engagement as part of their education at Sam Houston State University.  With this recognition we join an elite group of universities that in practice care for the total development of their students,” he said.

Among the activities taking place at SHSU that were identified as promoting community engagement are training teachers for service in public schools and providing training and continuing education programs for public servants at all levels of the criminal justice field.

Sam Houston State also plays an integral part in the state’s emergency response plan with three campus facilities designated for sheltering operation.  

Faculty members across the university teach academic civic engagement courses in which students apply knowledge acquired in the classroom to community settings, and the Professional and Academic Center for Excellence on campus coordinates training workshops for faculty who are interested in incorporating academic civic engagement into their courses.

 The application to the Carnegie Foundation also mentioned ways SHSU students have benefited from their work with local entities.

“Students reported that the hands-on experience helps them understand the course materials in new ways and teaches them the importance of community engagement,” the application stated.  “For example, SHSU business students implement what they have learned about business plans by assisting local small businesses create their own.”

Students have also indicated that by volunteering with the Sam Houston Folk Festival, they are able to relate better to historical events.

Sociology students use program evaluation skills to study public school lunch programs and pilot recycling programs.

Computer science students learn to identify and solve hardware, software and network problems by refurbishing donated computers and providing network maintenance and troubleshooting for local public schools.

SHSU faculty members are successfully combining their community engagement activities and research projects with external funding support and resulting publications.

 The SHSU Student Government Association’s “All Paws In” program included more than 250 students volunteering to help with house repairs, painting and clean up throughout the community.

The Political Science Junior Fellows provide a free five-week course for immigrants who wish to become citizens.

There were also examples of work outside the local community.

The Bearkat Impact student leadership and service organization offers an alternative spring break experience in which students travel to Louisiana to assist with the “Katrina’s Kids” project and to Mississippi to help with home construction and restoration for families who were displaced by the hurricane. Students in the School of Music travel to Bolivia and Ecuador to work with youth orchestras.

Student organizations are active with fundraisers for local and area agencies as well.

SHSU’s Relay for Life was named as the Second Top Fundraising Event with $25,288 raised for the regional American Cancer Society organization. Other activities include the university-wide United Way Drive held annually, the “Kats for the Cause” fundraising event for breast cancer awareness and education, the Heart Walk for the American Heart Association, local food pantry drives and fundraising and supply drives for the SAAFE House for victims of sexual assault and domestic violence.

A listing of the institutions in the Community Engagement Classification can be found on the Carnegie website at www.carnegiefoundation.org.

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