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January 21, 2011

Blinn College honored nationally for community engagement

The administration, faculty, staff and students at Blinn College recently earned an historic honor as one of only six community colleges in the nation chosen by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching for its 2010 Community Engagement Classification. Only seven colleges and universities in Texas received this recognition.

The foundation, an independent policy and research center, encourages colleges and universities to become more deeply engaged, to improve teaching and learning, and to generate socially responsive knowledge to benefit communities. It selected colleges based on institutional practices of community engagement demonstrating alignment of mission, culture, leadership, resources and practices.

Blinn President/CEO Dr. Daniel J. Holt said Blinn was proud to accept the prestigious designation.

“Blinn College’s inclusion in this distinctive group is a testament to our mission to offer individual and community enhancement through educational excellence,” Holt said. “Our commitment to community engagement can be found in every aspect of the college: in our curricular and co-curricular activities and in the great diversity of courses that we offer that are structured around community engagement and service learning.”

Blinn College was joined by six other Texas institutions: Collin County Community College, Sam Houston State University, St. Mary's University, The University of Texas at Arlington, The University of Texas at Brownsville and Texas Southmost College and The University of Texas at El Paso. 

This classification puts Blinn in company with some of the nation’s elite institutions of higher learning, including Notre Dame, Cornell and Wake Forest University.

Each year, Blinn students provide thousands of hours of service to community organizations through service learning in academic coursework and volunteer activities organized by student clubs. The program combines community service with classroom instruction or student club activities, focusing on critical, reflective thinking and civic responsibility to engage students. The programs at Blinn engage students in activities that address community needs while enhancing the students’ academic or professional skills and affirming a commitment to their community.

“Blinn is looked at as one of the leaders in service learning across the state,” said Dr. Greg Phillips, Blinn’s service learning director. “For an institution of our size, what our students and staff accomplish is remarkable. Our students and staff have a strong commitment to their community and to giving back,” said Phillips. “Everything is done with willing hands and smiles. And the students are getting back just as much as the community.”

Unlike The Carnegie Foundation’s other classifications that rely on national data, this is an "elective" classification, meaning institutions elected to participate by submitting documentation describing the nature and extent of their engagement with the community, be it local or beyond. This allowed the foundation to address elements of institutional mission and distinctiveness that are not represented in the national data on colleges and universities.

Colleges and universities with an institutional focus on community engagement were invited to apply for the classification, first offered in 2006 as part of an extensive restructuring of The Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education. Out of hundreds of applicants, only 115 U.S. colleges and universities were distinguished this year.

Founded by Andrew Carnegie in 1905 and chartered by Congress in 1906, The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching is an independent policy and research center. Its current mission is to support needed transformations in American education through tighter connections between teaching practice, evidence of student learning, the communication and use of this evidence, and structured opportunities to build knowledge.