March 26, 2021

Carnegie Foundation provides feedback to UCalgary during virtual campus visit

University’s mock application to the Carnegie Foundation receives insightful feedback to engage with the community
Dr. Mathew Johnson (left) with Dr. Penny Pexman (right) at the January 2020 national gathering for the Carnegie Pilot
Mathew Johnson, left, with Penny Pexman at the January 2020 gathering for the Carnegie Pilot. Susan Mide Kiss

University of Calgary and community stakeholders recently met with representatives from the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching to discuss ways to strengthen community engagement. The purpose of the virtual visit on March 11 was to review and discuss feedback on UCalgary’s ‘mock’ application submitted to the Carnegie Foundation in December 2020. The visit also encouraged mutual learning on the pilot process at UCalgary and the Carnegie Framework.

Over the past two years, UCalgary has participated in the Canadian Pilot Cohort (CPC) to test the Carnegie Community Engagement Classification, a leading framework for institutional assessment and recognition of community engagement in the United States. Through insights and shared learning during the pilot, the CPC now aims to co-create a Canadian framework for community engagement in 2022, working with local, regional, national and global partners. This will enable the opportunity for post-secondary institutions and community partners to work together to create and sustain positive impact, and grow mutually beneficial partnerships in the years to come.

The Carnegie Framework focuses on the transformative relationships that evolve through engaging with the community. While initiatives including outreach programs or engaged scholarship benefit communities and are often the common solutions for organizations, the framework reminds the CPC that working with communities is just as important.

“Your application includes a lot of good work, demonstrating UCalgary is responsive to community and serving as a good citizen, but the work is not always about mutual, reciprocal community relationships,” said Gene Corbin, interim director of the School for Public Purpose and Professional Advancement at Albion College in Michigan, the research and administrative home of the Carnegie Foundation.

The feedback on the application acknowledged efforts by UCalgary and other Canadian post-secondary institutions in building and enhancing relationships with Indigenous communities. “Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission seems to have led to a real reckoning between the academies and Indigenous communities, in terms that are very consistent with Carnegie’s definition of community engagement and the Framework,” Corbin said. The lens of Indigenous engagement could be applied to all community engagement initiatives, and “the tenor of the Carnegie community engagement definition is evident in the relationships you approach with Indigenous community partnerships … build on that strength.”

The visit also presented an opportunity to engage with various stakeholder groups across UCalgary and community partners. “Viewing community as a collaborator and as a co-creator is an important shift for institutions,” said Dr. Mathew Johnson, president of Albion College and Fellow with the Carnegie Foundation.

The meeting began with a ceremonial smudge and blessing by Elder Reg Crowshoe, who echoed the importance of community engagement, where “building relatives is one of our ways of surviving together … The information we collect from our communities helps identify their needs and how to become relatives.”

Johnson commented that a truly community-engaged institution creates co-ordinating infrastructure and aligns key elements within the institution. “Pulling [teams] together in some structural way would be one way to start moving UCalgary’s community engagement work forward and over the boundary.”

 Working together as a team

“People that go through this [classification] process often realize their institutions are fragmented,” said Corbin. He recommended a co-ordinating centre or position that will support engagement initiatives in their execution, and “provide some support and co-ordination for the many efforts that align with key community-engagement principles and meet the definition.”  

In response to Corbin’s feedback, various advisory group members shared their perspectives.

Corbin’s message is in line with the existing community barriers and community feedback that had been shared throughout the CPC process, said Jessica O’Connell, account manager for partnerships, United Way of Calgary and Area. “I have also learned about new pockets of community engagement across many departments at the university,” she said. “In doing this work together, United Way has been able to deepen our partnership with UCalgary.”

The visitors’ recognition of UCalgary’s approach to Indigenous relationships in the development of its Indigenous Strategy, ii’ taa’poh’to’p, is something Shawna Cunningham, director of the Indigenous Strategy with the Office of the Vice-Provost (Indigenous Engagement), is thankful for. “As we began our efforts to develop the Indigenous Strategy, we went to the community with a blank page and maybe that’s part of the journey of moving forward on this initiative with the underlying idea that we are resetting, renewing, revitalizing and reimagining our relationships with community,” she said.

“That is a point of strength for UCalgary and can potentially provide a model,” added Dr. Penny Pexman, PhD, associate vice-president (research), in response to Corbin’s comments on UCalgary’s Indigenous relationships. “The ways in which we have been working and trying to engage in a good way with Indigenous communities provides learnings in terms of ways we can engage with other communities, as well.”

In her closing remarks, Leslie Reid, vice-provost (teaching and learning) shared: “What we tried to do from the very beginning of the project was to capture the spirit of what it means to do community engagement. We used that spirit to design the way we approached pulling together the application … as a community.” She thanked the cross-campus advisory group and UCalgary’s community partners for their efforts in the pilot. “We really learned a lot from having you as part of our team and we hope to continue this growth together,” she said.

Johnson applauded UCalgary for its contributions to the Canadian pilot. “Thank you for sharing your work and thank you for being part of the pilot,” he said. “I am extremely hopeful about where UCalgary is headed. I hope you will seize the bright spots and continue forward to become a truly community-engaged institution.”

Next steps

The next steps of the Canadian Pilot Cohort are to continue reviewing the feedback from the mock application and the virtual site visit, share the feedback and recommendations with UCalgary leadership, and prepare for the final convening of the pilot in late May. UCalgary then aims to work with the CPC and local, regional, national and global partners to co-create a Canadian framework for community engagement.

The round dance with Elder Reg, Indigenous dancer, Chancellor Yedlin and a few members of the CPC at the mid-cycle convening in January 2020 at the Taylor Institute

The round dance with Elder Reg Crowshoe, Indigenous dancer, Chancellor Deborah Yedlin and a few members of the CPC at the mid-cycle convening in January 2020 at the Taylor Institute.

Susan Mide Kiss

The Carnegie Foundation’s Classification for Community Engagement is an elective classification and leading framework for institutional assessment and recognition of community engagement in U.S. higher education for the past 14 years. It is based on voluntary participation by academic institutions. The Canadian Cohort was developed in 2019, comprised of 16 Canadian post-secondary institutions, to reflect community engagement within a national context.

For more information about the Carnegie Pilot, visit: UCalgary Carnegie Pilot.