Appalachian State retains community engagement honor


The Appalachian Online

Tommy Culkin

The Carnegie Foundation recently honored Appalachian State University, renewing its community engagement classification for its commitment to service-based learning.

Appalachian first earned the classification in 2008. The new designation lasts until 2025, at which point Appalachian will have to reapply.

“[The classification] is a recognition that a university is doing all that it can to do two things,” said Mike Mayfield, vice provost of undergraduate education. “First, is to involve the local and global community with the curriculum. Second is direct evidence of service learning where Appalachian students are going out and working with various organizations to do co-curricular learning.”

Mayfield said the classification proves Appalachian values global awareness as an important concept that should be taught to students.

“By encouraging the faculty to make [service learning] work, it makes it that much more obvious to students that a university education is not just memorizing facts,” Mayfield said. “It’s a way of exploring values, understanding our place in the world, and there’s really no better way to explore those ideas than by helping other people in need.”

Appalachian is one of only 12 UNC-system schools and 361 institutions nationally to receive the classification.

“It shows a bit of who we are as a university, our commitment to engaged learning, community-based research, and involvement of our local community,” said Brian MacHarg, director of service learning at Appalachian.

One factor Carnegie looks at when deciding whether or not to grant an institution the classification is the number of service-learning courses offered. In spring 2015, Appalachian offered approximately 33 service-learning courses spanning 27 different academic departments, with 702 students enrolled in them, MacHarg said.

Mayfield stressed that service learning courses are more than just charitable acts, and that their learning aspect should not be overlooked.

“[S]ervice isn’t just going out and doing good stuff,” Mayfield said. “It’s learning from the people around us, and that two-way street of civic engagement has been a core part of this university since its establishment.”

In addition to curricular activities, Appalachian and the Community Together plays a large role in organizing a culture of extracurricular community service at Appalachian through numerous charities and fundraisers such as Dance Marathon and the MLK Challenge, as well as fostering partnerships with numerous non-profit organizations, on a local snd international scale.

“ACT is the clearinghouse for on-campus community service,” MacHarg said. “It’s a place for students to connect with the community and to engage in local and international nonprofits.”

MacHarg said community engagement is a significant part of the culture at Appalachian.

“This honor legitimizes what we already know,” MacHarg said. “App students are interested in engagement in the community and their impact on people. To be involved in the world and to care about the world is part of what it means to ban Appalachian State student.”

Story: Tommy Culkin, News Reporter