MHC recognized for community engagement.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015 - 8:45am
Students in the Community-Based Learning dance course Community Connections celebrate a semester of working with students in Springfield’s Rebecca Johnson Elementary School.

By Emily Harrison Weir

The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching has awarded Mount Holyoke College its community engagement classification, a prestigious designation given only to institutions demonstrating that their mission, culture, leadership, resources, and practices support “dynamic and noteworthy community engagement.”

The College is among only 361 institutions so honored by the foundation since 2006.

In a letter announcing the designation to Mount Holyoke, Carnegie President Anthony S. Bryk said it was “heartening to see this level of commitment and activity” among the recipients. “Clearly, higher education is making real strides in finding ways to engage with and contribute to important community agendas.”

To be designated a community-engaged campus, Mount Holyoke submitted a 45-page application detailing the many ways the College is involved in the life of its surrounding communities.

“Mount Holyoke students bring immense passion and dedication to enacting the social change they want to see in the world,” says Alan Bloomgarden, director of community engagement. “I am consistently impressed also with the humility they bring to learning from and collaborating with knowledgeable and committed community partners. Supported by faculty and Community-Based Learning courses, such student engagement sets us up for sustainable partnerships built on mutual respect, trust, and—most importantly—learning and community development outcomes.”

Community engagement in action.

Mount Holyoke’s commitment to community involvement is embedded in its mission statement, which emphasizes the College’s role in preparing students for “lives of thoughtful, effective, and purposeful engagement in the world.”

That mission plays out in myriad ways, all coordinated by the Community-Based Learning (CBL) Program, which Bloomgarden directs. The program links Mount Holyoke students with communities through courses, independent studies, internships, and research and service projects that combine learning and analysis with action and social change.

Among the College’s recent town-gown activities:

  • Mount Holyoke’s family literacy program with immigrants and refugees in Springfield—which focuses on East African immigrants—involves collaborations with the College’s Program in Africana Studies and area nonprofit organizations.
  • Professor Rogelio Miñana's Community Narratives class is working with the Springfield Latino Youth Media Initiative, using digital storytelling to document and publicize important cultural assets of the region's Latino communities.
  • The College’s ongoing, strategic partnership with the Holyoke public schools aims to address chronically low academic performance and literacy rates in the city. One effort, the “Spanish Corps,” helps bilingual students and Spanish language learners at Mount Holyoke deepen their education through interpretation and translation work with families, teachers, school support staff, and community partners.
  • A food drive by new MHC students stocked a local food pantry with two-thirds of the nonperishable goods the organization distributes in a typical year.
  • Anthropology students are assisting South Hadley’s Master Plan Implementation Committee in assessing and implementing local quality-of-life improvement initiatives.
  • Students in several biological sciences and environmental studies courses are supporting field research and analysis that advance the study, protection, and reclamation of local wetlands. These experiences often lead to summer internships through The Lynk.