MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – West Virginia University faculty, staff and students are problem solvers who are passionate about making a difference in their communities. They benefit from community-engagement opportunities that enrich their academic experience and positively impact the lives of others.
To further expand upon its commitment to providing students with service-learning experiences, the University announced the creation of a new Center for Community Engagement (CCE). The CCE will have a strong focus on academic opportunities that bring WVU faculty, staff and students together with community partners to address the most pressing issues facing communities.
The CCE has absorbed several functions of the former Center for Service and Learning and aims to expand and diversify the University’s community partner program, develop a comprehensive program to connect resources, and initiate centralized data collection efforts.
Under the leadership of WVU Dean of Extension and Engagement Jorge Atiles, the new Center will help connect faculty, staff, students and communities with the experts, volunteers and educational training needed to build and sustain engagement opportunities throughout the state.
The partnership with WVU Extension will enhance the CCE’s ability to identify and target the critical needs of West Virginians and match those needs with resources available through the University. It also provides a centralized unit to promote, assess, record and build community engagement efforts across WVU.
“Faculty, student and staff engagement in our communities is valued and needed. Having a center dedicated to growing and expanding community engagement opportunities benefits everyone,” Atiles said. “As a land-grant institution, we also have a responsibility to support community-based discovery, experiential learning and service to improve the lives and livelihoods of those we serve. The Center for Community Engagement will allow us to build upon the phenomenal resources we have available, including faculty, staff and students, to carry out our land-grant mission.”
In addition to working with community partners to connect students and faculty to service-learning opportunities, the CCE will train and support faculty on various teaching methods focused on engagement in the classroom through service-learning and in community-based research.
The Center will also place a stronger focus on centralized data collection to ensure the University is effectively tracking the work being done to improve communities across the Mountain State. This centralized effort will also help to identify and build partnerships across academic colleges as well as community agencies. In the coming months a community engagement data dashboard will be developed for faculty, staff and community partners that they can use for grant applications, awards and recognition.
The Center also plans to create new service-learning courses for students and faculty.
Along with these new efforts, the CCE will manage former Center for Service and Learning functions, such as iServe, WVU’s volunteer recruitment portal, and AmeriCorps collaborative to enhance the University-community agenda across the WVU System. The CCE will work with and support departments and units to continue to provide volunteer projects for their students.
The creation of the CCE is part of WVU’s focus on academic transformation to align University resources to support and invest in areas of growth and opportunity. Students will have access to resources through the Center that link community work to academic excellence. The Social Action Clinic will transition to the CCE and continue to provide students with new and unique opportunities to participate in and learn about social action from a team of University and community experts.
“One of WVU’s best assets is our connection to local communities throughout the state, which provides our students with hands-on opportunities to apply their classroom learning to real-world problems,” said Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Maryanne Reed. “These experiences help students better understand how they can have can a positive impact in their own communities and provide them with valuable, marketable skills for their future careers."
Kristi Wood-Turner, who will transition from her role as director of the Center for Service and Learning to lead the CCE, noted the importance of building the University’s capacity to assist West Virginia communities by connecting them directly to academic work with students and faculty through the partnership with Extension.
“WVU’s recent reclassification from Carnegie shows that WVU creates positive change in our communities. The CCE is focused on pursuing innovation and inclusiveness in its work to build stronger more sustainable partnerships,” Wood-Turner said. “By pulling together resources and expertise, a University-wide center is going to further our ability to engage students and faculty, conduct innovative research and develop methods of teaching and learning that have a mutual benefit to Mountaineers everywhere.”
For more information about CCE, visit communityengagement.wvu.edu. Learn more about WVU Extension programs and resources by visiting extension.wvu.edu or follow @WVUExtension on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
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