Plymouth State Recognized with Carnegie Foundation Community Engagement Classification

Students pose with gift donations

Selection marks the second time PSU has earned distinction.

Plymouth State University (PSU) has been selected as one of only 119 U.S. colleges and universities to receive the Carnegie Foundation Carnegie Community Engagement Classification, an elective designation that honors institutional commitment to community engagement. 

The Carnegie Community Engagement Classification is the leading framework for institutional assessment and recognition of community engagement in U.S. higher education. It is awarded following a process of institutional self-study, which is then assessed by a national review committee led by the Swearer Center for Public Engagement at Brown University.

“These institutions are doing exceptional work to forward their public purpose in and through community engagement that enriches teaching and research while also benefiting the broader community,” noted Mathew Johnson, executive director of the Swearer Center. 

This is the second time that PSU has earned this distinction; the University was first recognized in 2010.

“PSU is pleased to be recognized for our commitment to our institutional motto, Ut Prosim (That I May Serve),” said Jessica Dutille, director of community impact. “I am so proud of our students who embody this motto by contributing their hearts and minds to community initiatives, and I am grateful for our many nonprofit partners empowering students to join their important work. This classification reflects the dedication and hard work of an entire community.”

Service is a core PSU value that involves 100 percent of academic disciplines. More than 50 percent of courses are community engaged (572 total), involving more than 50 percent of all students (2,282 total). Student participation in service projects has increased substantially in recent years due to new programming and implementation of a new student leadership model.

The University’s community engagement and active citizenship competencies are mapped to those of the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE): Critical Thinking/Problem Solving; Oral/Written Communications; Teamwork/Collaboration; Information Technology Application; Leadership; Professionalism/Work Ethic; and Career Management. “By engaging in community service work, our students are better prepared to succeed when they graduate, no matter their career path,” noted Dutille.

PSU students are proactive in taking care of each other, their neighbors and the wider world. The campus Community Cupboard (Student Support Foundation food pantry) and Swipe It Forward program (donations of dining hall meals) help address student food insecurity, and community service participation is a student athlete requirement; students assist area organizations devoted to homelessness, veterans, women and youth; and students aid underserved communities nationally and internationally through off-campus trips and projects. “As advisor to the Student Support Foundation, it is incredible to see the students’ thoughtfulness, compassion and awareness of those around them, and how it fosters a deep culture of caring – it’s contagious,” said Casey Krafton, PSU’s assistant director of community impact.

Alumni and current students alike take inspiration from the numerous opportunities afforded by Plymouth State’s culture of service.

  • Zachary Eastman ’21 is a student who is currently experiencing homelessness. As a business major, he lives year-round at PSU while working multiple jobs and attending classes full-time. His Social Entrepreneurship course project, “Homeless but Not Hopeless,” proposes a comprehensive homeless shelter model that combines multiple essential services, such as health insurance, housing, food stamps, job opportunities, transportation and education, into a ‘one stop shop’ format. In his Design Thinking course, he is developing different business models for the enterprise. “I’m really starting to learn more about what a business needs, how to start it, and how to make it bloom,” said Eastman. “To me, Social Entrepreneurship is about making a difference in the world.”
  • Molly Cassidy ’20 was awarded a Campus Compact Newman Civic Fellowship this past academic year for facilitating community engaged learning experiences. One of her signature programs is the Angel Tree Project, through which she helped collect gift donations for more than 300 children in the region. She has also participated in both international and domestic service trips and she was a driving force behind PSU’s Give It Forward program, which collected food, clothing, furniture and appliances to benefit 13 local nonprofit organizations. “Molly exemplifies a student leader who is making significant contributions to the development of her peers, and to the local and global communities,” said President Donald L. Birx.
  • New Hampshire Representative Matt Wilhelm ’04 was recently named National Service Advocate of the Year in a Washington, DC, ceremony that also honored civil rights icon Congressman John Lewis and other service leaders. Wilhelm is actively revitalizing dilapidated properties in Manchester, NH, to serve community needs, and is known for his legislative advocacy for service-driven and community-minded young people. He credits Plymouth State with accelerating his journey to national recognition. “The community is pretty unique among college campuses and I learned a lot about different ways one can serve,” he said.

“In return, the community reaches out and embraces our students,” said Dutille, who noted the assistance, mentoring and partnership of community members and local nonprofit leaders.