PSU Named to Carnegie Foundation’s Community Engagement Classification

January 13th, 2011 by Adam

Plymouth State University’s commitment to volunteerism and support of community efforts has been recognized by the Carnegie Foundation. PSU has been added to the Carnegie Community Engagement Classification, a category that defines community engagement as “the collaboration between institutions of higher education and their larger communities (local, regional/state, national, global) for the mutually beneficial exchange of knowledge and resources in a context of partnership and reciprocity.” According to Carnegie, PSU was honored for “excellent alignment of mission, culture, leadership, resources, and practices that support dynamic and noteworthy community engagement.” PSU President Sara Jayne Steen said the Carnegie recognition underscores PSU’s longtime emphasis on volunteerism and commitment to community support.

“The classification indicates that teaching, learning, and research are done in collaboration with communities and enhance the well-being of the region through, for example, application of knowledge to economic development,” said Steen. “I am grateful for the many people at PSU who are bringing higher education to bear on behalf of New Hampshire’s people, culture, environment, economy, and communities, and for those who partner with us. This is what it means to live the mission of a regional, comprehensive university.”

The Carnegie Foundation cited PSU’s curricular engagement in addition to its outreach and partnerships. Here are some examples of Plymouth State’s engagement with the region and the local community:

PSU helped develop a regional study, Every Acre Counts: the Newfound Watershed Master Plan, which included a community survey led by Brian Eisenhauer, interim director of the Center for the Environment, with PSU students. The information helped to formulate the watershed plan and determine key issues for a region that encompasses 63,000 acres, with approximately 5,000 year-round residents. PSU’s role, through extensive watershed surveys and data analysis, was to create a scientific basis for understanding public positions related to environmental protection and to help apply this information. Boyd Smith, Newfound Lake Region Association Executive Director, said PSU’s assistance was critical in developing a plan to protect one of New Hampshire’s most treasured natural resources.

“The information collected by the PSU surveys affirmed the shared principle of residents and visitors that clean water, healthy forests and rural character are the desired state of the Newfound watershed,” said Smith. “We have found that local leaders, such as Planning and Select Boards, appreciate and respect data-driven information as it provides an objective tool for policy making.”

The Small Business Institute (SBI) located in the College of Business Administration connects faculty-directed student consulting teams with businesses who need assistance in marketing, financial processes, feasibility studies, and business plans. These SBI teams, along with a business faculty advisor, visit client companies to assist with planning and strategies. Over the past 36 years, these student reports have won dozens of statewide, regional, and national awards in competitions. Recent Small Business Institute® awards include seven national first place awards and a 2003 Showcase Award for Best SBI Program. David Munro, co-owner of the Mill Fudge Factory in Bristol, N.H., is working with SBI to help market his products online.

“We’ve been very happy with the program. In our meetings it was clear that they were knowledgeable and interested in helping us, and we’re excited about the results from their marketing plan,” said Munro.

PSU student prepares taxes
File Photo/A PSU student prepares taxes for a client at Plymouth’s Whole Village Resource Center

Community service has long been a mainstay of the Plymouth State experience. The university’s motto, Ut prosim “That I May Serve,” underscores the values upon which the Plymouth State University mission is built. During the 2009–2010 academic year, PSU students contributed approximately 220,000 hours to service. PSU students annually provide volunteer and service hours to the Plymouth area through internships, practica, student teaching, and the Community Service Learning Center. One example of students receiving real-life experience by providing a community service is the annual Tax Institute, at which junior and senior accounting majors prepare tax returns and answer tax questions for area residents. These free services are provided for the eight weeks leading up to the April 15 tax deadline.
Other examples of student service are represented in the thousands of volunteer hours students contribute to Plymouth area initiatives such as the Circle Program; Habitat for Humanity; the Pemi-Baker Literacy Task Force; the Pemi Bridge House; the Pemi Youth Center; the Plymouth Area Community Closet; the Plymouth Chamber of Commerce; and Plymouth Elementary School’s America Reads A+ Program. Jessica Dutille of the Pemi Youth Center in Plymouth said PSU student volunteers provide an invaluable service to their organization.

“They are at the heart of what we do,” said Dutille. “They lead activities, mentor youth and act as phenomenal role models during our after school program. Our PSU student volunteers go above and beyond to make a difference in the lives of the youth whom we serve. They come into the Pemi Youth Center each day to inspire and encourage young minds to live their dreams. Simply put, we wouldn’t be able to serve local youth in the capacity that we do if we didn’t have our PSU student volunteers.”

Plymouth State has long provided valuable information in assisting New Hampshire’s four billion dollar annual tourism industry. PSU’s Institute for New Hampshire Studies (INHS), founded in 1975, sponsors and facilitates projects that support this critical industry, including research supporting state and regional tourism marketing efforts, as well as the planning and development initiatives of tourism communities, accommodations, attractions and historic properties. Since 1990, INHS has conducted more than 75 individual projects for the New Hampshire Division of Travel and Tourism Development; the INHS online tourism data base is the state’s largest.
Thad Guldbrandsen, director of the Center for Rural Partnerships, focuses on ways to create collaborations that benefit the region and has obtained private funding to support varied initiatives in the Lakes Region and the North Country. He and Mark Okrant, Director of INHS, teach an outreach course in which students work on behalf of schools, businesses, and non-profit organizations.
Scott Stephens, Plymouth Regional Chamber of Commerce Executive Director, notes PSU has been a strong partner in their economic development efforts.

“We are privileged here at the Plymouth Regional Chamber to have a very close and strategic partnership with the University. Their work and outreach in all aspects of our community are outstanding,” said Stephens.” “Every opportunity I get to work with the University is a rewarding one.”

Plymouth State is one of 115 institutions added to the Community Engagement Classification completed in 2006 and 2008, bringing the total to 311. The University of New Hampshire and Keene State College are also recognized by the Carnegie Community Engagement Classification.

Founded by Andrew Carnegie in 1905 and chartered in 1906 by an act of Congress, The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching is an independent policy and research center. Its current mission is to support needed transformations in American education through tighter connections between teaching practice, evidence of student learning, the communication and use of this evidence, and structured opportunities to build knowledge.

For more information about this release, contact Bruce Lyndes, PSU Media Relations Mgr., (603) 535-2775 or