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Academic Community Engagement on the National Stage

Friday, March 02, 2012

By Mark Adam

Siena College is taking another step toward meeting the goals outlined in its strategic plan, Living Our Tradition.

Siena and the Bonner Foundation, a leader of national academic community engagement in higher education, are partnering with the Association of American Colleges and Universities for the High Impact Initiative. The plan is to integrate AAC&U’s expertise in high impact educational practices with the Bonner Foundation’s knowledge of community engagement to create more involved students, both academically and civically.

Results from the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) and other AAC&U studies have shown that academic programs including first-year seminars, undergraduate research, internships, service-learning and capstone courses lead to higher academic achievement. By connecting each of these educational practices, the High Impact Initiative hopes to magnify their influence. In addition, students whose courses include a community engagement component that utilizes high impact practices also participate in their local communities where they can be partners for positive change.

The High Impact Initiative meets two objectives of Siena’s strategic plan, Living Our Tradition: 1) Siena will expand significantly its high-impact educational practices as part of the liberal arts curriculum and co-curriculum that promotes student engagement and innovative learning, and 2) Siena will gain national recognition for experiential learning programs that prepare students for work, service and practical positive action.

“Siena’s leadership role in this important partnership reflects the power of our strategic plan to inspire others to join our national learning community along with our partners the Bonner Foundation and AAC&U,” said Mathew Johnson ’93, Ph.D., director of academic community engagement. Johnson is the national co-leader of the High Impact Initiative with Ariane Hoy of the Bonner Foundation.

Siena College is one of nine U.S. colleges enrolled in the High Impact Initiative’s inaugural year and will be the host campus for a week-long retreat this summer. Teams comprised of eight to 10 people from each college, including faculty, staff, students and community partners, will collaborate at Siena and share results and ideas over a three-year period. Other participating colleges include The University of the South, Berry College, Rhodes College and St. Mary’s College (Calif.). New schools will join the Initiative each year, making their own three-year commitments to participate.

Siena College has emerged as a national leader in academic community engagement through the success of the Office of Academic Community Engagement’s Bonner Service Leaders Program, AmeriCorps Vista Fellows Program, Academic AmeriCorps Program, and others. Last year, Siena’s Bonner Program received a $1 million endowment. It came from a $500,000 matching grant from the Bonner Foundation and the late John Dawson ’68. The grant provides financial support for 60 talented students each year. Siena College moved from inception of the Bonner Leaders Program to endowment faster than any previous school.

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AAC&U is the leading national association concerned with the quality, vitality, and public standing of undergraduate liberal education. Its members are committed to extending the advantages of a liberal education to all students, regardless of academic specialization or intended career. Founded in 1915, AAC&U now comprises more than 1,250 member institutions—including accredited public and private colleges, community colleges, and universities of every type and size.

Contact: Ken Jubie
Contact E-mail: communications@siena.edu

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