Community Engagement Assessment
The university understands that community engagement plays a critical role in enhancing academic quality while providing service to the community, and that public service reflects our mission to share the benefits of its research and knowledge for the public good. The University of Louisville’s Mission Statement states that the university pursues excellence and inclusiveness in its work to educate and serve through providing engaged service and outreach that improves the quality of life for local and global communities. In assessing the effectiveness of this community service mission, The University of Louisville identifies expected outcomes, assesses the extent to which it achieves these outcomes, and provides evidence of improvement based on analysis of the results of community service through partnerships and collaborations. The university is engaged in an ongoing conversation about how to best define community engagement, but the basic construct for community engagement is embedded in teaching, research and service.
The University Scorecard includes annually reported metrics for goals and outcomes reported at the institutional level. The goals for University Scorecard goals for community engagement and service are as follows.
- Increase university presence (number of service activities) throughout Kentucky
- Achieve goals of Signature Partnership Initiative (demonstrated progress on 13 programmatic goals)
- Retain Carnegie Classification for Community Engagement designation
Office of the President Scorecard
The President’s annual scorecard goals & metrics include institutional goals for community engagement and service reported to the President, the Provost’s Office, and the Board of Trustees. Accountability for making progress in the areas of community engagement, along with the other institutional goals, is shared by the faculty, staff, students and the entire administrative structure of the university. The Vice President for Community Engagement – an integral member of the university’s leadership structure – coordinates these efforts at every level and is a strong advocate for advancing the community engagement and service agenda across the institution. Community Engagement Metrics & Goals for the 2020 plan are developed annually and build on the progress made in community service over each past year. The goals are designed to enhance and promote community engagement and service as a whole, that is, outreach and partnership as well as engaged scholarship.The following four components support the community service measured via the president’s scorecard.
Community Engagement Plans for Academic and Administrative Units
Through the community engagement plan process, all of the colleges, schools and applicable administrative units have developed goals, strategies, and targets for the assessment of their community engagement mission. In 2014,efforts were initiated to develop a unit engagement planning process where all academic and administrative units will report on community service goals, strategies, outcomes, measures, and targets. A template for unit engagement plans was developed and shared with Deans and Vice Presidents of all academic and administrative units. Academic and administrative units submitted initial plans in early 2015. The Office of Community Engagement assisted academic and administrative units over the course of spring 2016 to develop a process for finalizing the unit plans for the 2015-2016 institutional goals reported in the Office of the President Scorecard. A rubric was developed to assess the comprehensiveness and quality of the unit plans. The finalized plans submitted in spring 2016 will be reviewed annually with the assessment rubric, and in future years units will be asked to report on whether targets were met, and if not, what steps are being undertaken for service program improvement.
Community Partner Assessment Survey
In 2013 the Office of Community Engagement developed a survey instrument to assess the impact of university-community service partnerships and identify areas for continued growth and improvement. This first Community Partner Assessment Survey focused on the key areas resulting from previous community assessment efforts and incorporated selected questions from the book Assessing Service-Learning and Civic Engagement (Gelmon, Holland, Driscoll, Spring, & Kerrigan, 2006).
The 3 key assessment questions asked in the survey
- How can we strengthen our existing partnerships?
- How does the community perceive UofL, and are these partnerships mutually beneficial?
- What is the impact that these partnerships are making on the community?
Reporting was shared universitywide through various groups (e.g., faculty liaisons, Community Engagement Steering Committee) and with the community (e.g., University-Community Partnership Board, Residents Advisory Council, and community forums). OCE worked with these constituency groups to develop and evaluate concerns identified by the partners in the survey and develop appropriate action plans and responses.
The most highly referenced opportunity for enhanced collaboration was the need for a defined point person/liaison for community projects. As a result, many units at the university have created positions for personnel specific to community engagement. The College of Education and Human Development hired a Director of Community Engagement; the School of Nursing created a position for the Director of the Office of Health Disparities and Community Engagement; the School of Dentistry created a position for the Director of Innovations, Community Engagement and Outreach; the School of Medicine hired an Associate Dean for Diversity Initiatives and Community Engagement and created a position for a Senior Associate Dean for Statewide Initiatives and Outreach.
The Office of Community Engagement is continuing this community partner assessment process every two years to continually monitor and improve university-community collaborations. The first follow up to the survey was administered in fall 2015 with 79 partner organizations responding to an updated survey instrument that included more questions related to the impact of the project on the community that was served. Among the new items on the instrument are questions about the presence of goals, measurable outcomes, perceptions of impact, and whether partners have evidence of community impact for their projects. Currently only 48% of partners report that formal assessment or evaluations are being conducted for their community service, while 79% report that their service project had or is having the intended level of impact in the community. The Office of the Vice President of Community Engagement plans to work with community partners and university academic units to increase the number of community service projects with a formal assessment. One strategy will involve working with a new center for program evaluation that is planned to launch at the College of Education and Human Development in fall 2016.