In a classroom setting, three learners sit at desks with laptops while two instructors look over their shoulders.

U rewarded for community engagement

In recognition of its extraordinary community engagement initiatives, the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) named the University of Utah a regional winner of the 2020 W.K. Kellogg Foundation Community Engagement Scholarship Award. As a regional winner, the U will compete for the national C. Peter Magrath Community Engagement Scholarship Award, which will be announced in November.

The C. Peter Magrath Community Engagement Scholarship Award includes a sculpture and $20,000 prize. The three other regional winners will each receive a cash prize of $5,000.

The University of Utah partnered with Salt Lake City’s west side neighborhoods to form University Neighborhood Partners (UNP) to advance hyperlocal community engagement. UNP convenes university faculty, staff and students, west side residents and local organizations and institutions to address resident-identified priorities in education, leadership and community capacity and well-being. These priorities, gathered through a yearlong research project, became the blueprint for UNP.

One UNP-supported effort, the Westside Leadership Institute, has aided hundreds of residents in building leadership and organizing skills, designing projects addressing local issues and starting community-based organizations. Another, the UNP Hartland Partnership Center (Hartland), is a hub where the university, organizations and community leaders collaborate on culturally responsive, resident-led neighborhood services and educational opportunities. UNP-supported efforts have contributed to the education of thousands of students; increased access to higher education for residents; disseminated knowledge through hundreds of academic, practitioner and community-oriented products; and increased the capacity of communities to define their own future.

“University Neighborhood Partners was founded in the belief that community engagement is the cornerstone in building a vibrant and thriving society,” said University of Utah President Ruth V. Watkins. “UNP is truly a great example of our commitment to our state as the University for Utah through service, partnerships and strong connections to our communities. This is wonderful recognition of that work.”

Since 2007, APLU and the Engagement Scholarship Consortium, with support from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, have partnered to honor the engagement scholarship and partnerships of four-year public universities. The award recognizes programs that demonstrate how colleges and universities have redesigned their learning, discovery and engagement missions to deepen their partnerships to achieve broader impacts in their communities. The national award is named for C. Peter Magrath, APLU president from 1992 to 2005.

“Amid the pandemic, the nation’s public universities have risen to the challenge to meet their communities’ needs in a major way,” said APLU President Peter McPherson. “That community engagement is at the heart of their mission and we’re thrilled to elevate institutions that have a longstanding commitment to being at the forefront of community engagement efforts. We congratulate this year’s Magrath Award finalists and exemplary designees for a job extremely well done and for their ongoing work in support of their communities.”

A team of community engagement professionals from public research universities judged this round of the award. A second team will pick the national winner following presentations at the 2020 National Engagement Scholarship Conference. Other finalists for the award are the University of Memphis, The Ohio State University and the University of Vermont.

About APLU

APLU is a research, policy,and advocacy organization dedicated to strengthening and advancing the work of public universities in the U.S., Canada and Mexico. With a membership of 246 public research universities, land-grant institutions, state university systems and affiliated organizations, APLU’s agenda is built on the three pillars of increasing degree completion and academic success, advancing scientific research and expanding engagement.  Annually, member campuses enroll 5.0 million undergraduates and 1.3 million graduate students, award 1.3 million degrees, employ 1.3 million faculty and staff and conduct $49.3 billion in university-based research.