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Seminars cover UNG's civic engagement, community outreach

UNG Provost Patricia Donat, also senior vice president of academic affairs, welcomes guests to the Seminar on Profiles in Civic Engagement on April 12 at the university's Gainesville campus.

At a series of recent seminars, administrators, faculty, staff and students from the University of North Georgia were joined by members of the community to talk about getting more students involved in community engagement.

In January, North Georgia College & State University consolidated with Gainesville State College and the consolidated institution was renamed the University of North Georgia. Both schools shared common values and goals, including a commitment to community engagement and service that was included in UNG's mission statement:

"The University of North Georgia, a regional multi-campus institution and premier senior military college, provides a culture of academic excellence in a student-focused environment that includes quality education, service, inquiry and creativity. This is accomplished through broad access to comprehensive academic and co-curricular programs that develop students into leaders for a diverse and global society. The University of North Georgia is a University System of Georgia leadership institution and is The Military College of Georgia."

Mary Carney
Dr. Mary Carney, director of the university's Center
for Teaching, Learning, and Leadership, talks about
community engagement.

The workshops facilitated discussion of the newly consolidated University of North Georgia, and the ways in which it functions as a single entity across four campuses. At each seminar, held on the Dahlonega, Gainesville and Oconee campuses, participants shared the many ways the university is reaching out to the community, from service-learning projects to special events and programs. The purpose was to develop shared understandings of the mission, variety and scope of engagement initiatives across the university and to discover ways to expand or improve upon existing practices.

Donna Gessell, UNG's executive director of regional engagement, explained at the April 12 seminar in Gainesville that the university's Community Engagement Classification from The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching recognizes how much UNG has accomplished already.

"It's about identifying what we're doing to engage the community and celebrating those partnerships," Gessell said. "In applying for this designation, the first question Carnegie asks you is 'Where is community engagement in your mission statement?' and the second question is 'What are you doing to celebrate community engagement?'"

Panel discussions at the Gainesville session included highlights of ongoing projects from a wide variety of academic departments, special programs targeted at increasing engagement, and resources available within the university and the community to boost engagement. A panel featuring leaders of several student organizations also explored the ways UNG students are getting involved in the community through volunteer work and service-learning opportunities.

The seminars were sponsored by the university's Center for Teaching, Learning and Leadership and a grant from the Association of American Colleges and Universities’ (AACU) Bringing Theory to Practice Project. Similar sessions were held April 12 on the Gainesville and Oconee campuses and March 8 on the Dahlonega campus.

Dr. Renee Bricker, assistant professor of history at UNG, helped organize the Dahlonega session and also spoke briefly at the Gainesville session.

“This is a real opportunity for us to engage with other members of our campus community and seriously discuss our civic mission, and how we can promote the practices of civic engagement,” Bricker said.

For the past decade, the mission of the Bringing Theory to Practice Project has been to examine, understand, and encourage the interdependent relationships in higher learning, student well-being, civic development, and the initiating and sustaining of transformational changes in higher education.

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