UTC’s efforts to forge community partnerships across its campus have been recognized by the Carnegie Foundation, which named the school in this year’s list of community engaged institutions.
“This is like the Good Housekeeping Seal of approval,” said Dr. Deborah Arfken, coordinator of strategic planning at UTC who oversaw the application. “This is the highest accolade you can get for community engagement.”
However, some of the community partnerships used to win the Carnegie designation are under scrutiny as UTC officials try to trim $8.4 million from next year’s budget.
The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga was one of three Tennessee schools and 119 U.S. schools classified as community engaged. To be chosen, schools were required to show they have mutually beneficial partnerships that met community needs, improved students’ civic and academic learning and enhanced scholarship, according to the Carnegie Foundation Web site.
UTC, East Tennessee State University and Middle Tennessee State University were recognized for curriculum and outreach partnerships, said Chuck Cantrell, assistant vice chancellor for university relations at UTC who worked on the application committee.
“Traditionally, people come to a campus to pursue study away from the rest of the world, but that is not what UTC wants to be,” Mr. Cantrell said. “We want to be engaged in the community, and we want the community to be engaged on our campus. We want our students to be learning in the community, because ultimately that is where they will be pursuing their careers.”
The Challenger Center, the Children’s Center and the Cadek Conservatory of Music are UTC community outreach efforts that may have their funding cut, said Richard Brown, vice chancellor of finance and operations at UTC.
The programs should find ways to be more self sufficient and generate more of their own revenue, Dr. Brown said.
However, though some partnerships are being examined in this tough fiscal environment, they will remain core to UTC’s mission as a metropolitan institution, he said.
“We think we will always stay a community-engaged university,” Dr. Brown said. “We will probably reduce funding, but we will never stop (the Challenger Center, the Children’s Center or the Cadek Conservatory). They will still be a part of the university fabric.”
While some partnerships required start-up or operating funds from the university, many do not, including co-ops, internships and practicums with area businesses and agencies, said Dr. Brown.
Also, Mr. Cantrell said, some partnerships such as the SimCenter are finding ways to generate revenue through grants and by conducting research for area business such as Chattanooga-based trucking company U.S. Xpress Enterprises.
The Challenger Center, which allows elementary students to simulate a space experience and teaches them about math and science, was the first of its kind to be built on a university campus, said Mr. Cantrell. The partnership has allowed science education majors to develop curriculum and teach, he said.
In order to sustain support for the center, officials may have to consider charging schools more to attend, seeking more grant funding and expanding summer camps, Mr. Cantrell said.
“We don’t want to eliminate those programs, but we will have to look at reducing operating costs and increasing revenue,” he said.
In the future, Dr. Brown said, UTC will be looking for community partners who can provide funding to the university, such as the University of Chattanooga Foundation, which provides more than $5 million annually to the university.
“We bring intellectual resources,” said Dr. Brown. “They can bring financial resources.”
Joan Garrett McClane has been a staff writer for the Times Free Press since August 2007. Before becoming a general assignment writer for the paper, she wrote about business, higher education and the court systems. She grew up the oldest of five sisters near Birmingham, Ala., and graduated with a master's and bachelor's degrees in journalism from the University of Alabama. Before landing her first full-time job as a reporter at the Times Free Press, ...