October 22, 2014

EDITORIAL: Engaged Cornell: Propelling the University’s Land Grant Mission

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On Oct. 6, the University launched Engaged Cornell, a $150 million, 10-year initiative to establish community engagement as a part of the curriculum for all undergraduate students. The goal of the initiative is to empower students and faculty to become more active citizens, being able to apply the concepts they learn in class to tackle challenges in their local, national and global communities. According to the Engaged Cornell proposal, every academic department will offer courses based in “community-engaged learning” and will also lead to 100 percent student participation in community engagement and 480 community-University partnerships by 2025. We at The Sun support the University in its efforts to further promote public engagement as an integral part of higher education.

Cornell has a long history of public engagement and community outreach. As a land-grant institution, Cornell has a unique responsibility to foster outreach as well as research and is committed to work towards improving the quality of life for people in New York and around the world. The University currently offers several programs for students to engage the greater community, such as Alternative Spring Breaks, study abroad and the Public Service Center. While these options are good options for students to engage their communities, to achieve the goal of 100 percent participation, the University will need to work to add programs appealing to all students. Therefore, when working with academic departments to determine major-specific curricula, the University should be transparent in its process and solicit student opinion.

Engaged Cornell will further this commitment to social action. Through the initiative, students will leave Cornell as more globally aware and dedicated citizens, who have real-world experience tackling difficult problems in the community. Furthermore, students will have the opportunity to learn about different applications of their fields of study and gain experience applying their knowledge in meaningful work.