Whitworth earns prestigious Carnegie Classification

by Rachel Ayres | News Editor

Thanks to the consistent hard work of many departments and groups across campus, Whitworth was awarded the Carnegie Community Engagement Classification.

This honor comes from the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. According to “Ross” Brooke Watts, director of the Dornsife Center for Community Engagement, the institution exists to study universities and the intellectual landscapes of the country. 

“Around 2000, Carnegie realized that since all the universities are automatically put into a category based on federal available data from the U.S. Department of Education, they could create classifications that would be optional — or they called them elective — that might encourage universities toward innovation and transformation because they could be aspirational,” Watts said.

Out of the 109 universities that applied this cycle for the classification, only 44 were granted it, putting Whitworth in a select cohort of institutions.

According to a Whitworth press release from Feb. 5, “the Carnegie Community Engagement Classification has been the leading framework for institutional assessment and recognition of community engagement in U.S. higher education for the past 14 years.”

Watts helped to edit the campus wide survey that was submitted to the Carnegie Foundation last April.

“Our office was the main author and we spent many years collecting data. To fill out an application, of this length, it was about 90 pages. It was pretty intensive,” Watts said.

While the Dornsife Center headed up the efforts, Watts stated that this award was for all of campus.

“This isn’t really an honor for the Dornsife Center. It isn’t even really an honor for folks who do community engagement. It is literally an honor for everybody on this campus. Alumni, finance and administration, the financial aid office, athletics, facilities, everyone across the life of this institution is being recognized for the fact that as a university, we invest in our community more than your average bear,” Watts said.

On Feb. 26, members from the Dornsife Center’s office handed out cake to students and on Feb. 27, they held an open house for staff and faculty to celebrate the award.

Meredith Devey, Assistant Director for Community Engaged Programs, also spoke to how this award is for Whitworth as a whole at the open house. 

“[This is] just the celebration of what Whitworth is doing as a whole. It is not just our office, while we submitted the application. It really was a university effort to get us to this place. So, it is fun for us to celebrate that and to have staff and faculty come in and get to realize how much they were apart of that process as well,” Devey said. 

The application required data from all areas of campus in regards to how Whitworth is using its assets to support the surrounding community. Devey mentioned that all levels of the institution reflected this community-focused mindset, including the art department, theater department and health center for example.

“Carnegie is really looking university wide to see if there is a culture of wanting Whitworth students, faculty and staff to be engaged in the community that surrounds us,” Devey said.

Departments around campus will be looking to implement changes suggested in the recommendations from the Carnegie Foundation in the future. And while this last application cycle just wrapped up, those at the Dornsife Center are already brainstorming ways to make improvements for 2026 when Whitworth will reapply to keep the classification.

To learn more about the Carnegie Foundation, log on to https://www.carnegiefoundation.org/.