Focus on community is recognized

The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching recognized Wake Forest on Jan. 5 as an institution with a tradition of focusing on community engagement. Wake Forest was among 115 U.S. colleges and universities selected by Carnegie for its 2010 Community Engagement Classification.

“This is excellent recognition of the University’s past work,” said Steven M. Virgil director of the Institute for Public Engagement and professor of law. “The Institute has recently served to coordinate our myriad engagement efforts, which range from community advising groups, involvement with grassroots organizations and economic development for public schools. Linking our academic mission to community needs is nothing new at Wake Forest.”

To be selected, Wake Forest had to provide descriptions and examples of community engagement that showed alignment among mission, culture, leadership, resources and practices.

Virgil pointed to a pilot program scheduled to launch this month as evidence of the University’s responsiveness to community needs. Based on the findings of focus group sessions with the City of Winston-Salem, Forsyth County and regional public school superintendents, faculty members in the Institute for Public Engagement designed a leadership development program for public school principles.

“Public school principles face high-urgency situations on a daily basis,” explained Virgil. “Without the luxury of time to focus on bigger picture, strategic issues, they are forced to become transactional leaders rather than transformative leaders. Through the leadership development program, we will bring them to the University, away from their usual setting, and give them the tools to look at critical leadership principles like vision, mission and operating parameters.”

A cohort of 35 public school principals from seven North Carolina school systems will participate in six workshops throughout 2011. The first workshop on Jan. 27 will introduce three innovative leaders from diverse fields to explore the qualities of leadership. Dr. Anthony Atala, Director of the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine and Chair of the Department of Urology at the Wake Forest University School of Medicine; Southwood J. “Woody” Morcott, former president, CEO and Chairman of the Board of Dana Holding Corporation; and Steve Swain, CEO of an innovative program assisting the homeless with career skills called Step Up Ministries, have been successful in demanding positions by taking innovative approaches to old problems.

“Their experience should translate well to the daily challenges facing public school principals,” Virgil said.

“Community engagement provides a new avenue for Wake Forest University scholars and leaders to connect their work to a community need,” said Virgil. “These types of projects allow a real-time look at the relevance of their research and academic focus. However, the opportunity for our students and the benefit for the community generate the greatest rewards.”

Categories: Community, Faculty, For Alumni, For Parents, Pro Humanitate, Recognition, Top Stories, Wake Forest College