AACC honored for its engagement in community

The Baltimore Sun

A national education foundation has recognized Anne Arundel Community College as one of two Maryland colleges that are models of community engagement.

The Arnold-based school is the only community college in Maryland designated by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching with the 2008 Community Engagement Classification.

Fewer than 200 U.S. colleges and universities have been selected as "engaged community institutions" since the award's inception in 2006. Towson University was honored along with AACC, and the University of Baltimore was recognized in 2006.

"We hope that by acknowledging the commitment and accomplishment of these engaged institutions, the foundation will encourage other colleges and universities to move in this direction," Carnegie President Anthony S. Bryk said. "Doing so brings benefits to the community and to the institution."

AACC has a long tradition of community outreach, school officials said. For example, students attending the school's TEACH Institute are required to volunteer in the county's public schools, and the county's public school teachers participate in professional development programs at the college. Through the school's Paul S. Sarbanes Center for Public and Community Service, hundreds of students are partnered each year with volunteer work related to their studies.

"It certainly acknowledges how we partner with the community," said Cathy Doyle, director of the Sarbanes Center. "We say that we're the community's college. And it also looks to the standards we have here at the institution, how we approach partnerships, focus on learning, the standards that we have. We're continually improving what we do."

Kathleen Beauman, director of business education partnerships, oversees the school's "pathways" program, which helps high school students transition into college, allowing students to earn college credit while still in high school. Beauman said the college has more than 100 pathways programs.

"Frequently, systems of higher education are very complicated," said Beauman, who said AACC looks to simplify the college process for both incoming students and parents. "We're really all about creating pathways, whether they're high school students, somebody who has been laid off, or looking for some other alternative."

The community college has begun a program based on the magnet program STEM (Science Technology Engineering Mathematics), which began at North County High School, and it has recently hired a part-time STEM adviser, Beauman said.

Further strengthening partnerships with the community, the school sends hundreds of would-be teachers into the county's public schools each year through its TEACH Institute.

Colleen Eisenbeiser, director of the institute, said many of the students who volunteer in the county's public schools are offered teaching assistant positions.

"It's a very thoughtful experience," Eisenbeiser said. "Students are very mindful of the choices they have made. They come in thinking, 'I want to be a kindergarten teacher.' But then they spend some time in a classroom, and then they think, 'They're really cute if there's only a couple of them.' So they'll make a different choice. So we want to get them that experience up front. It really brings to life everything they're doing in the classroom."

Kip Kunsman, director of work force solutions at the school, provides business services and training to government agencies and private corporations, helping them with work force training and organization development needs.

"Community colleges are known for their ability to be flexible to community and work force needs," Kunsman said. "We're built with that as part of our mission."

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