Document Type



Social Work

Publication Date

Fall 9-14-2018


Engaged universities and communities are a key focus for meaningful social transformation and addressing complex educational issues including access, research ethics, and business development (Cherrington et al., 2018).

Universities throughout the nation are called not only to serve their academic community, but also the communities in which they are situated. In fact, ongoing revisions to the Higher Learning Commission’s accreditation criteria suggest that community engagement will serve as a primary means by which institutions of higher education will demonstrate their publicly oriented missions and fulfill accreditation criterion number one (Higher Learning Commission, 2018).

Community engagement can be defined as “the collaboration between institutions of higher education and their larger communities (local, regional/state, national, global) for the mutually beneficial exchange of knowledge and resources in a context of partnership and reciprocity” (Carnegie Foundation, 2018). Within the context of this project, community engagement includes curricular community engagement, co-curricular community engagement, outreach, partnerships, and volunteerism. All of these engagement activities make Western Michigan University more relevant to its stakeholders.

Western Michigan University enjoys the distinction of being one of 361 institutions of higher education classified by the Carnegie Foundation for Community Engagement and one of only 50 such institutions that also maintains the designation as a high research activity institution. Our university strategic plan, The Gold Standard 2020, has made community engagement a university-wide objective (cf. 3.3a-3.3f). As part of the university’s commitment to community engagement, a team of over 20 faculty, staff, students, administrators, and community members created and implemented Shared Gold, Western Michigan University’s civic action plan.

This plan prioritizes the creation of a geo-map as a means by which we can visualize, search, and acknowledge our existing civic engagement. Mapping tools including Geographic Information Systems (GIS) can assist university and community partnerships by making the connections visible and more visceral (Jung, 2018), and encouraging interaction between multiple users for different purposes. This project attempts to realize this Shared Gold priority by developing a community engagement geo-map and establishing it as a tool that can be used, queried, showcased, and enhanced over time.


Presented at the 2018 Fall Convocation, Western Michigan University.