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|Land-grant universities play a key role in helping children, youth and families|
|Unquestionably, one of the most important public concerns of 1999 has been the many issues facing our youth. From Yugoslav orphans to American inner-city and suburban teens, our children are crying out for intervention, and the social fabric of our families is showing signs of wear. Unprecedented changes in the structure, roles, pressures and responsibilities of American families have posed society-wide challenges to the health and well-being of our youth.
Consider this data:
Today, as even the basic needs of our youth for food, shelter, health care, education and companionship are not always being met, it is often difficult to know where to begin to address these pressing issues. In truth, though, we need not look far for the answers. Institutions of higher education have the capacity to make vast contributions to improving quality of life. Within the pages of this magazine you will find important examples of children, youth and family initiatives delivered by our University. These programs demonstrate Penn States breadth of interest and commitment not only to develop the understanding and knowledge needed to solve todays challenges, but also to distribute and apply that knowledge where it is needed most.
In a recent address, President Graham Spanier affirmed the Universitys dedication to this area. He notes, The future of our nation will be deeply influenced by the health and social well-being of our children, youth and families, and no university in America is as well-poised as Penn State to marshal the intellectual and applied resources needed.
In large part, Penn States strategy for achieving these goals lies in the integration of teaching, research and service that is the hallmark of outreach programming. With more than 300 programs and services, Penn State Outreach and Cooperative Extension reaches more than 200,000 children in all 67 counties of Pennsylvania and in all 50 states. Historically, we have been responsive to these issues, and through the University-wide initiatives in children, youth and families, we will be able to enhance our capability and response.
Concentrated efforts in improving livesincluding Cooperative Extensions 4-H, Continuing Education youth camps, distance education for child care providers, public broadcasting programs for youth and families and much moredemonstrate that Penn State is an engaged university and focused on an area that is crucial to future well-being.
In February 1999, the Kellogg Commission on the Future of State and Land-Grant Universities released a report, Returning to Our Roots: The Engaged Institution, defining the engaged institution and calling for colleges and universities to become even more sympathetically and productively involved with their communities, however community may be defined. The report lists seven guiding characteristics that define an engaged institution:
With the recent appointment of a state program leader for children, youth and families and the institution-wide initiatives for a Children, Youth and Families Consortium, we are well-positioned for sharing and growth.
We must, however, acknowledge that this opportunity will not come easily. It will require the continued efforts, creativity and collaboration of the entire University. The Kellogg Commission outlines five key strategies to advance engagement:
By making this commitment to engagement, our institutions will reap important benefits as well. Engagement will intensify teaching by expanding opportunities for students to learn in the field. Engagement will enhance research both by applying it to meet the needs of clients and by creating new opportunities to obtain knowledge through community-university interactions. Finally, engagement will increase the relevance, the impact, the influence and the effectiveness of our institutions, ultimately advancing our land-grant mission.
In the Kellogg Commission report, the authors reflecting upon this changing nature of engagement, explain, To note that our universities make major contributions to the quality of life in many communities is simply to state the obvious. They have done so locally; they have done so nationally; and they have done so globally. Properly led, organized and leveraged with new technologies, organizational structures and delivery models, many of these activities can be incorporated into the building blocks for the engaged university of the future.
In this issue of Penn State Outreach, you will find much more than just evidence of Penn States engagement. You will find a model for institution-wide action, centered around a key social issue and strategically devoted to enriching the lives of the communities we serve.