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#48. When Older Data "Counts"

Updated: Nov 6, 2018

This month is all about what data "counts" in your Carnegie application. With all the confusion about which academic year your data should come from, we kicked off the month tackling what to do with data from 2017-18 and when to use even more recent data.

Now, let's turn to when is the right time to use older data.

Remember the theory of change behind the classification. Institutionalization of high quality CE isn't just an end in itself, it is also the means to achieve sustainability of high-quality community engagement throughout the academy.

Some of our campuses lean toward flashy, one-off, shows of support and claims of prioritizing community engagement because these displays win easy points. But they are just as easily abandoned. This is sort of like immature community engagement. Lots of campuses start here, but hopefully their community engagement journey includes encountering challenges to that immature model that prompt the growth of greater sophistication alongside institutionalization.

Reviewers are wary of high flash answers that can't support their claims with substance. They know the real work of institutionalizing high quality community engagement takes time. The hope is that your campus is on a journey, a marathon, not a sprint.

So, if you have evidence about CE institutionalization from before 2017-18, you should absolutely include it.

Ideally, you'll demonstrate a continuum between those higher flash/lower substance efforts that have come before and the stronger foundation you were able to develop that you are standing on today.

Think of it this way:

There's a reason wine coolers went out of style, but wine has never been so popular, right? Those little bottles of industrial sludge were cheap imitations of the good stuff, pumped full of sugar and meant as a substitute for people who couldn't discern the difference.

Well, your reviewers can tell the difference.

They want to know how community engagement and its institutionalization have matured over time on your campus. Let them in on how you used to do things and how they have gotten stronger over time. It will make your claims about where you are today and where you are headed in the future even more credible.

Here's the bottom line:

Every campus struggles along the way.

If institutionalizing community engagement were easy, they wouldn't offer a classification for it. If your campus has never struggled around community engagement, there's a good chance that community engagement hasn't matured as much as you think.

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