UCF has again received the Carnegie Community Engagement Classification, an elective designation awarded by the American Council on Education and the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching that highlights an institution’s commitment to community engagement. Knight Nation is among 40 impactful institutions nationwide that have earned the 2024 classification.

UCF first received the designation in 2008 and then again in 2015. The honor validates UCF’s efforts toward fulfilling its mission to unleash the potential of every individual, enrich the human experience through inclusion, discovery, and innovation, and propel broad-based prosperity for the many communities it serves.

“We recognize these institutions for their exceptional commitment to community engagement, and their work to transform knowledge into meaningful action,” says Timothy Knowles, president of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. “They exemplify the true spirit of the Carnegie endorsement and the power of serving the public good.”

The Carnegie Classifications are the nation’s leading framework for categorizing and describing colleges and universities in the United States. Utilized frequently by policymakers, funders, and researchers, the classifications are a critical benchmarking tool for postsecondary institutions.

Among UCF’s community engagement efforts that helped earn the honor are:

UCF Smart and Trustworthy Air Quality Sensor Network (STAIR): The STAIR project is a multidisciplinary undertaking through which UCF researchers designed and built low-cost, cybersecure, solar-powered air quality monitors and installed more than 50 across downtown Orlando. In addition to providing a denser network of air quality information, the team is providing virtual training on air quality data and interpretation, sensor technologies, and data driven citizen advocacy. The effort is driven by College of Engineering and Computer Science Assistant Professor Haofei Yu and College of Community Innovation and Education Assistant Professor Kelly Stevens and Professor Thomas Bryer.

Citizen Science GIS: Developed by Associate Professor Timothy Hawthorne, Citizen Science GIS is an organization that connects scientists and society using geospatial technologies to make science more accessible and responsive to community concerns. In early 2022, Citizen Science GIS designed and launched the nation’s first GeoBus, which is a mobile STEAM learning lab powered by solar on a repurposed 40-foot city bus that provides geospatial technology learning experiences to K-12 youth and teachers across Florida.

H.O.P.E. Circle: Assistant Professor of Urban Education L. Trenton S. Marsh co-developed and implemented the Healing Oasis for Peace & Empowerment (H.O.P.E.) Circle at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Florida. The H.O.P.E. Circle is a predominately Black male youth-led participatory action research (YPAR) initiative, formed in February 2022 after the tragic, gun-related death of a Clubhouse member. H.O.P.E. aims to amplify the voices and experiences of Black male youth; pivot the tragedies into transformative learning experiences to impact the community positively; and demonstrate how YPAR as both a socially just disposition and methodology can be used to broaden understanding of perspectives, namely of groups whose voices and experiences have historically been ignored or dismissed in schools and communities.

Florida Prison Education Project (FPEP): The FPEP provides educational opportunities to incarcerated and formerly incarcerated people in Florida, researches the societal benefits of prison education and integrates the study of justice into UCF curriculum. The project also makes public policy recommendations based on research. Since its founding in 2017, the FPEP has offered 50 classes to 700 incarcerated students at 6 different facilities and donated over 20,000 books to libraries in Florida prisons. The project is led by Keri Watson, associate professor of art history.

The Puerto Rico Research Hub (PR Hub): The PR Hub was established in 2017 following Hurricane Maria, which displaced thousands of individuals and families from Puerto Rico, leading to relocation in Florida. The PR Hub focuses on 4 pillars with emphasis on Puerto Rico: conducting academic research, engaging UCF students, strengthening partnerships, and promoting engagement through community outreach. The hub is led by Fernando Rivera, professor of sociology, and it recently received a further $500,000 external grant to expand its community research.

UCF’s Rehabilitation Innovation Center Smart Apartment: The apartment mimics a residential living space and is equipped with a hospital bed, Hoyer lift, television, Nest thermostat, fan, lamp, and window shutters — all of which are bound to smart home technology. The Smart Apartment serves as a training center for patients who have disabilities to learn how to use the technology before installing it in their own homes. The patients are instructed by College of Health Professions graduate students who work under the guidance of faculty.

The UCF Center for Community Schools: As a comprehensive resource for the advancement of community schools, the center offers technical assistance, assessment and evaluation, and university assistance, all of which contribute to continuous improvement and better outcomes for students, families and communities. The center promotes the development of community partnerships that include four core partners — a school district, a university or college, a community-based nonprofit, and a healthcare provider, as well as others.

The Lou Frey Institute at UCF: The institute houses the Florida Joint Center for Citizenship and is a leading provider of civic education instructional and professional development resources in Florida and beyond. The institute’s work promotes the development of enlightened, responsible, and actively engaged citizens through civic education programs.

The Learning Institute for Elders (LIFE) at UCF: LIFE enriches the lives of older adults of Central Florida through a wide variety of lectures and experiences introducing current issues and expanding on age-old topics. Participants enjoy the benefits of connecting with UCF students and faculty through UCF sponsored research, volunteer opportunities, and access to UCF athletics and performing arts programs.