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3.3.1.5 Community/Public Service

The institution identifies expected outcomes, assesses whether it achieves these outcomes, and provides evidence of improvement based on analysis of the results in each of the following areas: community/public service, if appropriate to the mission of the institution

Judgment of Compliance

PVAMU SACS Accreditation - Judgement Compliance

Narrative of Compliance

Prairie View A&M University identifies expected outcomes for many of its community and public service activities, assesses the extent to which it achieves these outcomes, and makes improvements based on those results. The institution's commitment to community and public service stems directly from its designation as a land grant University, which is clearly articulated in the institutional mission.  The mission also declares, "The University is committed to achieving relevance in each component of its mission by addressing issues and proposing solutions through programs and services designed to respond to the needs and aspirations of individuals, families, organizations, agencies, schools and communities- both rural and urban" [1] and that "the University's public service programs offered primarily through the Cooperative Extension Program target the State of Texas, both rural and urban counties." While the CEP remains the heart of service activities, it is just one of Prairie View's many community outreach programs.

The Cooperative Extension Program
The Cooperative Extension Program (CEP) is the primary service arm of the University.  Established in 1914 through a partnership between the USDA and land grant universities and housed in the College of Agriculture and Human Sciences, the 100+ employees of CEP implement programs for Texans in 23 different counties. Selected activities in the Program's four primary areas include the following [2]:

1) agriculture and natural resources: financial management and marketing assistance for farmers; pond management and fish production; forage management and hay production; sustainable agriculture practices; livestock management; and training programs to decrease water pollution

 2) family and consumer sciences: parenting classes; health and nutrition presentations; diabetes awareness; HIV/AIDS risk reduction programs; workshops on handling bullies; presentations on preventing falls among the elderly; grief and bereavement counseling; and manners and etiquette training

3) community and economic development: assistance from the Rural Business Project, launched in 1994, which "serves as a resource and assistance center for limited resource families and individuals needing to start or expand small businesses"; counseling and referrals for low-income housing; and assistance with community development such as rural water systems, parks, and centers.

 4) youth development and 4-H: training in job force preparation, career development and entrepreneurial skills; the Career Awareness and Youth Leadership Laboratory (CAYLL) for teenagers [3]; 4-H agriculture and natural resources projects in horticulture and livestock breeding; the Engaging Youth, Serving Community initiative [4] and the H.S. Estelle 4-H and Youth Camp, established in 1972 in Huntsville, Texas [5].

In collaboration with the USDA and Texas AgriLife Extension, the CEP develops an annual Extension Plan of Work (POW) that summarizes areas in which programs will be developed and identifies the method of evaluating the programs. Since 2007, the POW framework conveniently has been aligned for assessment purposes: programs must address strategic importance, identify the needs of the state's underserved and underrepresented populations, describe expected outcomes and impact, and result in improved program effectiveness and or efficiency, as the Plans for 2007 through 2010 indicate [6] [7] [8] [9]. At the conclusion of the year, these questions are addressed in the Annual Report of Accomplishments and Results that CEP prepares and presents to Texas AgriLife Extension; examples from 2006 through 2008 are included here [10] [11] [12].  Success in thirteen programs generally is based on increasing participation rates year after year and participant evaluations of the activity, particularly whether they gained knowledge or implemented a new practice / behavior.

In 2006, for example, 62% of the 6,929 participants in animal production efficiency programs said they had learned something new; the average increase in livestock sales was $2,200. In the area of sustainable agriculture, 45% of the 1,516 trained individuals gained new knowledge about waste management and water quality, and 33% learned new skills to minimize fertilizer and pesticide runoff. After education and technical assistance from Extension county agents, 12 communities improved or started rural water and sewer systems, and 25 communities established volunteer fire departments. CEP personnel also assisted 325 businesses, 60 of which expanded, and helped rural residents start 24 new enterprises. Finally, of the 2,186 youth who participated in life skills programs, 82% of the participants felt their communications skills improved, 75% learned anger management techniques, and 75% said they altered their aggressive and delinquent behaviors [10].

Starting in 2007, a more structured report format clearly states outcome measures, targets, results, and revised targets, which also facilitates comparisons from year to year. Below, examples are presented from each of Cooperative Extension's four major outreach areas, with noteworthy improvements from 2007 to 2008 as reported in the Annual Reports [11] [12].

In agriculture and natural resources, the success of the Sustainable Agriculture Production Systems program is measured partly by the number of educational programs focusing on sustainable production practices in crops and livestock, the number of one-on-one technical assistance/consultation sessions, and the number of small scale and socially disadvantaged farmers assisted in creating alternative marketing plans. In 2007, the output target was 225 for this area, and the program reached 231 programs, sessions, and assisted farmers. In 2008, CEP met 165% of its target in these areas combined (250 targeted / 412 actual). In terms of the number of farms that adopted sustainable farming practices, in 2007, CEP met 117% of its target (125 targeted / 147 actual). For 2008, therefore, the quantitative outcome was raised 20%, to 150 total farms, and the program met 92% of its goal.

In the second area of focus, family and consumer sciences, the program Human Health and Well-Being provides crucial presentations, workshops, and physical screenings for diseases like cancer and diabetes. One output measure includes the number of educational programs on chronic illnesses, the number of participants attending conferences / seminars, and the number of individuals receiving free health screenings. For 2007, the actual total of 9879 far surpassed the target of just 1000. In 2008, the new target of 1200 still was met, with 1213 actual programs and participants. Results here were less dramatic because attention was focused instead on a lower-performing 2007 program in nutrition, which had a zero outcome; by contrast, in 2008, 2,091 participants in the Human Nutrition program reported new awareness and behavioral changes related to their diet.

Among its many services, the community and economic development division of CEP assists citizens with locating and applying for low-income housing. In 2007, one output target measure included a target of 700 families and individuals helped, and the actual outcome was 104% of that goal, 731. For 2008, the quantitative target increased to 725, and Extension agents reached 823 people, or 113% of the goal.

For the 4-H Leadership and Civic Engagement Program, outcome measures were as follows: youth adopt leadership skills; youth serve as 4-H officers; youth serve on a community board; youth and adult partnerships form; youth participate in an organized club/group; and youth change behaviors and gain a sense of belonging. The quantitative goal for the preceding outcomes, 1704 positive youth changes, was met with 1716 total. The CEP also exceeded other targets by over 20% in direct youth contacts and by almost 13% in indirect contacts with youths. Based on this success, the benchmark was raised to 1874 for 2008, and CEP met 99.7% of the new target. Similarly, in 2007, the 4-H Career Development, Work-Force Preparation and Youth Entrepreneurship Program set its goal at 12,800 youth contacts and made over 14,000. CEP planned to complete 124 training activities and exceeded that goal by 146% with 305 total. In 2008, targets were exceeded more modestly, at just 3.6%, and trainings met 103% of the target. As is the case with family and consumer sciences, differences like these can be explained, by the fact that when one area is strong, Extension agents focus their efforts on low-performing programs for the next year. In 2007, the number of indirect adult contacts related to housing was dismal, just 3% of the target. By increasing county-based housing fairs and programs in 2008, the program realized 97.8% of the target of 151,000 contacts.

More evidence for the effectiveness and quality of the Cooperative Extension Program comes from recognition for its activities. One of their joint programs, Families First—Nutrition Education and Wellness System, was selected one of six recipients for the first Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service (CSREES) Partnership Award for Multi-state Efforts.  Funded with a grant from the USDA Food and Nutrition Service and working with a national consultant, the team, which included Prairie View, the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, Southern University, and Langston University, developed a 56-lesson curriculum to improve the diet and health of primarily African-American, Latino and Native American populations on food stamps [13]. Another CEP program came to national prominence in December 2008, when members of one of Prairie View's 4-H Clubs, the All American Youth Rodeo Association in Fresno, TX, were selected to participate in "The Next Generation of Social Entrepreneurship" roundtable sponsored by the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives in Washington D.C. [14].

Service in Academic Units
Colleges, schools, and departments at Prairie View A&M University also provide public service. Notably, the Department of Physics, the College of Juvenile Justice and Psychology, the School of Architecture, the College of Business and the College of Nursing work with Texas schools and communities. All programs seek to improve participants' behaviors, whether regarding education, community pride, financial management, or personal health.

With support from the Thurgood Marshall Scholarship Fund and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, faculty from the College of Arts and Sciences and the College of Education, partnered with Royal High School (RHS) in Brookshire, Texas, to overhaul the curriculum of the struggling school. Together, University faculty and RHS personnel designed and implemented Project Operation Accelerate (XLR8) to address issues of professional development for teachers and preparation of Royal students for college. With a focus on enhancing the school environment, increasing academic rigor, improving program relevance, and strengthening mentoring relationships, Project XLR8 set four primary goals and ten specific objectives for the multi-year redesign [15]. The success of one goal, to "assist Royal High School in redesigning the instructional and learning environment for teaching and learning success, by integrating technology tools to improve the academic success of all RHS students," and a related objective, to "redesign the curriculum in mathematics and science," can be seen in a new, lab-heavy AP Physics course from 2007 [16]. Another goal, to "improve all RHS students’ state assessment (TAKS) and ACT/SAT scores" was realized in dramatic fashion by 2008, when 83% of students met state standards in math (90% higher than 2005 levels), 86% met English language arts standards (14% higher than 2005 levels), 93% met social studies standards, and 74% met science proficiency standards [17]. The percent of students passing the science TAKS exam has increased from 72% (2007) to 76% (2008) to 87% (2009), and English scores rose to 88% in 2009 [18]. The real knowledge gained by Royal High School students in math and science also can be seen in their success in academic competitions. In the 2008 Sealy University Interscholastic League (UIL) Meet, the RHS science team finished first, the number sense team placed second, and the calculator applications, accounting, and mathematics teams all finished fourth out of 36 schools. When the students advanced to the District 24AAA UIL Academic Meet, where they faced 53 other teams, the RHS science team again captured the championship with a score of 418. The next highest score was 340.

The College of Juvenile Justice and Psychology oversees the Texas Juvenile Crime Prevention Center, established in 1997 by the state legislature. From 2004 to 2008, the number of training sessions increased from five in four counties to fourteen in eight counties; individuals reached grew from rose from 133 to almost 700. One of the Center's program outcomes is "to provide a setting for educational programs such as continuing education and in-service training relating to juvenile crime and delinquency for criminal justice and social service professionals. Participants will increase their level of knowledge and skills." After the 2004-05 cycle, multiple changes were introduced based on participant feedback: revision of specific training modules, the use of more visual aids, and additional "hands-on" application exercises. Pre- and post-test results indicated a 90% increase in knowledge. 2005-06 assessments revealed a need to tailor trainings to each county's concerns, and as a result, in 2006-07, all residential personnel at the Harris County Juvenile Probation Center received training in ethics and cultural diversity [19]. When the Center learned about statistics on assaults occurring on school campuses, it put together a conference on student and campus safety, and in June 2009, another conference was held, with juvenile violence as the topic [20].

The School of Architecture has two programs with mission-driven community/public service.  The Texas Institute for the Preservation of History and Culture (TIPHC) has a mission "to sponsor and produce programs that stimulate lifelong learning and promote historical and cultural literacy among the citizens of Texas" [21]. To meet its mission, the institute prepares public exhibits, lecture events, and oral histories (20 in 2007-2008 alone) as well as a major video documentary, Forever Free: African-American Legislators of Texas, 1967-2007, which premiered at an NAACP event at the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum in 2007. The program, which has been broadcast on Texas public television stations, is now available on DVD, and over 800 copies have been distributed to Texas public schools, colleges, and universities [22]. Program success is assessed using impact statement surveys, viewer participation percentages, satisfaction surveys, and attendance logs.

The Community Urban and Rural Enhancement Service Center (CURES) in the School of Architecture collaborates with various partners to help residents of Texas inner city neighborhoods and rural communities identify their needs pertaining to the built environment and shape their communities. Faculty and students use their training in architecture, construction and community development to promote innovation in community planning and adapted use of historic structures. CURES has assisted in the restoration of historic homes and churches in Houston’s Freedmen's Town National
Historic District, the rehabilitation of the Methodist Mission Home, the documenting of buildings for a Buffalo Soldier Fort near Victoria, Texas, and projects in the following Texas towns: Marlin, Crockett, Taylor, Waller, Katy, Navasota, Hempstead, Prairie View, and Carmine [23].

The College of Business VITA (COB VITA) program started in 2003 and allows students to gain firsthand, practical experience in finance by helping low income, elderly, disabled and limited English speaking people in Waller County and adjacent areas with their tax returns. The major outcome is to assist more individuals year after year, and each tax season the number of returns has exceeded the prior year’s number by 40% to 100%. In 2003, for example, six students helped less than ten people, while in the 2007, eleven volunteers helped file 117 returns and in 2009, twenty volunteers completed 224 returns [24]. The program hopes to expand its reach in the Northwest Houston corridor and started in 2007 by partnering with the local Korean-American Association to help clients with returns on site. In 2007, twenty returns were completed at the Association facility, while in 2009, 70 were filed, an increase of 250%.

Also within the College of Business is Prairie View's Small Business Development Center (SBDC), which responds to several key performance indicators from the University of Houston Network. For the eight-month period between October and June, the SBDC has strong indicators, increasing new job creation by 100% (from 21 to 42) and new clients 47% (from 34 to 50) in 2008-09 compared to 2004-05. Overall impact also increased 200% in the first half of 2008 versus 2005 [25].

A final example of service in academic units comes from the College of Nursing (CON). The United Negro College Fund Special Programs (UNCFSP/NLM) awarded funding for the College's eHealth program, a collaborative effort with the Houston Academy of Medicine and Families Under Urban and Social Attack. The goal of this project is to increase utilization of the National Library of Medicine (NLM) online resources for African-American residents of the Third Ward of Houston, a low-income community. This project also involved several dozen nursing students and faculty in teaching basic computer literacy skills and demonstrating database use to community participants. Because the outreach is new for 2009, assessment has not occurred yet, but measures will include comparison of pre- and post-test surveys, with goals of 85% of participants having enough computer literacy to find the databases, 80% being able to use the database to research health concerns in at least one NLM database, and 90% able to list two places in their community where they can use the NLM databases for free [26] [27].

University Service Projects for Students
Prairie View's commitment to community and public service outreach programs is also embedded in its Core Values: Access and Quality, Diversity, Leadership, Relevance, and especially Social Responsibility [28]. In promoting Social Responsibility, the University encourages "active participation in constructive social change through volunteerism, leadership, and civic action on the part of its faculty, staff, and students." To this end, each member of a registered student organization must complete at least 15 hours of community service per semester [29].

The Academy for Collegiate Excellence and Student Success, ACCESS, is a well-established bridge-to-college program that has integrated service learning into its curriculum. Students have participated in community service projects such as remodeling the Emmett Till Museum in Mississippi, working with the homeless and hungry in Houston, providing care to the aged in Baton Rouge, helping to build a house with Youth Build, working with Good Neighbor House (a homeless shelter), and volunteering at the Sabal Pal Audubon Sanctuary and the Boys and Girls Club of San Benito [30]. The data on the program are collected and published each year in a report submitted to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. ACCESS also collects survey data and makes videos to show students' reactions to their service experience; the clips are housed in the University College offices.

Each year, the Collegiate G-Force Program enables 20 to 25 Prairie View students to serve as mentors to high school students in surrounding districts' "Go Centers," participate in college enrollment panel sessions, and assist with tours of the University campus [31]. G-Force was established at Prairie View after recruitment surveys showed that students wanted to hear from and work with other students like them. Therefore mentors raise awareness among students and their families about the value of an education and show them how to prepare for college both academically and financially. Programs are offered both in English and Spanish, and Prairie View's G-Force has reached over 15,000 students and parents. Due in part to the efforts of G-Force mentors, the number of multicultural students enrolled at Prairie View A&M increased 21% between 2007 and 2009, from 882 to 1067 [32] Because the program is funded through a grant from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB), a report is submitted annually to document effectiveness, and the University keeps activity reports for G-Force high school visits and the results of campus tour surveys [33].

Service learning also extends to the wider student population due to the efforts of the Office of Student Affairs and Institutional Relations. The goal is not just to engage more students in community service but also to have students ask and examine larger social questions. The service-learning committee collects information from the deans biannually to document classes that incorporate community service projects, the faculty teaching the classes, the number of students and the hours of service provided by these students. Furthermore, the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) specifically asks respondents to rate how often they "participated in a community-based project (e.g., service learning) as part of a regular course project" while the Faculty Survey of Student Engagement (FSSE) asks instructors how often they use service learning. In 2005, 27% of freshmen and 26% of seniors chose "often" or "very often" [34], while 0% of lower-division instructors and 18% of upper-division instructors reported frequent use of such projects In 2008, 33% of freshmen and 46% of seniors selected "often" or "very often," and instructor responses also increased, to 19% for lower-division instructors and 27% of upper-division instructors [35]. To reach the program's outcome of every student having at least one service learning experience before graduation, the Office of Student Affairs has focused on three primary improvements. First, they have encouraged faculty to buy into the concept with the opportunity to be recognized as "Service Learning Pioneers" in a university-wide ceremony. Next, a staff person was hired to coordinate community service and service learning. Finally, the Office is investigating ways to indicate service learning and community service on students' official transcripts as an incentive to participate in such programs [36].

In addition to class projects, the University promotes service learning through the Panthers At Work Community Clean Up (PAW), which started in 2005.  The event is hosted annually and engages University students, faculty and local citizens in community service projects throughout Waller County. Groups complete projects ranging from picking up trash from the streets, planting flowers and bushes, cleaning emergency phones, painting houses or cleaning local churches [37]. Each year the participants, (faculty, staff, students, community members) are asked to complete an evaluation form documenting their experience, and the results of the evaluations are used to improve the program. Generally participants have been satisfied with the experience and feel that the projects expanded their awareness and improved teamwork skills. In 2007, over 73% of students said that they had been inspired to do more community outreach [38]. In 2009, 67% of respondents felt the same; over 96% agreed that the experience increased their sense of civic responsibility and improved their teamwork skills [39]. The written comments section of the evaluation has led to multiple changes in event planning: complaints about registration led to a more streamlined online process; comments about insufficient water prompted deliveries of additional water to each work site; requests for additional clean-ups led to a second, spring activity in 2008-2009; and observations about insufficient advertisement of the event led to meetings with all student organizations, web notices, and flyers in residence halls. Response has been so overwhelming that in Fall 2009, registration has had to be limited to the first 500 registrants [40].

Overall measures of the extent to which Prairie View A&M University students participate in community service comes from the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE). In 2005, 33% of freshmen said they had done community service while another 57% responded that they planned to do it before graduation; numbers remained relatively the same in 2008. Changes were seen instead by senior year, when 61% of graduates in 2005 and 74% in 2008 reported that they already had completed volunteer or community service [34] [35].

Supporting Documentation and Links


Comprehensive Standards 3.3.1.5

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