Announcing AUC’s Department of Community Engagement

With our involvement in community initiatives and partnerships exponentially growing, AUC has decided to rename our Office of Service-Learning and Community Affairs, which will now be known as the Department of Community Engagement

Over the last seven years, Dr. Golden Jackson, as Assistant Dean for Service-Learning and Community Affairs, has helped AUC grow our partnerships with our Sint Maarten community and expand opportunities for members of the AUC community to engage in community-based activities that are mutually beneficial and rewarding. This element of our university has grown so central that it was enshrined in the new AUC mission introduced early this year:

The mission of AUC is to train tomorrow’s physicians, whose service to their communities and their patients is enhanced by international learning experiences, a diverse learning community, and an emphasis on social accountability and engagement.

In recent months, under Dr. Jackson’s leadership, AUC has engaged in introspection on our role within the community and how we collaborate with local partners. As these have both evolved over the years, we’ve decided that the phrase “Service-Learning and Community Affairs” no longer adequately captures our emphasis on social accountability and engagement. Dr. Jackson has proposed and we have approved a name change for this department to the Department of Community Engagement.

A name change may seem inconsequential, but the words matter. The term “service-learning” is widely accepted and used to describe a pedagogy and philosophy that includes experiential learning in the community connected with academic learning. But the reference to “service” can also have the connotation of a paternalistic relationship in which AUC helps our partners from a position of power rather than working with the community to achieve community-centered goals.

The term “community engagement” is much more aligned with what we are doing today. The Carnegie Foundation defines community engagement as collaboration between institutions of higher education and their larger communities for the mutually beneficial exchange of knowledge and resources in a context of partnership and reciprocity. Viewed this way, our community-based activities could yield numerous benefits to AUC and our partners: enrich scholarship and research, enhance our curriculum, strengthen civic responsibility, address critical community issues, and contribute to the public good, just to name a few.

Thank you to everyone in the AUC community who continue to live our social accountability and engagement mission, and special thanks to Dr. Jackson for her thoughtful stewardship of AUC’s community engagement.


Heidi Chumley, MD, MBA
Executive Dean
American University of the Caribbean School of Medicine


Pedro Delgado, MD
Senior Associate Dean, Sint Maarten Campus
American University of the Caribbean School of Medicine