From the day the University of Puget Sound was established by the citizens of Tacoma in 1888 (the year the city was incorporated) the University of Puget Sound and the greater Tacoma community have been more than neighbors, they have been partners. With this long tradition of partnership to build upon, President Ronald R. Thomas arrived on campus in July of 2003, with a strongly held dedication to the principle that academic achievement and civic engagement were not alternative callings but a single path. Since that time, the university, as a community of learning, has made a strategic and concerted commitment to living out that principle. According to its mission statement, a Puget Sound education, both academic and co-curricular, encourages a rich knowledge of self and others, an appreciation on commonality and difference, the full, open, and civil discussion of ideas, thoughtful moral discourse, the integration of learning, and preparing the university's graduates to meet the highest tests of democratic citizenship. This mission forms the framework of our community engagement program.
Our engagement work is aimed at connecting the university's academic assets and personal resources to the community in order to create and support a variety of projects and programs. The common purpose of these programs is to collaborate with stakeholders in enhancing the quality of life of our neighborhood, our great city of Tacoma, and the Puget Sound region as we enrich the educational experience of our learning community and advance the frontiers of knowledge. We work closely and in partnership with community leaders, community-based organizations, and Puget Sound faculty, staff and students to put the ivory tower at street level. Through a wide range of campus initiatives, student volunteerism, and a staffing commitment to community engagement, we seek to create a campus community that embraces cultural diversity, the challenges of global citizenship, and meaningful partnerships in the region. This effort also involves expanding and enhancing academic partnerships in the arts and music, education, health sciences, and business and leadership that engage regional and national issues of significance.
The university's engagement with the community has been widely praised, including recognition from:
- Cross District Association of Tacoma, which named Puget Sound its Community Partner of the year in both 2007 and 2010
- American Red Cross, which honored Puget Sound with it's Good Neighbor Award in 2010 for our work on the Zinna Linnik project
- Pierce County AIDS Foundation, which recognized Puget Sound for its commitment to the community with the foundation's Community Service Award for 2008
- Pierce County Department of Community Services and the Road Home Leadership Team, which recognized Puget Sound with it's Systems Change Achievement award in 2008 for our contributions to ending homelessness in Pierce County
- United Way of Pierce County, which honored Puget Sound's highly successful Workplace Giving Campaigns in 2006 and 2007
Puget Sound was also named to the President's National Honor Roll for Higher Education Community Service in both 2006 and 2007.