From the Director’s Desk- February 2018

January 31, 2018

From the Director’s Desk- February 2018

Greetings Compact Supporters!

Hopefully everyone’s semesters are off to a great start.  A shout-out to campuses who made Martin Luther King Jr. Day a day ON, and not a day off. We were impressed by St. Norbert College, Gateway Technical College, UW-Milwaukee, Lawrence University, UW-Green Bay, and UW-Superior for their MLK activities (sorry if I left anyone out!).  It is more important than ever that we are working for racial healing and community partnerships in such a tumultuous time.

First thing’s first: WiCC needs your help! We are looking to host a series of regional meetings this spring / early summer about how regional post-secondary institutions are helping address issues of concern to Wisconsinites.  We have some ideas (e.g. mental health / substance abuse in Northeast Wisconsin; health and/or sustainability in La Crosse area; college access in Madison area; water quality and K-12/workforce development in Southeast Wisconsin), but we’d like to work with a local host to help us refine these based on local knowledge and connections.

Next, I’ve been giving some thought to the connection between internships and community engagement (I alluded to this in last month’s newsletter). Recently, I had a meeting with the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development to discuss a series of meetings that would highlight how strong internships often grow out of mutually-beneficial community partnerships.  There are also more examples around the country of institutions trying to link these two items.  I learned about two such institutions at last week’s AAC&U conference: Dominican University of California’s The Dominican Experience and Furman University (Greeneville, SC) The Furman Advantage.  These are comprehensive experiences that connect students with real-world experiences, mentors, and frameworks for students to see their academic experience as helping make the world a better place.  There are a few campuses seeking to strengthen the connections between career development and community engagement (e.g. UW-Superior, Western Technical College, Cardinal Stritch University), which is promising.

The workforce development framing of community engagement efforts also comes at a time when social challenges are intensifying.  There is a balance we need to strike here: student development/workforce preparation and community impact (see Liberating Service-Learning).  Some people claim that ultimately we are judged by the extent to which we can get students jobs.  But I always push back: we will be judged based on the extent to which the university can demonstrate to the public that society is getting better because of the knowledge we are co-creating alongside external stakeholders.  We will also be judged based on the state of our democracy—are our politics getting better or getting worse? Higher education has a major role to play here, and we need to get better at claiming this work as our own.

How can we learn to do this work better? COME TO THE CIVIC ENGAGEMENT INSTITUTE AND FIND OUT.  Here’s a sampling of session topics: design thinking, intergroup dialogue, health policy, creative placemaking, tenure and promotion reform, learning outcomes, refugee issues, and infusing community engagement into the curriculum.  The agenda will be packed with many great colleagues across the state, from Superior to Kenosha, seeking to share their work.

Thanks, as always, for your support.  I look forward to seeing you all on March 8 and 9, 2018 at UW-Whitewater!