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Anchoring the Community: The Deepening Role of Universities

As part of its agenda, USU regularly collects and analyzes data across its network of urban campuses to create a reliable, factual foundation for the universities’ work in cities. To date, we have undertaken three surveys to track the evolving and deepening anchor role of urban serving universities. Our latest survey, Anchoring the Community: The Deepening Role of Universities, released this year, and we are happy to share key findings.

In sum, university policies and processes are developing to reflect these institutions’ deeper integration into the community.

In Student Success..

  1. In one-third of USU institutions, students are required to take community-engaged coursework to matriculate. In another quarter, community-engaged coursework was not an institutional requirement, but a significant number of academic programs required it for a major.

In Faculty Success…

  1. For two-thirds of the respondents, community-engaged research was considered a key element of faculty success at the institution.

  2. Notably, for more than one-third of the survey participants, community-engaged research was a part of the promotion and tenure process.

In Administrative Leadership and Organization…

  1. Administrative leadership is engaged in the community at the highest level, and a nascent administrative infrastructure has emerged to coordinate, improve, and make visible the depth of these universities’ community engagement work.

  2. In 22 of the 23 institutions surveyed, the university’s administrative head is involved in community engagement in some capacity.

  3. For 20 of 22 respondents, the university has an articulated mission or strategy for its community mission.

  4. Seventeen of 22 respondents have a designated office to centralize community engagement.

  5. In a few cases, the work is diffused throughout the institution and is internalized in a community-engaged identity, becoming the responsibility of all units.

In Metrics…

  1. Measuring impacts and outcomes of community engagement is a growing priority, although it remains a hodgepodge of quantitative and qualitative project data, department data, foundation and federal tracking requirements, and other external or fragmented influences.

  2. Promising trends include the development of standardized indicators for all community engagement activities (six institutions) and public, searchable, visual data to communicate university activities and create connections among faculty, staff, students, and the community.

These findings suggest that the culture of the urban serving institution is evolving and deepening. It is not simply a series of functions that we have measured in the past, but a mode of social responsibility and community responsiveness that drives these institutions action’s and choices.

Want to read more?  Click here for a copy of the survey results.

Many thanks to the authors who made this work a reality.

  1. Andrea Craft

  2. Shari Garmise, Ph.D.

  3. Ali Modarres, Ph.D.

  4. David Perry, Ph.D.

  5. Natalia Viillamizar-Duarte


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