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Building Shared Spaces for Shared Work

As author Rebecca Solnit once wrote, “In great cities, spaces as well as places are designed and built.” Urban-serving universities have a significant role to play in building shared spaces where members of the university and local community can collaborate around solutions to society’s most urgent challenges.

Each institution has its own local context that shapes the approach used to create shared spaces. There are important lessons we can learn, however, from the efforts of institutions that have succeeded in forging sustainable community-university partnerships. The Coalition of Urban and Metropolitan Universities (CUMU) has collected diverse examples of these partnerships, which illustrate how universities have made progress toward building shared spaces in their communities. Their stories have been compiled into the latest issue of CUMU’s digital journal, Metropolitan Universities, which highlights the structures, funding streams, and approaches that have demonstrated effectiveness – and that may prove valuable to other institutions seeking to follow in their footsteps.

Some of the universities and shared spaces featured in the journal include:

  1. The Learning Exchange at the University of British Columbia, which has created space for learning exchanges between the university and Vancouver’s downtown Eastside, “an inner city area most commonly depicted as a place of hopelessness.”

  2. Portland State University, which has partnered with local correctional facilities to offer educational experiences delivered via learning communities within carceral institutions themselves.

  3. Place-based school reform, which links K-12 school systems with neighborhood development to improve academic outcomes. Dr. Gavin Luter with the Wisconsin Campus Compact shares a conceptual framework for the method as well as implications for universities.

If you’re new to CUMU, we’re an organization committed to serving and connecting the world’s urban and metropolitan universities and their partners. Member universities share a passion for collaboration, student access and success, and community development and revitalization, with the ultimate aim of advancing higher education and our cities.

Click here to access the shared spaces issue of Metropolitan Universities.


Zoe DiGiorgio serves as communications coordinator for the Coalition of Urban and Metropolitan Universities (CUMU), which is headquartered at Towson University. As communications coordinator, Zoe maintains CUMU’s online presence and develops content to effectively market and gain visibility for CUMU and its member institutions. She also serves as managing editor for Metropolitan Universities, the academic journal published by CUMU.


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