Empowering Civic Engagement: Campus Compact's 2024 Conference Highlights and VISTA Member Insights

The 2024 Campus Compact conference in Denver provided over 700 attendees, including VISTA members, with opportunities for networking, professional development, and a deeper understanding of the organization's impact on civic engagement and community partnerships.

In April, Campus Compact held its first in-person conference since 2018, in Denver, CO, with over 700 people in attendance, including some members of our Campus Compact VISTA Cohort. During the conference, attendees could attend workshops and networking events as well as hear from over 300 different speakers from colleges, universities, and partner organizations from across the country.

After speaking with Campus Compact VISTA member Larniecia Smith, it was clear that this conference helped solidify her understanding of Campus Compact as an organization. She states, “After being in the same room as higher education professionals and hearing them speak about the importance of civic engagement and community partnerships, I understand better now that the [Campus Compact] AmeriCorps VISTA program is just one arm of what this coalition champions.” Not only did this conference provide her with incredible opportunities to network and learn, but it also provided her the opportunity to fully understand the vastness of what she represents as a Campus Compact VISTA Member. 

Another Campus Compact VISTA member, Jacob Lau, joined his supervisor, Ashley Heath, in presenting how their host site, the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, is utilizing the funds granted to them by Campus Compact. During their presentation, they discussed enhancing their Civic Scholars program through further connection to the Newman Fellowship program, as well as developing additional mentorship opportunities for past Newman Fellows, and even further development for a civic dialogue series created by their current Newman Fellow, in collaboration with the UW-Madison Tommy Thompson Center on Public Leadership. 

Together, Lau and Smith were able to hear AmeriCorps CEO, Michael Smith, speak at a plenary session and attend the working luncheon he hosted. During the luncheon, they were asked a multitude of questions about their service year, including why they chose AmeriCorps. When it came time for Lau to answer, he mentioned that the professional development and ‘Schools of National Service’ is what drew him to serve with AmeriCorps. When asked to explain his answer further, Lau talked about how he intended to utilize the Schools of National Service to further his education. He even shared some ideas on improving this program and described how he built a spreadsheet that highlighted the institutions that offered 50% to 100% of academic coverage, which led to a discussion about the program and an exchange of emails between Lau and CEO Smith. 

Campus Compact supports its members through student community engagement and educational strategies to re-imagine partnerships with a focus on equity and build capacity for a positive impact on students and communities. Overall, attending this conference as a VISTA member not only provides members with opportunities to develop their professional and leadership skills but also allows them to better understand Campus Compact as a whole.