TRUCEN Members Renew Ties, Focus on Equity
This year’s gathering of The Research University Civic Engagement Network (TRUCEN) brought together representatives from over 20 TRUCEN member institutions to UMass Amherst and the Center at Springfield for shared learning and exchange around the meeting’s strategic focus areas: racial justice, youth engagement, and community-engaged research anchored in equity and community voice. The two-and-a-half day program permitted a welcome return to in-person, collegial networking among R-1 colleagues who interacted in locations both on- and off- the UMass Amherst campus.
Centering Community Voice
A distinguishing feature of this year’s meeting was the intentional centering of the voices, labor, and essential contributions of predominantly BIPOC community partners in higher education community engagement programs. A particular session on “Cultivating Community Voice in our Engagement Work” allowed local community leaders to speak their truths as experts of engagement and to outline an agenda for change in higher education community engagement that not only accommodates community “voice” but understands, respects, and remunerates community collaborators as equal partners in program development and governance. This inspired a discussion among TRUCEN attendees about the possibility of drafting an advocacy document for R-1 institutions that lays out clear, foundational expectations and emerging practices for high-quality campus-community partnerships that are genuinely characterized by reciprocity, mutual respect, shared authority, and co-creation.
Getting into the Community
This year’s meeting not only provided space to talk about community engagement but also opportunities to get into community spaces. Community-based activities allowed participants to learn about a variety of innovative campus-community partnerships focusing on community organizing and capacity building, critical social services, and the activist through art. This included a walking tour of downtown Springfield non-profits, session meetings held at UMass Amherst’s Springfield Center, a theater performance over dinner at Gateway City Arts in Holyoke, MA, and the screening of a local documentary on health equity that was followed by a panel discussion with community-based practitioners.
Connecting with Colleagues
Invariably, the deepest and most meaningful value in TRUCEN gatherings is the opportunity to connect in person with professional colleagues from peer institutions in a more intimate and personable environment than typically found at professional conferences and gatherings. The spaces created for authentic, collegial, and supportive exchanges of ideas and reflections on institutional practice are the unique trademarks of TRUCEN meetings and what has sustained the strength of the network as an affinity group within Campus Compact for the last 16 years.
Giving Due Credit and Thanks!
Campus Compact wishes to recognize and express gratitude for the Herculean effort of Joseph Krupczynski and his staff at UMass Amherst’s Community Engagement and Service-Learning (CESL) for hosting and organizing this excellent meeting. The intentionality and relational skill with which Joseph was able to design and mobilize a program that centered community organizations, emphasized BIPOC voices, and highlighted justice-based engagement efforts was amazing. and it was just what we needed as we both emerge from a paralyzing pandemic and respond to a long-overdue racial reckoning that necessitates meaningful changes in the way our institutions engage in civic and community engagement work . This year’s program certainly “raised the bar” for TRUCEN meetings, and we owe Joseph a heap of gratitude for hosting such a wonderful and thought-provoking gathering. So, kudos, Joseph, and thank you!