Campus Compact Identifies Emergence of “Engaged Learning Economies” at U.S. Colleges & Universities

Press Release from October 16, 2012

Boston, MA – A report by Campus Compact defines a new concept in civic engagement on college campuses called Engaged Learning Economies.  Initiatives at US colleges and universities, which utilize common strategies to merge civic engagement with economic development through strategic partnerships, create Engaged Learning Economies, according to the report.

In  “Engaged Learning Economies: Aligning Civic Engagement and Economic Development in Community-Campus Partnerships,” the authors report that by strategically aligning these two types of activities, campuses are having a positive impact on both student learning at these institutions and economic development in local communities where these partnerships take place.

Partnerships between institutions and communities which consciously commit to several guiding principles create the cornerstone of these Engaged Learning Economies.  The three common principles identified are:

  • establishing democratic partnerships,
  • aligning campus goals, policies, and practices, and
  • building community capacity.

More than 25 different collaborations, programs, and initiatives are spotlighted in the report as models of Engaged Learning Economies, and they are taking place at colleges and universities of varying size, type, and geographic locations across the country.  The examples include collaborations at private colleges, public universities, and community colleges — demonstrating that all types of higher educational institutions can develop an Engaged Learning Economy. Authors of the report observe that the institution must develop a cultural and structural framework which supports effective and truly democratic partnerships.

Some of the examples of Engaged Learning Economies cited in the Report include the following:

  • in response to economic distress in Camden, New Jersey,  the Camden Campus of Rutgers University (the State University of New Jersey) aligned its own departments in order to mobilize and involve faculty and students to help increase the capacity of local secondary schools and improve performance and graduation rates;
  • Flathead Valley Community College’s partnership with the Montana Arts Council spurred the College to develop marketing and business workshops for artists;
  • the University of Iowa became a critical leader in Dubuque’s Initiative for Sustainable Communities; and
  • Widener University’s conscious participation in a partnership with three other institutions helped to develop the economy of the financially distressed city of Chester, Pennsylvania where the 108 acre campus is located.

Says Campus Compact Board Chair Dr. James B. Dworkin, Chancellor of Purdue University North Central, “This Report tells an exciting story about the impact which Engaged Learning Economies can have, not only on our higher educational institutions and our students, but also on local communities.”

“In the wake of the global financial crisis, when so many communities are suffering, and at a time when our need for civic education and democratic collaboration has never been more urgent, the opportunity for our higher educational institutions to create a nexus of meaningful long-term civic and economic change is not only hopeful, but a powerful prescription for our country’s civic and economic future,” adds Dworkin.

Campus Compact leaders are issuing the report to assist higher educational institutions in developing Engaged Learning Economies and are convening a meeting of colleges and university presidents this week to examine the report in greater detail.

Says Maureen F. Curley, Campus Compact President, “This report is significant in the framework it provides to help colleges and universities deal with critical contemporary issues and build democratic relationships which are enduring and sustainable.” She adds, “Our members are so eager to delve into the report that 60 college and university presidents are flying to Chattanooga, Tennessee to discuss this framework and lead and participate in workshops based upon the report.”

In addition to defining the three key principles of democratic partnerships, campus alignment, and building community capacity, the report outlines the common themes utilized by those institutions examined in the report which lead to the Engaged Learning Economies.

In establishing democratic partnerships:

  • partnering agencies acknowledge the importance of understanding and maintaining strong relationships with one another;
  • community members and campus staff, faculty, and students co-locate on and off-campus;
  • community organizations and businesses co-develop knowledge with campus partners.

In aligning campus goals, policies, and practices:

  • polices and processes support the free-flow of knowledge among business, community, and the academy;
  • faculty are leveraged to embed civic engagement and economic development into academic and disciplinary cultures;
  • courses employ collaborative community-based learning;
  • training and educational programs support community members’ personal and economic advancement.

In building community capacity:

  • campus partners see themselves as responsible not only for conducting research but facilitating its application;
  • campuses integrate regional interests into development projects; and
  • community partners have the capacity to absorb and utilize knowledge

Amanda Wittman, Ph.D., Campus Compact Director of Academic and Strategic Initiatives, and Terah Crews, Faculty Associate and University Innovation Fellow at Arizona State University, co-authored the Report.

Campus Compact has been at the forefront of the civic engagement movement for 30 years, seeding the field for the current community service/civic engagement model. It provides resources to academic communities who value a true hands-on approach to their campus community partnerships.  By bringing together literature and ideas as presented in this latest report Campus Compact continues its mission of assisting institutions in their commitment to civic engagement through active support, resources and training.

About Campus Compact
Campus Compact promotes the public purpose of higher education.  Through a national network, the organization supports public and community service that develops students’ citizenship skills, helps campuses forge effective community partnerships, and provides resources and training for faculty seeking to integrate civic and community-based learning into the curriculum. Campus Compact’s membership includes public, private, two- and four year institutions across the spectrum of higher education. For more information about the organization visit”

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