University of Massachusetts Boston Civic Action Plan
The University of Massachusetts Boston has been a member of the Massachusetts Campus Compact since its early years, with the assertion of our shared mission of strengthening communities through the university’s intellectual and cultural resources. Since its founding in 1964, the University of Massachusetts Boston (hereinafter referred to as UMass Boston) has had a rich history of engagement with public and private partners through our research, teaching and learning, service, and leadership. As the only public research institution in the city, our founders sought to create a university that would “stand with the city” and provide students regardless of their backgrounds or socio-economic status with opportunities “equal to the best.” We have taken great pride in our relationships and contributions to the community and continue to stand firm in our commitment to civic engagement as a foundational value and principle. One of the ways in which this has been demonstrated is Chancellor J. Keith Motley’s signing of Campus Compact’s 30th Anniversary Action Statement in March 2016.
The chancellor created the Office of Community Partnerships (OCP) in 2011 to identify, strengthen, and support the creation of collaborative community partnerships that advance our mission as Boston’s public research university. OCP led the successful 2014 self-study for the Carnegie Foundation’s Community Engagement Classification, which documented a rich assortment of activities ranging from participatory action research and service-learning courses, to industry and employer partnerships, to technical assistance and outreach programs at the university. The university’s footprint in the community includes more than 3,000 partners through 1,168 projects in 213 Massachusetts municipalities and an additional 240 communities worldwide. The existence of such a full spectrum of engagement serves as a stepping-stone to developing broader campus-wide initiatives that weave together the strengths of existing stakeholders and projects, advance holistic community change, and align with the university’s priorities.
With the OCP foundation established, we now embark on the next phase of the university’s community-engaged work. The work to date presented here, and the evolving role of UMass Boston as a research-intensive as well as community-engaged university, evokes an action plan that is more indicative of a prelude—signaling the beginning of a new wave of possibilities and emerging opportunities. OCP has spearheaded the development of this strategic action prelude in collaboration with an internal advisory group of leading university faculty and administrators established in fall 2016. This group has guided the development of this plan and the future directions of OCP.
Our approach focuses on areas of opportunities, building from past work and exploring possibilities for the future. We have chosen to highlight three existing initiatives where we see opportunity for further growth: UMass Boston’s Engage web portal—which houses all documented campus-community commitments; assessing the Community Engagement Scholars Initiative (CESI)—a service-learning/faculty-development project; and strengthening a working group of multiple campus partners. Also included is a list of ten promising areas of opportunity, some just on the horizon, including a partnership-mapping and strategic action planning process with the local Boston Public Schools, as well as the development of stakeholder advisory groups that provide opportunities for shared visioning and leadership. Others are more long-term items, as more organizational capacity for OCP’s work is put in place, such as a faculty fellows model that could help increase the quality of partnership experiences among faculty and in our academics. Our plan remains fluid as we adapt to our present context and the many partners we look forward to bringing to the table.