In 2016, V. Burns Hargis, President of Oklahoma State University (OSU), signed Campus Compact’s Thirtieth Anniversary Action Statement. As part of that pledge, OSU also joined more than 450 other institutions of higher education to commit to creating a Civic Action Plan. These plans are intended to guide each sponsoring university or college’s community engagement policies and actions for the next 3-5 years. We welcome this opportunity to thoughtfully build on our history and identity as a land-grant institution. Through the plan presented here, OSU embraces the language of the Campus Compact Action Statement to “move forward with a renewed sense of urgency.” We take pride in the high-quality community partnerships OSU faculty, staff, and students contribute to each year, but we recognize that we can and should do more. Our plan therefore centers on how OSU as an institution and a collection of citizen-professionals can continue to develop more effective, sustainable, and equitable relationships with off-campus communities.

This document is the result of more than six months of work by an institutionally diverse task force of OSU administrators, faculty, and staff. The vast majority of task force members had extensive experience collaborating with off-campus groups and all members expressed significant interest in and commitment to community engagement. In their first meeting, task force members were charged by Provost Gary Sandefur to identify ways to shape OSU institutional policies and culture to more effectively promote community engagement at all levels and groups. The provost reminded the task force that community engagement is one of only three Core Goals in the OSU strategic plan and is an essential element of everything done at the institution. Task force members met as a large group at least monthly from May to October 2017. Smaller sub-groups also repeatedly met as needed to address topics specially related to members’ expertise and/or institutional role. The final language included here represents the consensus view of participating members.

The OSU Civic Action Plan centers on two recommendations:

  • First, it calls for OSU as an institution to continue to develop and expand mutually beneficial relationships with community partners.

This includes recognizing, honoring, and celebrating our partners’ often unique expertise, experience, and perspective. Crucially, the plan emphasizes the need to explicitly integrate such commitments into university policy.

  • Second, the plan recommends that OSU explore ways to create an institutional office of community engagement.

Among other responsibilities, this office would coordinate community-engaged partnerships, marketing, and fund development. We recognize that this is a significant commitment that may require securing funding external to the university. We are confident, however, that such an effort would be well rewarded. As described here, a community engagement office would both send a clear signal of OSU’s commitment to partner with off-campus communities as well as fundamentally transform our ability to do so.