By Bobbie Laur, Campus Compact President
One of the first meetings I had after starting as Compact’s new President was with Ira Harkavy, Founding Director of the Netter Center for Community Partners at the University of Pennsylvania. Ira is a force in our field and has been an instrumental advisor and strategic partner to countless campuses and leaders seeking to deepen civic and community engagement. All of his work comes back to advancing the democratic mission of higher education. During this meeting, Ira reinforced how valuable and necessary Campus Compact is—now more than ever as our campuses and communities recover, respond, and heal from loss, deep inequities, and division. He even contributed his perspective in our updated membership brochure.
Among his many hats, Ira leads the International Consortium for Higher Education, Civic Responsibility, and Democracy. From its inception, the Consortium’s steering committee has included Campus Compact, along with many of our U.S. association partners. Today the Consortium’s steering committee works in cooperation with colleagues across the globe including the Council of Europe, Engagement Australia, National Co-ordinating Centre for Public Engagement, Campus Engage Ireland, Universities South Africa, the Magna Charta Observatory, the Organization of American States, and the International Association of Universities.
The Consortium is one of four pillar organizations that come together to make up The Global Cooperation for the Democratic Mission of Higher Education.
Together these entities join forces to undertake shared research projects and forums that support the exchange and collaboration of higher education leaders from across the globe. One of their primary outputs is producing an international bi-annual Global Forum that brings everyone together to “critically explore and actively advance higher education’s role in constructing a more equitable, sustainable, democratic world.” I’ve recently returned from the 2022 meeting, hosted at Dublin City University in Ireland. The 100-person event included representatives from over 40 countries.
DCU itself provided an incredible and purposeful backdrop for the meeting. A campus of 20,000+ students, their mission is to transform lives and societies through listening, linking, and leading for a better future. They live this mission out through a comprehensive civic and community-engaged approach to teaching, research, and service. One of their points of pride is that in Ireland, each child is taught by a DCU graduate at some point along their educational journey—talk about impact!
The agenda was packed with insightful and thought-provoking panelists, including many Compact leaders and partners.
- Nancy Cantor, Chancellor of Rutgers University-Newark, spoke on the opening panel about the critical need to develop multi-sector collaborations if we want to advance our public missions and impact. She reinforced this call to action by describing what’s happening in Newark and spoke about their efforts to address racial reparations.
- Kate Conway-Turner, President of Buffalo State College and Compact board member, described the impact the racially-motivated mass shooting recently in Buffalo, NY is having on their students and faculty and reinforced the critical role civic and community engagement plays during such devastating times. Compact friend and partner David Maurrasse from the Anchors Institution Task Force also served on this panel and provided insights and counsel on creating community-driven collaboratives.
- Nyeema Watson, Vice Chancellor of Diversity, Inclusion, and Civic Engagement at Rutgers University-Camden, moderated a panel of leaders from across the globe sharing how their campuses support historically marginalized students and how they operationalize access and success goals.
- Leticia Ivonne López Villarreal, Director of the Center for Solidarity and Philanthropy, University of Monterrey, and Josefina Ewins, a recent Rutgers-Camden graduate, both served on a panel diving into how higher education needs to reform and redesign to center racial justice.
One of the most powerful moments of the conference was the briefing we received from the Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine. At the time of their presentation, 174 educational institutions had suffered bombings and shellings and 194 had been completely destroyed. While there is great suffering and loss, they also showcased the resilience and commitment of Ukrainian educators and students. In the midst of war, students are continuing to graduate while simultaneously fighting for their country and democracy.
As I reflect on the outcomes of the meeting, several key themes emerge:
- To create equitable and inclusive communities and democracies, higher education must step up and take its public mission seriously. It was humbling to hear from colleagues around the globe about the important role Campus Compact has played and will need to play in the future in preparing, pushing, and supporting campuses and their leaders to advance the civic and community engagement agenda and impact.
- Collaboration, both in the U.S. and across the globe, is critical to meeting the challenges we are facing. There is so much to learn and leverage from partners and colleagues. Evidence of this collaboration was made clear throughout the agenda as universities and organizations shared how they are supporting Ukrainian scholars and students.
- As we build global coalitions and solutions around climate change we must continue to think holistically. The UN sustainable development goals are essential to these efforts. It was clear from the meeting that our European colleagues are actively integrating the SDGs in ways we are not yet doing in the U.S.
- Student voice needs to be centered in these conversations and all the work we are doing. Too often, we are talking about students without creating intentional spaces for them to lead.
- We can’t do this work alone—the community-engaged anchor mission is a multi-sector strategy and we need to take a big tent approach and welcome collaborators across the private and public sectors to work in partnership with us.
Perhaps the most significant takeaway, though, was that we are all interconnected in this work and that the community of engaged faculty, practitioners, and presidents is vast, and more than ever we need to lean on one another. Community takes so many forms, and I’m thankful to have found another one.