William & Mary has joined more than a thousand colleges and universities across the country in committing to increase its community engagement.
President Taylor Reveley recently signed Campus Compact’s 30th anniversary statement of presidents and chancellors, which reaffirms each institution’s dedication to the public good through community partnerships and engaged citizenship. As part of that commitment, William & Mary will create a civic action plan to establish specific goals and a timeline for achieving them.
“William & Mary students are remarkably committed to service,” Reveley said. “This agreement will help direct our energies as a community, and it sends a strong signal about the public good that students, faculty and staff can do.”
Campus Compact is a national coalition of colleges and universities dedicated to the public purpose of higher education, according to the organization’s website. In recognition of its 30th anniversary, Campus Compact asked member institutions across the country to sign a statement to renew their commitment to the organization’s aims.
A Virginia chapter of Campus Compact was formed this fall with 25 charter members. Rollin Johnson Jr., who just started as the director of the Campus Compact Virginia this week, said that the chapter is building on good work already underway.
“Every institution brings a really unique piece to the [Campus Compact for Virginia] network, and I think our network as a whole has the ability to share learning about how we deepen civic engagement efforts throughout the commonwealth, whether it’s from how we assess students’ learning, supporting engaged scholarship, or to how we determine the impact we are having with our partners,” he said. “We get to the opportunity to bring public, four-year institutions, four-year private institutions and two-year colleges to the same table, and I believe that leads to a kind of richness in conversation, discovery and diversity in our work. It is this richness which will give us the ability to continue to do our work with sustained purpose and impact.”
Melody Porter, director of the Office of Community Engagement, is leading the effort to create W&M’s civic action plan along with a team of faculty members, community partners, academic administrators and students. The newly formed group has not yet determined the direction of the university’s plan.
“The overall goal of the plan is to bring together people across campus and community to gather information about our current efforts, develop goals for William & Mary to increase our positive impact on campus and in community and implement a plan to achieve those goals,” said Porter. “It could be a very wide-reaching plan, and it could be very focused,”
Universities across the country have taken different approaches to their plans. One, for instance, decided to focus on increasing social mobility in its local community. Others have committed to reviewing internal processes in order to be more responsive to community needs.
“I think there are opportunities in both of those areas for us,” said Porter.
The planning process will be informed by various perspectives in the local community, including the United Way, which just merged its Williamsburg and Peninsula offices this summer.
“They are doing some really exciting work in determining community need around poverty and in realigning the way their assets are contributed to work against poverty but also in encouraging other stakeholders in the community to do the same,” Porter said, adding that one of their goals is to reduce the number of Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed (ALICE) households by 10 percent in the next five years.
“We are looking forward to contributing to and learning from those efforts in our local area.”
Porter’s goal is to complete the plan by the 2018-19 academic year. People who are interested in being part of the planning team may still volunteer to get involved by contacting Porter.
She and the other team members also aim to solicit community feedback through small-group and individual meetings with organizations and people who have an interest and investment in community engagement work.
While the plan will be for internal use within the university, Porter will also make it public on the Campus Compact website, William & Mary’s or both.
“It’s a really important thing to me that we not just create it but we then follow it and assess it as we go,” she said.
Porter, who has worked at W&M for nine years, thinks that the planning process will bring about unanticipated opportunities and create connections between people doing similar work.
“A lot of the process will be about discovering what other people are doing and finding ways that we can be more seamless in connecting and collaborating and also developing some shared goals together, which is the part where I think opportunity really lies.“People here have been doing really great things for a very long time, and I think this is just an opportunity to bring this together and amplify it by being together.”