The Division II pilot initiative, Total Engagement Adds Meaning (TEAM) is proving to be a success. The community engagement program begun four years ago has been developed by reaching out to government, business, and local organizational leaders to build a greater home community and strengthen colleges and universities themselves.
VP Mike Racy and Jill Willson, Double LL Consulting, chose two terrific schools to lead the effort, the University of Central Missouri (11,000 students) that is a state university in a community of 20,000 residents and Caldwell College, a private school of 1,300 students, located in a multitude of municipalities each of about 8,000 in New Jersey.
I began with interviews with President Charles Ambrose and Athletic Director Jerry Hughes at UCM and President Nancy Blattner and AD Mark Corino at Caldwell College and other campus officials and teachers. We discussed their current community engagement programs as well as community communications, interaction, issues of mutual concern, potential areas of utilizing campus assets including athletic facilities and students – athletes. What I found were schools indeed making a positive difference in their communities and the potential to expand to the benefit of both. The athletic department is the front porch that provides a welcome to the college and university that will further develop the opportunities for community service.
To get an idea of interaction of the schools with local leaders in Warrensburg, Missouri where UCM is located, I met with the city manager, the school superintendent, the chamber and economic development executives, the hospital administrator, a state representative, and business leaders. I asked about relationships and communication between the University and the community. Immediately, I found a city that is proud of its university and participates in the athletic and other activities of UCM. There is a pride that is seen by the people that UCM is “our university”. The assets of the university are much appreciated and utilized. That doesn’t mean that there is a complete use, but all spoke of furthering the potential of growing and developing together. Whiteman Air Force Base is also located in Johnson County and has 6,000 airman and officers that interacts with the university and community. Because of UCM, education is highly regarded in Warrensburg.
As I did my analysis, the immediate impression was that the trust level was extremely high. This is probably because of the current interaction of the community in programs of the campus as mentioned. But all recognized that the potential for community development was there. I suggested that the outreach programs of the student – athletes certainly continue, but that more could take place. The leaders are on the same road, but without a map. I found out that there exists a group called the Administrative Council composed of the UCM President and other local leaders of major organizations that had not meet in many months. The group was called together and I was asked to attend and make a presentation to them about the facilitation of a Community Vision/Action Plan. I did so but added that there exists an opportunity to train students in learning the Servant Leadership model while guiding the development of the community plan. We have begun that process and will complete by the first of May with a completed document. It will state community resources that will most certainly include the UCM multitude of assets to address the goals of Warrensburg.
At Caldwell College, I also interviewed campus leaders as well as mayors, school district officials, business leaders, city recreation leaders, library officials as well as others. Here was heard the refrain that Caldwell is a gem to have in the community. The leadership of student – athletes and the use of athletic facilities has provided the cities in the area great opportunities for their programs. One is the local high schools have a basketball tournament that creates great excitement and participation held on the Caldwell Campus. There are also many and varied programs that have the students involved from visiting the senior citizen’s apartments near campus and making them feel loved to reading to grade school youths encouraging good habits. I encouraged the continuance of these programs as well. I watched the interaction of athletes at the campus cafeteria and saw their cheerfulness, energy, and enthusiasm. I learned that in addition to studies and practice some have jobs as well. I saw truly balanced people growing through sports and community service. The interaction of administration, teachers, coaches, and students was an example of the good things that are happening on Division II campuses. They are living the attributes of service, teamwork, and education.
Since there are so many local municipalities in Caldwell’s service area, I suggested that they could be the “convener” of leaders that could look at area issues. Since cities and towns are under extreme pressure because of finances, this role is a natural to diffuse possible political tension. Dr. Blattner sees the potential of utilizing the College influence and assets this way. The assets of Caldwell College can be enhanced and recognized as a result as well.
I have been asked to do a TEAM project at the University of Indianapolis (over 5,000 students) and we are in the process of developing an interview list. This study is based in a metropolitan area of 1.5 million people in an urban setting. The success of the UIndy athletes is sometime overshadowed by larger colleges and universities in the area. We hope to grow that potential as well. We will complete this Spring.
A complete report will be given at the Division II Community Engagement Conference in Indianapolis on June 1 and 2. A discussion panel of the TEAM project and how it can be applied to other members will take place.
In the meantime, if you would like to discuss the opportunity for your campus, please contact me at 317-402-0524 or by email at Jim@winningcommunities.com. You can also visit our web site at www.winningcommunities.com.