In their daily work of managing community engagement programs and service-learning courses, faculty and administrators may not ponder how their work connects to the bigger economic picture in the state. The NC Campus Compact winter network meetings posed this question by bringing two top economic development experts to discuss their work and key role colleges and universities play.
Tom White, Director of the Economic Development Partnership at NC State, and Adrienne Cole, Executive Director of Wake County Economic Development, teamed up to share their experiences as “economic development 101.” The sessions introduced some of themes and topics that will be explored at the upcoming Civic Engagement Institute in Wilmington, NC on February 4th.
Dr. White’s perspective is shaped by years of work in state government at the NC Department of Commerce,the Durham Chamber of Commerce and in higher education at NC State, where he works with faculty experts and campusleaders to connect the land-grant university’s expertise to support the expansion of home-grown businesses, retain business assets, and attract new business investment to the state.
Drawing on a professional background that includes stints in rural NC county management, urban economic development, and work for a for-profit, multinational corporation, Ms. Cole explained the process of attracting new businesses to the region and factors companies consider as they make decisions about coming to NC. Though much public attention is paid to incentives, Cole said these programs are less important to many companies – especially early in the site selection process – than access to talent, a “cluster” of competitors and similar businesses in the area, available properties and sites, costs, and quality of life.
Together White and Cole shared case studies that illustrate how various community, educational, and business representatives take a team-based approach to developing strategic “clusters” of related businesses. They also explored the distinction between shorter-term economic growth objectives and longer term, capacity-building aspects of economic development and how the real-world experience students get through service-learning and internships boosts talent and workforce development in the region.
Because local expertise and talent development plays a key role in attracting new businesses to NC, a partnership of universities developed the ReachNC database, which contains searchable profiles of over 9,000 academic experts representing 19 NC universities. Economic developers across the state can use the database to connect higher education assets to their business development plans.
The western meeting, hosted by Catawba Valley Community College at the school’s Corporate Development Center, included a special guest: Bob Skillen, head of VX Aerospace in nearby Morganton, NC, whose company is developing a new aviation product with help from innovation funds, technology, and expertise from graduate students in NCSU aerospace engineering programs.
The eastern region meeting, hosted by Wake Technical Community College, included remarks by WTCC President Stephen Scott, who is part of the team on various economic development projects as he works to develop curricula and programs at Wake Tech that can be workforce development assets for targeted industries.
Altogether, over 60 community engagement administrators and service-learning directors from 21 different NC campuses joined the two meetings.
After the economic development discussion, campus representatives shared campus-community engagement highlights. Below is a brief round-up of selected campus sharing.
Engagement offices at both Elon and UNC-Chapel Hill are celebrating milestone anniversaries this year. In the fall, Elon celebrated the 25th anniversary of the Elon Volunteers! service program. This year UNC-Chapel Hill will celebrate the 25th anniversary of its APPLES Service-Learning Program, the 15th anniversary of the Carolina Center for Public Service, and the 10th year of the Buckley Public Service Scholars Program.
In addition, Elon’s upcoming Intersect: Diversity & Leadership Conference (Feb. 21-22) will focus on social change and will feature as keynote the journalist and immigrant activist Jose Antonio Vargas, . Non-Elon participants are welcome with $50 registration fee.
Several campuses reported successful on-campus food pantry programs. Catawba Valley CC opened its Bucks Cupboard pantry last year; Durham Tech draws on a strong partnership with a nearby community garden to obtain fresh produce for its food pantry, now in its second year; Wake Tech just opened an on-campus food pantry after collecting 2,000 pounds of food during a fall donation drive; and UNC-Charlotte’s career office has started a clothing closet for students. UNC-Pembroke opened a CARE Resource Center this fall to serve students and community members with a food pantry and clothing closet, and additional life skills programs are planned to meet community member needs and engage UNCP students.
Several campus staff will present at regional and national conferences, including Gulf-South Summit (Pfeiffer’s Ashely Oliphant, Warren Wilson’s Cathy Kramer) and the Engagement Academy at Virginia Tech for provosts and presidents (UNC-Greensboro’s Emily Janke).
Warren Wilson College and Western Carolina both shared new campus-wide programs to support student development. At Warren Wilson, where service joins work and academics are part of the school’s “educational triad,” the college recently implemented the “Community Engagement Commitment,” a re-designed, developmentally appropriate approach to the service experience of all WW students. At Western Carolina, the Center for Service-Learning helped establish the Lily Community Engagement Award to recognize engaged students. A pilot program this fall involved 500 students and generated important data about student service activity and reflection.
Duke University’s Service-Learning office made an effort last fall to promote the work of students and faculty with “10 Days of Visible Community Engagement.” UNC-Wilmington is looking forward to hosting the Civic Engagement Institute and PACE Conference next month.
UNCG shared big news on the promotion and tenure front. In 2010, the university-wide promotion and tenure policy was revised to include community engagement in these decisions. Now in 2014, 100% of UNCG departments have guidelines that are aligned with the university-wide policy.
Many schools are planning major events for the upcoming MLK Day of Service, and many are in the process of preparing applications to the Carnegie Engagement Classification and the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll. A number reported the recent creation of service-learning course designations or the implementation of co-curricular service activity tracking systems. Campuses participating in NC Campus Compact’s Monitoring and Measuring Impact Initiative reported progress on cross-departmental conversations that seek to understand and connect various engagement efforts.
The Fall Network Meetings – open to faculty staff from NC Campus Compact member campuses – are planned for August 5 at Appalachian State and August 7 at UNC Greensboro.