In honor of the 30-year anniversary of Campus Compact’s Action Statement, Colorado College is joining the national coalition of over 1,000 U.S. colleges and universities in reexamining its commitment to the public purpose of higher education through community engagement.
Framed similarly to President Jill Tiefenthaler’s “Year of Listening,” the Collaborative for Community Engagement launched its “Semester of Listening” at the beginning of the spring semester with hopes of receiving input from students, staff, and faculty on CC’s current level of community engagement.
Under new leadership of Dr. Jordan Radke, the CCE is using the Semester of Listening to develop a five-year strategic plan that will support CC in its commitment to invest and engage with the wider Colorado Springs community. Composed of community leaders, CCE and CC staff, students, and faculty, the Steering Committee helps collect and synthesize the data. “I like this model, for one, because it’s a huge overhaul,” said Steering Committee Member Elam Boockvar-Klein ’20, spaeking on CCE’s approach. The name, ‘Semester of Listening,’ makes people aware of the gravity of the project. It’s no small change.”
Following the “Semester of Listening” and “Summer of Planning,” the Steering Committee hopes to present their findings in August. They dedicate themselves to collecting and analyzing input from student, staff, and faculty surveys, focus groups, and community outreach programs. Some questions addressed by the “Semester of Listening” include: In what ways do you engage in community work through CC? With what organizations or communities do you work? What community-engaged work are you aware of at CC? How would you describe the state of community engagement on CC’s campus?
As of today, the committee has spoken with approximately 300 people. Block 5 focused on establishing a baseline of understanding, seeking “to evaluate the state of community-engaged work on our campus, including the assets and strengths we might leverage and the challenges we face.” The initial findings suggest that CC is deeply committed to community engagement, and students, staff, and faculty alike participate in the community across a wide variety of activities.
On the other hand, the summary of findings indicates that a lack of coordination across campus often leaves a lot of untapped potential for community engagement. Some key issues identified during Block 5 included the Block Plan itself and CC’s location. Due to the high intensity and short-term nature of the Block Plan, sustainable community engagement is difficult to achieve. Furthermore, CC’s location “as a progressive-leaning institution” in the more conservative Colorado Springs area presents cultural and ideological divides that can hinder engagement with the greater community.
For the two remaining blocks of the semester, the Steering Committee will focus on CC’s vision of future engagement, strategy, approach, and reception of feedback on the potential plan before summer implementation. With the first block of listening complete and the second block well underway, Dr. Radke remains optimistic. “I’ve seen differences in perspective [between students and staff], but haven’t encountered conflicting opinions,” said Dr. Radke. “I’m invigorated by the fact that there’s a clear path emerging for the rest of the semester.”
A full description and summary of the CCE’s Steering Committee mission and findings can be found on the CC website, along with student, staff, and faculty surveys. The CCE is still collecting input, and interested parties can contact Dr. Radke to schedule focus groups and information sessions.