Vision Task Force Final Report:

Shaping the Future of UAF

Community Engagement and Economic Development

"Community Engagement describes the collaboration between institutions of higher education and their larger communities for the mutual beneficial exchange of knowledge and resources in a context of partnership and reciprocity." (1)

  1. By 2017, UAF will encourage and support a nimble community engagement effort within its tripartite mission of teaching, research and service.
  2. Our vision for 2017 is one where UAF will be recognized for supporting an established culture of cooperative economic development partnerships with the extended community. Embedded in this ideal is a commitment to sharing and reciprocity. Our vision of economic development is one where the institution assists business and industry in pursuing economic development initiatives, and promoting, diversifying and building the economy.
  3. Community engagement must be a visible and clear mission of the university. The committee respectfully recommends that community engagement be incorporated into all pathway definitions.

Objectives

Our mission as the Committee on Community Engagement and Economic Development was to explore the realm of community engagement and economic development at UAF, using the UAF Strategic Plan 2010 as the basis for opening the discussion.

Impact

The committee recognizes there are ongoing community engagement and economic development efforts at UAF. However, the extent to which faculty, staff and students embrace the concept of service to the community, and the efforts by the community to reach back to the university have not been fully examined or articulated.

Are community engagement and economic development important factors in the wellbeing of the institution? If so, what needs to be done to make it so? It is clear that community engagement is interwoven in all six pathways of the Strategic Plan, but it is not necessarily brought to the forefront as an integral part of the complex structure of the university.

UAF hockey team

Stakeholders

Ultimately, UAF and the community are the overall stakeholders in this mission. Internally, faculty is required to follow a tripartite contract of teaching, research and service. Staff does participate in community engagement efforts, but it is not clear to what extent. Students are also stakeholders and should be encouraged by the faculty to combine their learning experience with a service component to increase
their knowledge and skills.

Externally, the community is a key part of what makes this university strong. Fairbanks is a college town and the university contributes to the economic wellbeing of the region by its position as the largest employer in the area (with the possible exception of the military). Whatever the university does or doesn’t do has a ripple effect regardless of the magnitude of the issue, whether it is parking on campus, participation in community efforts, infusion of research dollars into the economy, cultural events on and off campus or programs on the university TV and radio stations. Whatever we do "on the hill" impacts everyone.

Community and Economic Development Committee Findings

To fully realize its mission, the university must engage the Alaska community in all it does. The university can meet its land grant mission by actively participating in Alaska economic development, community partnerships and new ways of responding to the needs of a changing society. The current ethos at UAF must be changed in order to be successful in this endeavor, and it should be a very visible effort on the part of all entities. Community engagement and economic development are vital elements in the overall strategic plan and are key to the
success of the institution.

Recommendations

(Note – Although they are ultimately tied together, the committee made it clear that there are two issues here: community engagement and economic development.)

Recommendation One:

Incorporate community engagement into every pathway of the UAF Strategic Plan 2010.

Community engagement should be an integral part of every pathway in the UAF Strategic Plan 2010, but it is not currently articulated as such. To be successful, UAF must commit to changing the culture of the institution and visibly incorporate community engagement into its teaching, research and service mission. It must devote necessary resources to accomplish an effective community engagement effort. Our vision for 2017 is of an established culture of community engagement throughout the institution, embraced by all. Embedded in the engagement ideal is a commitment to sharing and reciprocity. Our vision of community engagement is one where the institution delivers services, but also one where the university actively listens and incorporates that into its goals and objectives, working cooperatively with the community to achieve this mission.

Recommendation Two:

Actively participate in economic development in the community.

Our vision for 2017 is of an established culture of cooperative economic development partnerships with the extended community. Embedded in this ideal is a commitment to sharing and reciprocity. Our vision of economic development is one where the institution assists business and industry in pursuing economic development initiatives, promoting, diversifying and building the economy where the university actively listens and incorporates that into its goals and objectives. UAF is participating in various economic development endeavors, but because of the complex nature of many institutions in one, a clear recognition of exactly what is being done has not been articulated.

Strategy

  • The administration should acknowledge the importance of a strong community engagement commitment by visibly endorsing and promoting efforts in this strategic pathway.
  • Identify the appropriate entities to carry out the community engagement effort at UAF, and provide adequate resources to carry out directives and strategies to keep the focus on articulation of this important element of the mission of the institution. This is an opportunity to enhance the outreach efforts and encourage engagement internally and externally
totem pole

The next steps in community engagement efforts at UAF: Identify peer institution models that could be applied

  • To UAF in community engagement
  • Research on community engagement models at peer institutions should be conducted to assess where there could be more efforts strategically focused to reach out to the community. What has been effective in similar communities throughout the United States? Is community engagement an integral part of other institutions’ missions?

Conduct a survey of current community engagement and economic development efforts

UAF has many established partnerships in the community, in volunteer services, and industry and business partnerships in internship programs, and businesses coming to UAF to address specific needs. An assessment of ongoing community engagement and economic development efforts by UAF entities should be conducted to establish a base reference to draw from, and then determine where there could be more efforts strategically focused to reach out to the community. The survey should be conducted internally and externally to provide a broad base of information. The results should be considered as part of an overall strategy to actively promote community engagement both internally and externally.

Secure a Carnegie Foundation Community Engagement Elective Classification for UAF

Engagement should be a part of all strategic pathways and visibly incorporated into the mission of UAF. UAF should examine its structure in this area and provide evidence of its commitment by various methods, including an effort to obtain a Carnegie Foundation Community Engagement Elective Classification (2) in recognition and celebration of community engagement efforts at UAF.

Conclusion

Community engagement must be an integral part of every pathway in the strategic plan. The current ethos at UAF must be changed in order to be successful in this endeavor, and it should be a very visible effort on the part of all entities. Community engagement is a two-way street and requires a cooperative effort on the part of the institution and of the community to develop as a long-standing and understood culture. Our vision for 2017 is of an established culture of community engagement throughout the system and embraced by all.

UAF is an active participant in economic development partnerships in Alaska and should be recognized as a key source of information and research in economic development endeavors.

Overall, UAF should encourage and instigate a nimble community engagement and economic development effort within its mission. There are direct correlations between community engagement and how it connects directly to all five other pathways – teaching/quality programs; research; faculty and staff development; enrollment and retention; and advancement and philanthropy. Without this critical element, the other pathways will not be successful. Community engagement should be incorporated into all the Strategic Plan pathways, and be proactively promoted accordingly by UAF.


  1. Carnegie Classification of Community Engagement
  2. http://www.carnegiefoundation.org/classifications/index.asp?key=1213
Back to Top