VI. Diversity in Engagement with External Communities
We are proud that the University of Washington has partnered with the Yakama Nation and has made these business seminars accessible to our people. The variety of seminar topics has assisted our people who are current business owners or who plan to open a business in the future. The Yakama Nation Cultural Center Museum has directly benefited from a hands-on approach to improve our marketing strategies. Thank you, University of Washington!
Pam Fabela, Local Business Owner
Remarks made at the Come Together Washington Event, October 15, 2004
Fostering University-Community Partnerships for Diversity
Many teaching, research, and service initiatives at all three of the University of Washington’s campuses contribute to the economic development and cultural vitality of the state and region. A preliminary review of diversity appraisals suggests that the UW’s administrative, teaching, research, and service programs engage diverse communities in Washington. Community relations and insight inform our practices at the University of Washington, where community-based knowledge is essential to the educational enterprise. In addition, many units have created educational partnerships with local schools to promote continued learning for teachers. Beyond these formal projects and programs, numerous UW classes are structured to connect academic and community learning objectives for students.
Many department members engage in research and service that promote stronger economic and social engagement of underserved communities. The variety of these initiatives, ranging from student designed internships and projects to major research programs, has benefited the University of Washington and the many communities it serves.
These efforts not only connect the University campuses with their immediate communities, but they also allow the communities across the state to inform the University about critical community issues. Furthermore, educational partnerships increase access to the educational pipeline, which increases diverse undergraduate and graduate student populations and ultimately a more diverse faculty.
Institutional Level Programs
There are several offices in the central administration in particular that engage diverse external communities:
- The Office the Vice President of Development and Alumni Relations.
The Office of Development and Alumni Relations is charged with developing a “fundraising program that institutionalizes advancement at the academic core, through integrated efforts at the central and unit levels.” The Office has established diversity as an important value within its organization that is reflected in the following statement: “We serve diverse constituencies, including alumni, friends, students, parents, faculty, staff, patients, and interested community members. We seek to understand the different needs of these groups, to communicate (or represent) them accurately, and to facilitate processes that will help these individuals or groups achieve their goals.” Furthermore, the Office of Development partners with local businesses to sponsor fund-raising events for diversity scholarships. Key partners include Costco, Safeco Insurance, and St. Michelle Winery.
- The Office of the Vice President for Minority Affairs and Vice Provost for Diversity.
The Office of the Vice President for Minority Affairs and Vice Provost for Diversity facilitates communication between community and university leadership has strengthened relationships with underrepresented communities by discussing with community leaders the status of diversity at the UW, student and faculty progress, and to seek their input on educational and policy issues that will affect their communities. For example, numerous discussions have been held with community leaders regarding proposed policy changes affecting transfer students from community colleges. The Office of Minority Affairs works closely with advisory groups, such as the Friends of the Equal Opportunity Program and the Native American Advisory Board. The Office reports that building and maintaining strong relationships with communities throughout the state results in increased visibility of UW’s diversity efforts, increased access to higher education for members of underrepresented groups, and greater responsiveness by the University to the interests of previously underrepresented communities.
- The Office of Educational Partnerships and Learning Technologies.
UW’s Office of Educational Partnerships and Learning Technologies plays a key role in expanding how the University works with diverse communities with an emphasis on the use of technology in teaching and learning. University-community partnerships sponsored by this office broaden access to university research and create new opportunities for community-based research and learning. For example, a three-year grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has funded a new Community Outreach Partnership Center on the campus of Heritage College, intended to provide education for local residents and improve living and working conditions.
- The Graduate School/Graduate Opportunities and Minority Achievement Program.
As a unit of the Provost Office, the Graduate School through the Graduate Opportunities and Minority Achievement Program connects minority community leaders and groups to the graduate student experience through events held both on and off campus that address knowledge about diversity and enhance the perception of the graduate studies on campus as welcoming to communities of color. In 2004, the Graduate Opportunities and Minority Achievement Program initiated the Graduate Diversity Fellows Dinner, which recognizes outstanding minority graduate students and raises funds for Graduate Diversity Fellowships. While providing UW graduate students with a greater sense of the dimensions of community, these efforts also increase outreach to Seattle-based communities of color, local, national, and international alumni, and local and regional corporate communities.
- The Carlson Leadership & Public Service Center, Office of Undergraduate Education.
The Carlson Center plays a major role in promoting service learning at the University of Washington, engaging students in public service activities to assist community-based organizations while addressing community needs. Tied to courses in globalization, immigration, human rights, women studies and ethnic studies, service learning opportunities are increasingly extending into diverse and underserved communities. For example, the Carlson Center has deepened connections with University District service providers who focus on homeless youth and young adults.
- University of Washington Alumni Association, Minority Alumni Partnership.
Multicultural Alumni Partnership, (MAP) and University of Washington Alumni Association (UWAA) work both independently and collaboratively to create a strong sense of community between alumni of color and the UWAA. The UWAA supports and promotes MAP’s scholarship program and MAP’s involvement in the community, which helps reconnect people of color to the University. The Multicultural Alumni Partnership: serves as a strong connection of the UWAA to the University’s alumni and friends of color; sponsors programs and events that are highly regarded as part of the UWAA’s alumni outreach; and plays an active role facilitating the undergraduate and graduate education students of color.
Examples of Good Practice
- Involving community members in advisory roles. UW Bothell encourages representatives from diverse communities to become members of the campus Advisory Board, Publications Board, and Career Advisory Board, and to become internship sponsors. UW Seattle relies on the President’s Minority Community Advisory Committee to help shape diversity policies and practices. All cultural exhibits hosted or originated by the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture are developed with the aid of community advisors, and in the case of Native American projects, this involvement is mandated by policy. Many exhibits, such as the annual Native American Arts Celebration, have originated through recommendations by community advisors.
- Collaborating with community-based organizations on diversity initiatives. The Graduate Opportunities and Minority Achievement Program has collaborated with the Seattle Urban Enterprise Center to sponsor community dialogues about race in the “It’s Time to Talk” series. Faculty in the Law, Societies, and Justice Program speak frequently with community groups on such topics as racial disparities in police interactions, Islamic cultural and religious issues, Middle East policy issues, women’s rights, and Latino community concerns. American Ethnic Studies has collaborated with Seattle Public Schools to tailor a series of courses for professional development opportunities for SPS employees, and the Curriculum in Action Program’s science faculty support continued education of science teachers across the state. Working through the UW Office of Educational Partnerships and Learning Technologies, the Center for the Study of the Pacific Northwest has joined with Indian tribes to develop new learning materials and cultural facilities.
- Connecting faculty, alumni, students, and community members to support community development. The Business School’s Business Economic Development Program partners with the Business Department at Heritage College to assist small businesses in the Yakima Valley. The Office of Educational Partnerships and Learning Technologies creates opportunities for community-based learning and research, such as a virtual center that uses a community-based approach to collect cultural histories on the Olympic Peninsula.
- Promoting social justice and economic vitality through partnerships between UW and community members across the state. The Northwest/Alaska Center to Reduce Oral Health Disparities focuses on populations with limited access to health care. The Center for Environment, Education, and Design Studies has brought UW students into engagement with children and adults to design their own schools and communities, especially those distanced from the mainstream due to poverty, race, or ethnicity.
Challenges and Recommendations
- Continuing to build, sustain, and coordinate relationships with diverse communities throughout the region. These relationships would benefit further from a comprehensive plan, working principles and criteria for building effective relationships. Units that provide services to external communities would benefit from reexamining the dynamics of expertise and privilege to develop empowering models of community engagement.
- Making long-term commitments to community projects and avoiding serial and overlapping efforts. Communities sometimes report that promising efforts disappear when funding ends and that several University initiatives may overlap without coordination in the same area or community. A thorough assessment of community outreach efforts, including community satisfaction with programs, would guide resource allocation and coordination of efforts.
- Honoring community-based expertise. The University would benefit from expanding opportunities for engaging diverse community experts into teaching and research settings through appropriate appointments.
- Providing seed grants for community-based initiatives. Based on reports of programs that have effectively served communities, such as community scholars programs that use community expertise effectively and serve communities, greater development of programs is a wise investment.
- Improving public awareness of effective programs. The University should create a publication that features the University’s diversity outreach efforts, including issues of community-based research, community development and social justice.