By Earl H. Potter III, President of St. Cloud State University and Minnesota Campus Compact board member
This post is excerpted from: “To a higher degree: SCSU is committed to community partnerships,” St. Cloud Times, Sunday July 25, 2010
Across America, colleges and universities are seeking collaboration with their communities to address issues that affect us all. St. Cloud State is a committed participant in this movement.
When I arrived in St. Cloud three years ago, I encountered city leaders who understood the university exists within the community and the well-being of one affects that of the other. These leaders did not simply talk about partnership; they acted on what they believed.
Neighborhood residents and property owners, leaders in business and the arts and a host of others have joined in strengthening “town-and-gown” partnerships that are making this a better, more enjoyable and safer community. It doesn’t hurt that many of these partners, including the mayor, are alumni of St. Cloud State.
St. Cloud State makes a difference in Central Minnesota, and together we can increase the value of the university’s contributions.
The “Welcome Back Students” campaign we began three years ago has focused attention on the positive impact students have on the community, providing a solid labor pool and contributing significantly to the region’s economy.
Our students also enrich the community with a variety of outreach activities. St. Cloud State students invest an estimated 1.5 million hours annually in volunteer work on campus and in community organizations including Boys & Girls Clubs, Habitat for Humanity and area nursing homes.
Faculty and staff also make significant contributions as leaders and participants in the arts and a variety of local organizations.
In return, it is clear there are multiple benefits for universities to engage in community building, problem solving and knowledge sharing with their communities.
The greatest may be the example these outreach activities sets for our students. They come to St. Cloud State for their education, but a significant part of that education is gained beyond the perimeters of campus — learning how to live responsibly with neighbors and to make smart choices about their lives. Many of these opportunities are found in their jobs, their activities and their relationships off campus.
Increasing numbers of students are participating in the campus U-Choose and city’s Impact Diversion Programs to help them make legal, healthy and safe choices about alcohol use.
Students selected to provide leadership for the Husky Neighbors Program are building better relations between students and their south side community neighbors.
At St. Cloud State, we have been actively assessing the value and strength of our community partnerships. The university has invited leaders of civic and charitable organizations to participate in our second “Celebration of Community Partners: Moving Forward” on Aug. 17. We plan to host these important discussions every six months in the coming years.
All of these initiatives strengthen established relationships and create opportunities for new ones, helping us meet the needs of students preparing for a world of big challenges and bigger opportunities.