Established in 2009 as a broad-based campus/community initiative, the Partnership Council consists of a group of diverse community members who are recruited on the basis of the “uniqueness” that each member’s own community connections bring to the council as a whole. Members serve not solely as representatives of particular groups, but rather as “connectors” who draw from their unique personal and professional networks in the community to explore, consult, and support proposals for civic engagement. Functioning as a channel for relationship building, faculty, students, and community organizations submit online proposals through a web-based portal. Proposals are then forwarded to Council members who review them at a monthly meeting. People who submit the proposals then engage in dialogue with the Council, during which potential community partners are uncovered and discovered. What distinguishes the Partnership Council from other committees is its role in utilizing local knowledge for the purpose of connecting people with ideas to needs or assets in the community that might help to turn those ideas into reciprocal campus-community partnerships. This mission has worked extremely well over the last two years. In the first year of its existence, the Partnership Council reviewed 30 proposals around both service-learning and co-curricular service. Of these proposals, 17 were either community or student initiated. Thirteen of the proposals were faculty-submitted service-learning partner inquiries. In only four of the 30 cases were partnerships not found. The campus/community partnerships that did form in 2009-2010 through the assistance of the Partnership Council helped engage over 400 Gustavus students and faculty in meaningful and intentional ways with our local St. Peter community. At present, the Council consists of 11 members including individuals associated with Gustavus, the St. Peter Chamber and business community, the St. Peter schools, Parks and Recreation, Nicollet County Historical Society, the faith-based community, the City of St. Peter, and Nicollet County Social Services. What is noteworthy about Council members is that they serve freely and openly on behalf of our community at large. They receive no form of compensation or incentive other than to provide a service to others by helping those interested in becoming civically engaged “navigate” the community in ways that are intentional and purposeful. Perhaps more important, is the opportunity through the Partnership Council for members to have voice and agency in ways that are supportive of others interests and needs. That voice and agency builds trust, good will, and community in and of itself. The Partnership Council embodies and models what true, reciprocal partnerships are all about.
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