Go Bold Together: Civic Action Planning in Moorhead

May 27, 2016

“Go bold together.” That’s the invitation in Campus Compact’s guide to Civic Action Planning. Twenty-five Minnesota presidents and chancellors have so far signed the national action statement that calls on campuses to deepen their community engagement efforts for deeper impact. On May 24th, one of those presidents, Anne Blackhurst of Minnesota State University Moorhead, welcomed teams at MNCC’s first day-long Civic Action Planning Session:

Though we represent different institutions, with different missions, both public and private, I know we all share a belief in the transformative power of higher education.

We believe that higher education has the power to transform the lives of our students, their families, and their communities.  More than that, we believe it is the purpose of higher education to create that transformation.

[At MSUM] we view the Civic Action Planning process as an excellent opportunity to integrate our three strategic anchors: student achievement, diversity and inclusion, and being indispensable to the communities we serve.  We know that our students’ learning will be most powerful when it requires the application of knowledge to solving important community problems.  And we know that, today more than ever, our students want and need an education that prepares them to make an impact on our world.”

The teams from Bemidji State University and Concordia College also sought to build on their institutions’ strengths and priorities, e.g., Bemidji State’s sustainability and new Best You at BSU initiatives, and Concordia’s Integrative Learning and PEAK (Pivotal Experiences in Applied Knowledge) requirements. The interactive day gave teams time to delve into their own work and context, then exchange ideas and feedback with the others.

Participants included leaders from athletics, community outreach, faculty development, residence life, and wellness, as well as faculty in biosciences, mathematics, English, psychology, and sociology. Their varied perspectives proved valuable—and, as they “planned to plan,” they identified many more stakeholders to engage in civic action planning, both internal (e.g., students, advancement and marketing staff) and external (e.g., key community partners, residents, city and tribal government leaders).

Liz Kuoppala, a member of the MNCC board with connections to both Moorhead and Bemidji, contributed to the team exchange. As a nonprofit leader committed to improving the lives of low-income Minnesotans, she said she found the energy and ideas inspiring. Themes of social change, equity and inclusion resonated, and cross-cultural work was clearly a shared priority. Whether imagining building trust, understanding, and collaborative relationships with Native American or new American neighbors, teams aimed to engage the full diversity of northwestern Minnesota and prepare students (and themselves) to work effectively across differences.

Additional teams will have opportunities to reflect and strategize together in the months ahead: June 14th at Augsburg College, June 29th at Winona State University, August 10th at the University of Minnesota Morris, and August 17th at the University of St. Thomas. With questions or to express interest in participating, please contact Julie Plaut at julie {at} mncampuscompact(.)org.