Unpacking Our History and Rebuilding for the Future

Over the past few months, the staff of the Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island Campus Compacts have been actively working on our new organizational structure: Campus Compact for Southern New England.  The transition work has varied from high-level systems thinking to the more menial scanning, shredding, and packing of our state-based offices.  Although I am grateful for the multiple hands helping with this process, I am even more grateful that I’ve had time to review the physical and electronic files, artifacts, and memorabilia of our three states.

As I open boxes and sort through our files, I am quickly reminded what the strength of our coalition has always been: our people.  From the forming of these three Compacts by local presidents to the hundreds of programs offered over the years, none of this would have come to fruition if not for the people who make up our coalition.  Each activity required a combination of member campus representatives and Compact staff to make it happen, and the campus executives, faculty, staff, and students who contributed their talents to these various activities have advanced the work and amplified the impacts across our hundred plus member campuses.  

Partnership is at the core of civic and community engagement, and I know from my own experience with the Compact as a member representative and now as a staff member that our best activities always included input and leadership from our community partners.  Our work on statewide partnerships with our State Service Commissions and large scale non-profits have positioned us to deepen higher education’s involvement with local, state, or regional coalitions and Collective Impact initiatives. Our three state Compacts have long standing relationship with the Corporation for National and Community Service which has allowed us to leverage tens of millions of dollars in federal resources to support campus-based VISTA and AmeriCorps programs which have been crucial to building public service and engagement infrastructure and initiatives.  Forging strategic relationships with various public sector partners has allowed us to be part of critical statewide efforts such as enhancing state-level civic health, expanding K-12 partnerships, and increasing post-secondary educational attainment especially for first generation, low-income, students of color.  

Our communities and our democracy are in dire need of citizens and leaders who are prepared to collaborate to address the critical issues such as economic inequality, racial divides, personal and community health, and environmental sustainability.  I believe that higher education needs to be at the table, ready to engage in deep and meaningful ways that continue to transform both the community and the academy.  I can’t predict what our future will be, but I do know that these core components of our history – people and partnerships – are both our strongest legacy as well as the building blocks on which we will construct our coalition’s future.

Matt Farley is the Regional Director of Campus Compact for Southern New England. Prior to this role, he served as the Executive Director of Connecticut Campus Compact and Director of Community Outreach at the University of Connecticut. He’s been in the Compact network as a member and staff for twenty years.