SHSU 'Gathers' Universities For 'Engaging' Discussion
Dec. 14, 2015
SHSU Media Contact: Chelsea Keller
Sam Houston State University is increasingly playing a key role in the development of the Huntsville community, and with the academic community engagement programs growing across campus, two SHSU professors recently reached out to other Texas universities to start a conversation about community engagement.
Joyce McCauley and Lee Miller, co-directors for the SHSU Center for Community Engagement, hosted “The Gathering” on community engagement, bringing together center directors from 17 universities across Texas, with teams from as far away as El Paso and Brownsville attending.
Among those welcoming the participants to the opening dinner were SHSU Provost Jaimie Hebert, representatives from the SHSU deans’ offices and other administrators, Huntsville Mayor Mac Woodward, a number of community members, and university faculty.
“There were no meetings for universities with community engagement initiatives in Texas, so we thought it would be a good time to start one,” McCauley said. “Many universities are collaborating in innovative ways with their communities, and we wanted to learn from them, exchange information, and create a state network of professionals focused on building mutually-beneficial partnerships with the communities we serve.”
“The purpose of 'The Gathering' was to meet each other and to share knowledge, challenges and ideas,” said Miller. “With this goal in mind, the event was casual—no powerpoints or formal speakers, but lots of small group interaction to promote networking and rich discussions.”
“SAM began as a teacher’s college in 1879, and even then had the mission of community engagement,” McCauley said. “It is in our DNA as a university to work to improve the well-being of our community.”
The results of "The Gathering" were impressive, according to McCauley.
“The participants remarked about the power of ‘sustained conversations.’ They seemed to relish the opportunity for talking and interacting with so many people,” she said. “One director commented that The Gathering ‘fostered openness and great discussion from both academic and practitioner perspectives.’”
The group plans to meet at least once annually to share information about best practices and collaborate to strengthen community engagement initiatives across the state.
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