diversity digest
Summer 01
Campus-Community Connections
next story
previous story
previous issue
institution profiles
recommended resources
diversity web

Strengthening Campus-Community Connections Within Immigrant Communities
By Daniel Hiroyuki Teraguchi, Program and Research Associate, Association of American Colleges and Universities

Forming connections between a campus and its neighboring communities is an important part of civic and diversity learning in higher education. With new immigrants accounting for over half of the total U.S. population growth, campuses are challenged to develop meaningful partnerships with communities of people who may not be able to communicate effectively in English, who do not have the ability to voice and defend their civil rights, and who often are not empowered to build their communities.

In order to play a democratizing role, higher education must examine the kinds of connections that an institution can make with immigrant communities and how those connections can help develop civic values and practices in students as well as in immigrant populations.

Shared Leadership

An important step in creating successful campus-community connections across cultures is establishing shared leadership. The College of Public and Community Service (CPCS) at the University of Massachusetts Boston (UMass Boston) is one example of a partnership in which campus and community respect each other and have equal authority. CPCS houses the Center for Immigrant & Refugee Community Leadership and Empowerment (CIRCLE), which was also established at two additional University of Massachusetts' campuses, Amherst and Lowell. In collaboration with all three campuses, CIRCLE works to design and implement leadership development programs with the state's refugee and immigrant communities.

The CIRCLE partnership at UMass Boston is grounded in four principles for shared leadership:

  • enabling the community and campus to build a curriculum together that fits the needs of the community;
  • sharing resources by allowing community-based organizations to serve as adjunct field instructors who offer courses, workshops, or internships on site and off campus and setting up tuition waivers for community members who wish to enroll in a degree program;
  • joint advising, which involves program participants and representatives in planning and evaluating CIRCLE's activities and priorities; and
  • listening to recommendations from the community that contribute to the ongoing transformation of the university.

Each of these principles helps establish a partnership in which the campus and community can develop shared goals and respectful relationships that lead to social transformation.

Enhancing Citizenship

In addition to sustaining shared leadership, campus-community partnerships need to address civic values and practices for new immigrant groups. Full civic participation in the U.S. often begins with citizenship. Citizenship gives immigrants new civil and legal rights, which include the opportunity to vote and to participate in the political process.

While some campus initiatives work to help immigrants pass the citizenship test, many naturalized immigrants tend not to vote. Often, immigrants acquire fundamental political values in their homeland and continue to be more concerned with events in their country of origin, so they do not register to vote in U.S. elections.

In order to address this problem, the Jane Addams School for Democracy (JAS) in collaboration with the College of St. Catherine and the University of Minnesota, instills deeper civic values and practices by pairing high school and college students with Hmong and Latino/a immigrants to learn together about citizenship and democracy. This partnership provides a context for students to learn about immigrant cultures and new immigrants begin to gain critical voting mass to strengthen their own communities by challenging unfair and restrictive political practices and policies. JAS, located in St. Paul, Minnesota, is particularly important to the city's Hmong population with its extremely different cultural and sociopolitical background. While voting in itself does not define citizenship, it does provide opportunities for new immigrant communities to discover cross-cultural strategies to advance their social and political rights.

Ultimately, U.S. society benefits from campus-community partnerships through educating and preparing a generation of leaders to address community issues and to live with people from a variety of backgrounds. As colleges and their surrounding communities become equal partners in a pluralistic society, higher education becomes better able to create more democratic structures and to contribute to a more equal society.

SOURCE Arches, Joan, Darlington-Hope, et al. "New Voices in University-Community Transformation." Change (January/February 1997) 36–41.

back to top

Photo of Santa Ana students