The Art of Convening: How Community Engagement Professionals Build Place-Based Community-University Partnerships for Systemic Change

Paul J. Kuttner, Kara Byrne, Kimberly Schmit, Sarah Munro


Over the past 50 years, colleges and universities have taken on increasingly important roles as anchor institutions in U.S. cities, partnering with local communities to promote development and well-being. Such community–campus partnerships rely on the work of community engagement professionals (CEPs), staff tasked with administering, coordinating, supporting, and leading engagement efforts at institutions of higher education. The preliminary competency model for community engagement professionals (Dostilio et al., 2016) lays out the knowledge, skills, dispositions, and commitments needed to perform this work. However, place-based approaches to engagement have been underrepresented in the emerging literature. The authors contribute to this conversation with a case study of partnership management work at University Neighborhood Partners at the University of Utah. Through this case, we highlight key competencies for engaging in place-based community development, suggest additional competency areas for the model, and explore how an understanding of CEP competencies is enriched and complicated by staff positionality.

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