9/11/2012: Impact of Anchors, Part 1: Institutional Perspective. Guest Speaker: Amanda Wittman

In upcoming weeks, the class will be visiting Somerville City Hall and Somerville Community Corporation. Advantages to meeting at their places, rather than having them visit our class, include an enhanced opportunity for us to see their places of work as well as allowing them more flexibility. Often, our lecturers will appreciate these visits as an opportunity for them to reflect on their work.

Why do so many of Tufts partnerships focus on Somerville rather than Medford? Question for Mary Jaka and others in upcoming weeks. Some possibilities: more need in Somerville, richer nonprofit landscape, more economic diversity. After history of strife between Somerville and Tufts, Somerville government will often directly approach Tufts for collaboration.

Importance of time in establishing community/anchor partnerships: MIT/Lawrence partnership began rocky, with distrust on both sides. Lawrence Community Works was a crucial partner, with staff who were MIT alumni. Many projects begin with skepticism on both sides, creates need for clear communication and setting realistic goals. 

Discussion of readings (see reading list below):

Feels similar to discussions in negotiation classes. How can anchors offer positives to cancel out potential negatives? Not just tax money. People whose lives are attached to anchors also affect communities.
What would it be like if anchors embraced these negotiation techniques? How to make the “pie” bigger and perceive resources as being abundant rather than scarce? Many resources embodied by these institutions, as illustrated by Appleseed piece.

What is difference b/w university that engages in community and one that doesn’t? Upenn as example of exemplar institution. That kind of engagement doesn’t happen easily, requires work on both sides.

What will be role of smaller institutions? In UPenn case, community orgs key.
Many students in the class are  interested in smaller institutions.
Small institutions rarely included in literature, badly needed contribution.

Dr. Amanda Wittman—Director of Academic and Strategic Initiatives, Campus Compact

Higher ed in its traditional form is an anchor institution. Higher ed has a public purpose. Not just for students. Comes from history, moral land grant, providing engaged, active students. Civic engagement is way to become an anchor.

Stakeholders: community and students. Vision statement includes these stakeholders, but doesn’t provide comprehensive definition of being an anchor. Coalition of Urban and Metropolitan Universities has a more specific definition of the role of the university as an anchor.

How do anchor institutions function in more rural areas? Several members of class provided examples of anchors in Maine and New Hampshire–a common theme is that the anchor often serves a much larger area than simply the surrounding community.

New publication from Campus Compact looks at success stories throughout the country, examines the ways that higher ed and community economic development interact. Many case studies are examined.

How many schools have a department dedicated to this purpose?  Most have a related office (e.g. Community Relations), but not one so specific. Very important to have a team approach to community projects.

Need for capacity-building. How can anchor institutions help to build that capacity while being a resource and not a burden? Risk of wasting huge pool of talent?

Must be true collaboration between both groups, negotiation, very clear idea of exactly what the community needs. Helpful when initiative is the community’s idea. Very clear idea of return on investment, etc.

Example of any universities with very solid buy-in from students/staff? Often most effective in smaller schools. One school put in place a one-on-one faculty mentor program. Often, institutional practices very important, e.g. giving staff paid days off to perform service.

Origins of non-profit status for universities: supposed to be engaged in a greater level of community public service. Could be a tool for political pressure for universities to do more. Public universities generally perform higher levels of service than private.

What next, after this study? Answering continuing questions, improving assessment tools and resources, incorporating concepts of engaged learning communities into campus communities. Conference on innovation and civic engagement. Bridging cultures through community-based learning



Ruthleiser, C. (2011). “The Promise and Prospects of Anchor Institutions: Some Thoughts on an Emerging Field.” PD&R EDGE HUD User, Pp. 1-2.

Maurasse, D. (2007). “Leveraging Anchor Institutions for Urban Success.” CEOs for Cities, 1-28.

Appleseed, Inc. (2003). “Engines of Economic Growth: The Economic Impact of Boston’s Eight Research Universities on the Metropolitan Boston Area.” Report Summary, Pp. 1-12.

“The Role and Impact of Colleges and Universities in Greater Boston Today.” Report of the Carol R. Goldberg Seminar. http://www.tbf.org/tbfgen1.asp?id=1705

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