Friday, August 20, 2010

University Partnerships

In my 14 months at Cabrini Connections and the Tutor/Mentor Connection, I have seen a host of university students contribute to our successes. In May, I spotlighted many of our interns here. Since then we have welcomed two interns from Hong Kong Baptist University and two summer volunteers from DePaul University. Jenny and Willow (above) reached out to the Chinese community and helped promote the Tutor/Mentor Jam. Chris (below) and Damien have been streamlining our computer lab in preparation for the 2010-2011 tutoring year. (I should also note that they have gone above and beyond in helping staff and students with tech-related issues. Thanks, guys!)

All of this gets me thinking... What would a full-fledged university partnership look like? What if a college or university - not just one department or one program - "adopted" a tutor/mentor program? Their alumni association could be responsible for recruiting a certain number of volunteers each year. Departments of the school could develop resources for core subjects like math, reading, and writing. Facilities of the school could be provided for programming and special events. Fundraisers could be sponsored by the university and supported by the development office. A scholarship could be awarded to the top senior in the program each year. The possibilities are endless!

At CC, T/MC, we appreciate of all the work interns have done for us. We are better off as an organization because of it. But I hope universities will start to think critically about what more they can do, either in their surrounding communities or with organizations that they already have ties to. My alma mater, Northwestern University, has connected four graduates to us for staff positions over the last four years through its Public Interest Program. Cabrini Connections had 10 volunteer tutor/mentors last year who are alumni of NU. The Freshman Urban Program, a pre-orientation activity for incoming freshman at NU, visits our center each September to work on a project. Could all of this be part of an official partnership which expands and excels and is beneficial for both parties over time? I think so.

Here is a reflection from our president, Dan Bassill, about this very idea. My predecessor, Chris Warren, wrote about this topic, too. I also suggest you skim through our ABC University presentation which outlines many parts of this vision. Colleges and universities do seem to be taking a greater interest in community service and engagement in the 21st century. Well, we are taking a greater interest in them as well. Let's get together and make it happen!

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