Advance the Field

The Youth Initiative focuses on connecting Seattle U and its local neighborhoods and is also having a national impact. Lessons learned locally are influencing other universities and communities.

Over the past several years, the Center for Community Engagement has hosted a series of national institutes attended by teams from over 25 universities across the United States and Canada. These institutes build community and create a space to share best practices among colleges and universities engaged in place-based efforts like the Youth Initiative.

Building upon these gatherings and with support from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the Center for Community Engagement is creating a cohesive national network - the Place-Based Justice Network. 


Place-Based Justice Network Logo


The Place-Based Justice Network includes:

  • An annual national institute for university teams to plan for and/or expand their place-based community engagement approach.
  • Video conference Zoom calls exploring topics such as school partnerships, racial equity, the role of faculty, evaluation, and fund development strategies.
  • Small group gatherings for leaders of place-based community engagement.
  • Resources and tools to inform place-based strategies and activities including a new book (Stylus April 2018) Place-Based Community Engagement in Higher Education: A Strategy to Transform Universities and Communities

To build community, share best practices and develop relationships with other colleges and universities engaged in parallel work, over the past three years the Center for Community Engagement has hosted a series of convenings in collaboration with over 25 universities across the United States and Canada. We have formalized these gatherings by creating and facilitating a more cohesive national network: the Place-Based Justice Network.  

To learn more or join an upcoming call or gathering, please see our webpage or contact Kent Koth, Executive Director of the Center for Community Engagement.  

group photo of PBJN leaders  gathering at University of San Diego, December 2016


National Recognition 

Seattle U has long been recognized for academic excellence. The Youth Initiative has put us on the map in another way, garnering high honors and interest nationwide as a model of university-led community engagement. Through the high awareness of the Youth Initiative, we’re able to share what we’ve learned on a bigger stage, serving as a model for universities seeking new ways to engage with their communities.

  • In 2017, the Center for Community Engagement launched the Place-Based Justice Network: Faith-Based Institutions of Higher Education Engaged in their Own Communities 
  • In 2012, the White House honored Seattle U with the Presidential Award for Community Service, the highest recognition by the federal government to a college or university for its civic engagement, service learning and volunteerism. In 2013, the Youth Initiative made the President’s Higher Education Honor Roll with Distinction for community service. cohort
  • Seattle University has been recognized as one of the top 25 universities for service learning by U.S. News and World Report
  • The Carnegie Foundation selected Seattle U for its Community Engagement Classification.

Community engagement as defined by The Carnegie Foundation, “describes collaboration between institutions of higher education and their larger communities (local, regional/state, national, global) for the mutually beneficial exchange of knowledge and resources in a context of partnership and reciprocity. The purpose of community engagement is the partnership of college and university knowledge and resources with those of the public and private sectors to enrich scholarship, research, and creative activity; enhance curriculum, teaching and learning; prepare educated, engaged citizens; strengthen democratic values and civic responsibility; address critical societal issues; and contribute to the public good.”

Read more about lessons learned from the Seattle University Youth Initiative.  

“Seattle University is onto something big. The Youth Initiative underscores the original role of higher education in America as the university informs and is informed by the concerns and opportunities of society.” —Joel Zylstra, Director of Community Engagement and Service, Pacific Lutheran University