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Seattle University

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Strengthening Partnerships

Written by Mike Thee
January 11, 2011

The Winter 2011 edition of Community Connections is out. Now in its fifth issue, the quarterly publication was launched in the fall of 2009 as another way to strengthen SU’s partnerships with its surrounding neighborhood and invite community members to participate in the events and programs of the university. 

SU’s partnerships with its neighbors, by all indications, are strengthening. In October, SU ranked #14 out of 373 universities on The Princeton Review’s list of best town-gown relations, based on student surveys from hundreds of campuses nationwide. This month it was announced that SU is included in the Carnegie Foundation’s Community Engagement Classification, a designation earned by institutions that demonstrate an exemplary commitment to connecting the classroom, campus and community.   

Of course the linchpin of SU’s community engagement is the Seattle University Youth Initiative (SUYI), through which the university is collaborating with partners in its immediate neighborhood to improve educational opportunities for local youths. 

Community Connections was actually in the works even before the Youth Initiative came onto the scene. It was conceived by the university’s Community Relations Committee, which meets regularly and includes representatives from Facilities, Public Safety, Student Development, Marketing Communications and Executive Vice President Tim Leary. The idea was to highlight the university’s community engagement efforts, including but certainly not limited to those spearheaded by the Center for Service and Community Engagement. The publication is created by Marketing Communications staff, primarily its editor, Annie Beckmann, in consultation with the committee. 

The Commons recently sat down with Leary to learn more about the impetus and purpose of Community Connections

The Commons:  What was the rationale for creating Community Connections

Tim Leary:  As part of our effort to more fully engage and partner with the community, we thought it made sense to do a newsletter of some sort. The publication dovetails nicely with the Seattle University Youth Initiative and gives us the opportunity to enhance our ability to talk about the strengthening partnerships with our neighbors. 

What we’ve tried to do is keep each issue simple. On the cover, we highlight stories that speak to how SU is engaging the community. Inside, we highlight a local organization or business or individual person with whom we partner as well as feature someone at SU—either a faculty, staff or student, or an alumnus in the neighborhood—who is making a difference in the community. 

The Commons:   I see there’s also a list of upcoming events in each issue. 

TL:  Yes, and these are selected carefully. We didn’t want it to become a kiosk that’s chock so full of programs and events that nothing stands out, but rather we try to highlight a few programs that will be of general interest to our neighbors. What I really like about our most recent issue is that it not only highlights some upcoming events, but it very clearly invites people in the community to participate in our programs. It says, “We want you to be here.” 

The Commons: Can you talk about how the newsletter is distributed? 

TL: Our Public Safety staff takes the lead in distributing the newsletter to key locations in the Central District and our Seattle University Youth Initiative catchment area. An awful lot of issues are handed out at various programs or events in the neighborhood. It’s more of a targeted, hand-to-hand thing. We didn’t want to print thousands of these and have them end up in the streets. We try to connect with people who would find the publication most meaningful. 

The Commons: What kind of feedback have you gotten on the publication so far? 

TL:  A lot of people I hand it to say, “Wow, this is a classy piece. It looks like you spent time on it and it matters.” I’ve looked around at similar publications at other institutions and I don’t think there’s a finer one out there. It’s extremely well written, concise and colorful.