Community partnerships across the Washington State University system will take center stage during a virtual Community Engagement Summit on Friday, May 14, at 10 a.m.

Ryan Lazo, the community partnerships coordinator at the Center for Civic Engagement (CCE), said the summit has three main objectives: to share community engagement success stories; to facilitate networking and potential partnerships between WSU representatives, nonprofit organizations, and community leaders, including elected officials; and to educate participants on best practices for community engagement.

“The summit will bring these individuals together virtually to learn from one another and discuss what community challenges we can tackle together,” Lazo said.

CCE organized the summit in partnership with WSU’s Community Engagement Network, a group of representatives from all six campuses and WSU Extension. The Community Engagement Network was created to develop collaboration across the WSU system; support systemwide teaching, learning, and scholarship; and establish impactful community-based partnerships.

The WSU community is invited to participate in the summit and can register on the CCE website.

Showcasing community partnerships

Summit participants will discover there are many successful community engagement projects taking place across the WSU system.

Corrie Wilder, a scholarly assistant professor and director of marketing & communications at WSU Everett, will talk about the Take Flight Snohomish County Initiative that is helping meet the growing need for skilled aerospace and advanced manufacturing workers. Students in her communications course worked to create an integrated strategic communication plan to drive people to a new website that connects the community with job and networking opportunities.

WSU Spokane Nursing Associate Professor Kay Olson will team up with a representative from the Martin Luther King, Jr. Family Outreach Center in Spokane to share how they worked with community partners to vaccinate communities of color against COVID-19 in areas that lack access to quality healthcare.

Brian Anderson, a research coordinator in WSU Extension, will discuss how faculty worked with community partners to increase broadband access in dozens of Washington towns. He will also describe how their work to create drive-up Wi-Fi service at many Extension locations inspired the State Broadband Office to engage other partners and establish more than 600 other drive-up Wi-Fi locations across the state.

A seat at the table

Because each WSU campus and Extension office is actively engaged in creating community partnerships, it is critical that each has a seat at the summit’s table.

“I think many participants will say ‘Oh wow, I didn’t know WSU Everett is doing so many cool things in the community,’” said Mark Beattie, associate vice chancellor for academic and student affairs at WSU Everett. “People will gain new insights and new appreciation for everything WSU is doing in our communities.”

Verónica Puente, director of student equity, leadership, and community at WSU Spokane, said partnerships may look different on each campus, but the mission to help communities is always at the core of each one.

“The summit allows us to come together to discuss our common goal of providing service in our communities, which is especially important as a land-grant university,” she said.

As articulated in the university’s strategic plan, the land-grant mission of providing access to teaching, research, and service is central to the work of all WSU departments systemwide. With offices located in each county of Washington State, WSU Extension has embodied the land-grant principles for over 100 years.

“This is a great opportunity for us to recruit new allies,” said Michael Gaffney, director of WSU Extension’s Community & Economic Development Unit. “Having more interaction with on-campus faculty, and learning from their knowledge, will help us accomplish our mission.”