University of Delaware
Dan Rich and Lynnette Overby are leading a new initiative at UD to affirm and expand the institution's commitment to community engagement.

Community engagement

New initiative expands commitment to community engagement

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8:05 a.m., Feb. 8, 2016--A new initiative at the University of Delaware will affirm and expand the institution's commitment to community engagement, Provost Domenico Grasso has announced. 

Leading the charge are Dan Rich, who will serve as director of community engagement, and Lynnette Overby, who will be deputy director. This initiative builds on the accomplishments that have earned UD the Community Engagement classification from the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching in 2015. 

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Rich, University Professor of Public Policy and a former provost and dean, is known for his work on the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission, a group aiming to strengthen Wilmington public education. 

Overby is a professor of theatre and was recently elected to the Council on Engagement and Outreach Executive Committee of the Association for Public and Land Grant Universities. She led the UD Community Engagement Commission in helping Delaware become officially recognized by the Carnegie Foundation in 2015.

“The initiative,” said Rich, “will seek to strengthen civic and community engagement in ways that enrich the scholarship and learning of University faculty and students and help to address challenges facing the communities we serve at all levels, local to global.”

Both see listening as the first step in their leadership roles — listening to stakeholders within the UD campus community and to communities and their citizens in Delaware and beyond. Rich and Overby will help coordinate the work UD is already doing throughout many programs and efforts, help shape the strategy for campus community interaction and use that information to define processes for measurement and success.

The pillars of this new undertaking are explicitly spelled out in the strategic plan, Delaware Will Shine, which lists community engagement among its five strategic initiatives. DWS calls for Delaware to “expand its status as a Carnegie engaged university in both character and scope.” 

“We would like to see community engagement, including civic engagement, be part of the signature of a University of Delaware education,” Rich said. 

“Because part of the process of learning, part of the process of becoming an excellent scholar is recognizing how the knowledge you obtain can and should be used to strengthen the communities where you live and work.” 

“The amazing work we accomplished under the Community Engagement Commission will continue to inform us as we initiate this process,” Overby said. “The commission will also be a great resource as we collectively shape the future at the University of Delaware.”

Trustee and UD alumnus Tony Allen said, in support of the initiative, “Dan is tireless in his pursuits, dogged in his analysis and true to his authentic self.”

Overall, the new community engagement initiative extends a rich and continuing legacy, as Delaware has long been an engaged university: 

• As a land grant institution, public and community service has been a central part of the university’s mission for 150 years. 

• As the First State’s flagship higher education institution, the University contributes to improving the quality of life of Delawareans in virtually every area of community well-being, from education to health and from the arts to the environment.  

• More than half of UD’s student population participates in service learning, community-based research and volunteer projects, accumulating more than 225,000 hours of their time serving communities in Delaware, across the nation and around the world.

• Three times UD has been named to the Honor Roll with Distinction, the highest federal recognition a university can achieve for its commitment to volunteerism, service learning and civic engagement. 

“This initiative is really part of a two-way conversation, bridging our knowledge and assets as a University with the needs of the communities around us, and aligning them for mutual benefit and a more improved society,” said Overby.

Article by Jawanza Ali Keita

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