Bridging Town and Gown: Looking Beyond Academic Credentials

In today’s competitive marketplace academic credentials are not enough. Recruiting educators, administrators, faculty and staff with a history of community engagement can create a double win for your campus. Members of the campus community who participate in the local community are an asset. They help bridge the gap between “town and gown” and can help attract students, resources, funding, partnership opportunities, and goodwill.

Members of the campus community are ambassadors and dispel misconceptions about a disengaged college or university when they serve on boards, volunteer their time and talent, and help other organizations and institutions meet their goals. They help attract students when they personally invite community members to campus events. New employees meet individuals and families and begin to become part of a community that may be new to them, reducing feelings of isolation.

A healthy campus and community relationship offers personal, professional, and networking opportunities to employees at all levels. A healthy reciprocal relationship also strengthens the institution’s standing in ways that impact fundraising – an all important institutional priority.

Here are 10 things a recruitment officer can do to strengthen community relations.

  1. Partner with the Advancement Department to create How to be an ideal volunteer workshop and handbook. Most advancement departments have extensive experirence engaging and managing volunteers.
  2. Include information on volunteer opportunities in new employee packages.
  3. Highlight volunteers and their service in campus publications.
  4. Meet with members of leading non-profits to learn about how they impact the local community, what their needs are, and how campus employees can help.
  5. Encourage non-profits to actively recruit faculty and staff to volunteer. Facilitate meetings between nonp-profit leaders and select faculty, staff and administrators with specific skills and connections that can make a differernce.
  6. Ask your president or chancellor to create a culture that encourages top administrators and faculty to serve on local boards and provide technical assistance.
  7. Encourage faculty to attend local events and participate in organizations related to their discipline.
  8. Identify campus ambassadors who can help relocating employees connect with individuals and leaders within the community.
  9. Offer incentives, awards, and recognition to campus members who are engaged with the local community.
  10. When recruiting and interviewing ask applicants about their community service experience. Let them know from the beginning that it is valued at your institution.

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