Like CU Anshutz, the University of Colorado Denver and Regis University have embraced their roles as community anchors. Both institutions are developing strategies to benefit surrounding neighborhoods through inclusive hiring and investment practices, robust community engagement, and constant education about the realities and impact of economic and racial inequity.
Both CU Denver and Regis University are members of the Anchor Institution Learning Cohort, which brings leaders together to share learning in an emerging field. Across the country, anchor institutions are a growing focus of place-based community and economic development. For example, with support from the Democracy Collaborative and the Coalition of Urban Metropolitan Universities, six universities in Ohio, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Missouri recently pledged to develop "anchor missions" to address social, economic, and educational equity issues.
At CU Denver, the state's only urban university, community engagement will begin with outreach to neighborhoods that surround Auraria Campus. These communities include Sun Valley, Barnum, and Mariposa, all low-income, high-density areas with large populations of immigrants, refugees, and other people of color.
According to Nolbert Chavez, CU's Chief of External Initiatives, CU wants to serve these communities as a "front door"-- to jobs, to education, and to a welcoming place on a campus that sits where working-class, mostly Latino families once lived.
At Regis University, building relationships with and greater understanding of the individuals and families in north Denver and Westminster is in full alignment with the Jesuit tradition that underpins the school's work. Under the direction of President Father John P. Fitzgibbons, Regis is leading an active listening effort to identify community needs and desires, as a first step to program development and collaboration. The promise of the work to come is suggested by Regis' involvement with Aria, an affordable housing development with community gardens and wellness programs that Regis supports financially and with volunteer service.
"It's very much a part of our tradition to get our research and information from the local community we're in," says Father Fitzgibbons. "We really want to know: What are the issues here? How do we work and help find the right solutions? When we talk about Regis as an anchor, we're really talking about an articulation of our mission, on a very local level."
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