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Colin Powell School for Civic and Global Leadership

Teaching Nonprofits to Access the Resources of Higher Ed Institutions

A two-day Powell School training institute launches a year-long collaboration among local nonprofit organizations and universities.

Fellow_GroupPhoto_crop400The phrase “ivory tower” hardly comes to mind when considering the historic legacy of the City College of New York, but the university, like any other, can seem like another world to those who live and work just up the block. So nearly a decade ago, when the Colin Powell Center began building its engaged scholarship programs, it was leading an experiment that challenged common divisions between academia and public service.

Through these programs, Genea Stewart, the Powell School’s director of service-learning and civic engagement, has successfully shepherded faculty members into dynamic relationships with community organizations. Some of these collaborations have utilized a model of  “service-learning”—combining student coursework with community service—to challenge faculty and students to deeply examine the problems and issues they are already tackling in the classroom. Others focused on "community-based participatory research," in which faculty augment and enrich their research by working with professionals in direct service to their communities.

Empowering Partners

Recently, Stewart took these supportive models one step further as she launched a two-day institute designed specifically to train community partners across the New York City area. Sponsored by a grant from American Express, the Community Partner Institute brought together representatives from 19 community organizations, including University Settlement, Safe Space NYC, and Job Path, Inc. for professional development and networking. 

Stewart understands that the diversity of partnering organizations—in their infrastructure, resources, and target communities—means diversity of need. During the next year, she will assist these groups in partnering with faculty not only at City College, but at other colleges and universities that are members of the Powell School-led New York Metro Area Partnership for Service-Learning (NYMAPS). These institutions include Fordham University, St. John's University, and Columbia University.


In addition, a yearlong series of networking initiatives, strategic-planning workshops, and other professional development events are designed to empower participants to identify their goals in their partnerships, access available resources, enhance their relationships with faculty and students, and consider their long-term trajectories. Through more targeted connections, ultimately organizations, faculty, and, above all, students benefit, Stewart says. “When we talk about models for student success and achievement, too often community organizations are left unmentioned,” she adds. “In addition to faculty, administrators, and local government, community organizations are natural stakeholders in educating and developing students. So what we've done is create a space for organizations to flesh out what they want and need, and then to focus on how to communicate this to faculty.”

Through programs like the Community Partner Institute and related engaged-scholarship fellowships, the Powell School is sponsoring strong, innovation-stoking programs for public-minded faculty. “Everything that we’ve done in the past has led to us creating this space for community partners,” Stewart said. “In this next year, we’ll be making a push to cultivate and develop our partners while continuing to show faculty pathways to community engagement—and giving them both resources in order to do that in better ways.”

For more information about the community partner institute and other Powell School engaged scholarship initiatives, contact Genéa Stewart: