The State of Campus Compact & Introducing the Future-Focused Listening Tour

September 20, 2022
Rob Barron, Executive Director

I’m writing today to give an update on the organization and to ask for your help and engagement with our Future-Focused Listening Tour

In the last 18 months, Iowa Campus Compact and Minnesota Campus Compact have welcomed new leadership, seen the boards unanimously approve a merger of the two networks, and learned of a forthcoming change in our relationship with Campus Compact, our national affiliate, all amidst a global pandemic. 

These seismic changes compel us to think about the future of this organization. The good news is that our foundation is solid. We have a network of 57 member colleges across the two states. We are fully staffed for the first time in two years. Our finances are sound. 

 

Our Connection to National Campus Compact

This summer, our Minnesota and Iowa Board Chairs, Dr. Annette Parker and Jim Collins, and I signed a new affiliate agreement with Campus Compact. That agreement is built upon the others that we have signed in past years and will afford our members all of the same benefits they have relied on from Campus Compact. 

 

The agreement sets out a two-year timeframe for Iowa & Minnesota Campus Compact to formally change the relationship with National Campus Compact. This comes as a result of years of changes across the network, including state office closures, integrations into the national compact, growing direct membership with national, and, most recently, seven state compacts deciding to become independent organizations. All of this has led Campus Compact to reimagine what state and national collaboration can and should look like, beyond the historical affiliate model.

 

I wasn’t expecting this change when I joined you last spring, but I started to read the writing on the wall over the winter. While at first I was resistant, I now see it as a great opportunity for us to build our network into something new that incorporates many successful strategies from our combined forty-plus year history while incorporating new ideas from our staff and network.

 

The agreement begins a collaborative process to end our affiliate relationship by June 2024. The collaboration is quite real, too. Earlier this month I spent a week in New Hampshire with my fellow state directors along with Bobbie Laur and her team from Campus Compact. The time together was truly collaborative and constructive in laying a foundation for how our organizations can work together in two years. Our relationship with Campus Compact will change, but we are all optimistic about preserving a connection to continue to advance this work across the country.

 

I believe Iowa & Minnesota Campus Compact’s future is bright. Let me explain. 

  1. Our underlying dynamics are very strong. We are well-financed because of our thriving and engaged network of 57 colleges and universities across the two states. 

 

  1. As you read this message, the process of merging Minnesota and Iowa’s networks will be nearly complete. This past summer we united and restructured our team of nine with streamlined processes, one new payroll provider, and new staff roles. Together this new staff team brings skills and experience in civic engagement, high-impact experiential learning, student services, and civic-minded student development. Read on to see how our new team is gearing up to serve you.

 

  1. The commitment of our boards. After the merger in October, the two boards will become one decision-making body with membership in both states. In June, nine board members gathered in Winona for the day to consider the inherent strengths and upcoming challenges of the organization. They were joined by five staff of network institutions. The day was uplifting and helped us map out what comes next.

 

  1. The most important reason I am excited for the future is that we will be back in front of you in ways that are both familiar and new. This fall we will have our first in-person network gatherings since the pandemic hit; we’re meeting in Des Moines on Sept. 22 and the Twin Cities on Oct. 6. Those network gatherings will be followed by two more in February and April.  We are also bringing our Civic Action Academy, President’s Leadership Academy, and Annual Awards all back in person this year. 

 

I’m also excited to initiate Yes, You Can Run, our new cohort experience designed to help students, staff, and faculty begin the process of running for office. This draws on my own personal experiences: Last year, I ended eight successful years of service to my local school board and I have continued to lead the Latino Political Network in educating and empowering Latino elected officials in Iowa. I care deeply about public service and I look forward to helping members of our Iowa & Minnesota Campus Compact network into service through Yes, You Can Run.

 

Future-Focused Listening Tour

That all brings me to the Future-Focused Listening Tour. The two-year timetable to build a new partnership with Campus Compact affords us a long runway to chart our future. There’s a lot to do to make that happen, but it begins with you. This academic year my staff and I will be visiting member campuses to have conversations about the future of this work. The tour stops will feature both a one-hour group conversation and an online survey to allow those who are unable to attend in-person to make their voice heard. We want to talk to staff, faculty, students, and community partners in order to understand how we have shown up for you in the past. And we’ll be listening for how the staff and faculty at member institutions will continue to contribute to the strength of communities and democracy itself – and how our network can be of support. All voices are welcome, including those who have not worked with us in the past but may want to be part of this work. 

 

How You Can Help

We hope to visit all 57 campuses this academic year, and I encourage you  to reach out to me (rbarron {at} compact(.)org) to schedule a time for one of our staff members to visit your campus. Next fall we plan to share a report with the network that recaps these conversations and adds greater definition to the future of our work together.

 

My first eighteen months on this job have been pretty thrilling. There has been much behind the scenes work to get us to this point. Through it all, it is the promise of this network that drives me. We are contributing to the civic capacity of our communities, in particular through the leaders we nurture. No one can do this alone. What makes our network exceptional is the deep commitment of institutions of all sizes and sectors to contribute to our civic health and vitality.  I look forward to the conversations to come as we figure out what the next forty years of this work will look like.