For almost two decades, I worked for a local chamber of commerce and then a statewide association. Recently, I transitioned back into the arena of higher education, specifically in a field known as “Outreach and Engagement.” In brief, the purpose of many outreach and engagement missions at colleges/universities has been partnering with communities, businesses, schools, chambers of commerce and associations, and governments to help people meet their educational, career, and personal goals – and to improve quality of life.
Simply put, through Outreach and Engagement, we Instruct, we Assist, and we Serve.
Throughout my career as a chamber/association executive, I regularly partnered with institutions of higher education (IHEs) to collaboratively develop customized solutions to meet my organization’s needs and fulfill numerous objectives within our current and future programs of work. For example, I partnered with IHEs to provide my staff with professional development and executive education opportunities. I turned to my state’s university outreach and engagement partners to enhance local lifelong learning and youth leadership programs and fulfill service and community engagement goals. I even partnered with higher ed to access international engagement opportunities.
Chamber/Association–university partnerships like these represent a win-win strategy for everyone involved. University Outreach engages with communities for the mutually beneficial exchange of knowledge that promotes the common good. Engagement promotes greater accessibility to a university’s educational resources – especially to those in underserved areas – while enriching scholarship, learning, and service for faculty, staff, and students.
University Outreach and Engagement offices work to provide educational opportunities for all ages, including summer academic camps and college preparatory programs for youth, professional and job training courses for working adults, and lifelong learning programs for seniors. These offices can often provide technical and strategic assistance to public and private entities, businesses, schools, governments and civic organizations, chambers of commerce and associations, to solve problems, improve systems, and encourage innovation. They often also assist citizens through programs that promote health, well-being, and community sustainability. In addition, these groups can help promote public service through an array of activities, events, exhibitions, and other offerings that encourage involvement and enhance quality of life.
I hope you, as a chamber of commerce and/or association executive, will explore partnership opportunities with your institutions of higher education. These collaborative opportunities can be a positive change through mutually beneficial relationships between your chamber/association and an institution of higher education.