The Ginsberg Center Strategic Plan: 2016-19 Full report

Executive summary

Background and introduction

Established in 1997 and endowed in 1999 with a generous gift from the family of Edward Ginsberg, an alumnus devoted to community service and social change, the Edward Ginsberg Center offers a diverse array of opportunities for University of Michigan students to take part in engaged learning activities throughout the region, nation, and world. The work of the Ginsberg Center builds on nearly fifty years of service learning at the University of Michigan. In administrative terms, Ginsberg is located within the Office of the Vice President for Student Life.

The Ginsberg Center currently serves nearly 4,000 students annually. Ginsberg connects individual students and student organizations with co-curricular, curricular, and paid service opportunities including multiple literacy programs, alternative breaks, and tutoring initiatives. Ginsberg also supports student learning through consultation and support to faculty and academic staff that connects socially just engagement experiences to coursework, research, and related scholarship.

While the Ginsberg Center has a long and venerated history, the field and practice of ‘service learning’ has undergone great changes in recent years, changes the current Center does not yet fully reflect. This Strategic Plan is designed to shift the paradigm toward more just and authentic partnerships with community, and to capture and promote strong partnership and collaboration across campus. We argue such steps are essential for the University of Michigan to fully live into its mission as a public institution, and to maximize the positive impact that our students will have as leaders in the communities, nations, and the world in which they live. We invite you to work with us on the strategies and actions described within this plan, all of which seek to promote amplified impact through aligned and collective action.


The last full strategic plan for the Ginsberg Center was completed in 2006. In 2012, a self-study was undertaken, in which internal and external review teams were charged with conducting comprehensive assessments, with particular focus on strengthening faculty engagement. The study produced a set of recommendations for Student Life and University leadership to consider in strengthening and best leveraging the Ginsberg Center. A number of these recommendations were implemented; many are included in this strategic plan, while others remain possibilities for the future. In sum, the outcomes from these past processes provide valuable data and guidance for the work ahead.

Upon accepting the position in summer 2015, the new Director of the Ginsberg Center initiated a strategic planning process with the aims of (1) understanding the landscape of community-engaged learning and service as currently configured on campus, (2) identifying opportunities for Ginsberg in specific to amplify the effectiveness of this work, and (3) shaping Ginsberg’s near-term direction accordingly. Over approximately eight months and with the support of an external consultant, Ginsberg Center leadership and staff:

  • Led multiple focus groups with U-M faculty, staff, and students;
  • Convened multiple gatherings of current and prospective community partners;
  • Engaged with the Ginsberg family, former Center faculty directors, staff, and advisory board members;
  • Participated in nearly one hundred individual conversations with leaders and practitioners both on-campus and in the community; and
  • Engaged the Ginsberg Center staff, and partners in Student Life and Academic Affairs to develop and refine the content represented here.

Mission and vision

The Ginsberg Center’s former mission statement read: The Ginsberg Center’s mission is to engage students, faculty, and community members in learning together through community service and civic participation in a diverse democratic society. This statement ably captured the service learning field and paradigm, and the campus environment at the time the center was established. Through our strategic planning process, it became clear, however, that a reimagining of that mission was needed in order to take account of the evolution of the field beyond just service learning to include community-based research, engaged scholarship, and other emerging models of engagement. Reimagining was also necessary to acknowledge the increasingly challenging issues facing communities throughout Michigan, the nation, and the world, and our emerging understanding about the highest and most effective purpose of Ginsberg within the context of a large, public, decentralized, research university.

The new mission statement reflects these elements, and now reads:Ginsberg within the context of a large, public, decentralized, research university.

The Ginsberg Center’s Mission

The Ginsberg Center cultivates and stewards mutually beneficial partnerships between communities and the University of Michigan in order to advance social change.

This new mission statement brings attention to Ginsberg’s important role in balancing the interests within the University of Michigan with those communities with which we engage, and names a clear emphasis on social change. The focus on mutually beneficial partnerships requires attending to the growth and development of students, and to advancing the academic interests of the University of Michigan; these aims will continue to be robustly supported by the Ginsberg Center. Equally important, however, are the benefits conferred to communities with which students and faculty engage, and Ginsberg will direct a significant portion of our work toward understanding and supporting this aspect as well. Further, the emphasis on social change requires that the Ginsberg Center support engaged learning that seeks to understand and change the institutions and structures that maintain unequal distribution of power and privilege.

Similarly, the Ginsberg Center’s vision - or optimal future state - toward which Ginsberg steers, has also been clarified:

The Ginsberg Center’s Vision

Inclusive democracy; thriving, diverse communities; equity and social justice.

We believe that substantive, respectful, authentic and mutually beneficial partnerships - between those who have relatively more social and economic privilege and those who have less - are a prerequisite to realizing this future state. As observed by many of the stakeholders who contributed to this strategic planning process, the University of Michigan - and institutions of higher education more broadly - have not yet fully built the capacity to carry out community-engaged learning and scholarship with balanced impact as a foundational principle and guide. There is a strategically important role for Ginsberg to play toward that end.

Strategies and tactics

In service of this vision and mission, and consistent with extensive stakeholder recommendations, three overarching strategic areas of emphasis have emerged for Ginsberg moving forward:

  1. Student learning and leadership;
  2. Faculty engagement and support; and
  3. Positive community impact.

These areas of emphasis are intuitive and consistent with the Ginsberg Center’s founding purpose, history, and values. Through the implementation of this strategic plan, Ginsberg intends to clarify and deepen its value proposition to the campus, the institution, and the field by balancing the University’s investments in on-campus constituents (namely students, faculty, administrators and staff) and the off-campus communities in which the University of Michigan operates.

A fourth -- and more inward-facing -- strategic area of emphasis, described as foundational infrastructure strategies, also emerged as necessary to support of the above body of work. This final area focuses on the organizational development with regard to the staffing, resources, technology, and other assets needed to advance the work of this strategic plan.

Within each of these areas, a set of strategies and tactics designed to deepen, expand, and improve the Ginsberg Center’s existing (or recent) efforts have been identified; these are presented alongside select new strategies and tactics that will be initiated. The remainder of this document provides additional context and detail on all of the above.

Through the implementation of this plan, the Ginsberg Center seeks to provide leadership by fulfilling its role as a key part of the University’s many successful established community engagement efforts and initiatives. Rather than seeking to play a central, hub, or gatekeeping role, Ginsberg seeks to facilitate clearer and more consistent connections within the University’s rich network of community engagement programming and efforts, and between this network and the community. We believe that this “network leadership” is what is most needed, to leverage the University’s current program-rich environment into more of a distributed system-rich one.

Partnership -- both in term and in concept -- has been deliberately used throughout this planning framework. Just and authentic partnership with community is essential to the work of the Ginsberg Center going forward. It is essential for the University of Michigan to fully live into its mission as a public institution, and to maximize the positive impact that our students will generate as leaders in the communities, nations, and the world in which they live. Further, partnership as a methodology is used here to capture and promote collaboration across campus.

We invite you to work with us on the strategies and tactics described within this plan, all of which seek to promote amplified impact through increased connection, and more aligned and collective action.

The Ginsberg Center: Past and Present

A long tradition of community service and learning exists at the University of Michigan, dating from the 19th century educational efforts of John Dewey to the active involvement of thousands today. Civic engagement at the University prepares students, faculty and staff to work collaboratively toward the goals of full participation in a complex, democratic, and just society. We engage with communities around the world to build mutual understanding; to improve the quality of life; and to affect systemic change through our practice, teaching and research. Integrating professional and public concerns into resulting civic impact, systemic change, and an equitable and just society requires us to actively participate in communities, understand implicit biases, confront unequal access to power and privilege, and recognize the needs and assets of all parties. Through this process, our students develop the knowledge, skills, values, reflective practice, and motivation to provoke inquiry, build shared commitment, develop open communication, and work within the principles of equal partnership and reciprocity.

Edward Ginsberg (AB ‘38) demonstrated a lifelong commitment to these goals through his community service and civic leadership. Internationally recognized for his humanitarian activities, he was a model of the belief that all citizens have a responsibility to contribute positively to society. Throughout his life, the Cleveland attorney devoted himself to civic causes at home, in the nation, and around the world. In the 1960s and 70s, Mr. Ginsberg was general chairman and then president of the National United Jewish Appeal, and president of the American Jewish Joint Distribution committee.

The naming of the Edward Ginsberg Center for Community Service and Learning recognized a gift from Mr. Ginsberg’s widow, Rosalie (now deceased), son William and his wife, Inger, and son Robert and his wife, Jan, who joined together to create an endowment in recognition of Edward Ginsberg’s commitment to community service and humanitarian causes.

Building on the University’s long history of community engagement and a role as an early leader in service learning, the Edward Ginsberg Center was one of the first centers of its kind. Since its establishment in 1997, Ginsberg has brought together some of the nation’s leading curricular and co-curricular programs with new initiatives that engage students with faculty members in communities as part of their educational experience. Ginsberg has joined academic and co-curricular programs with community service so students and faculty can forge a link between theory and practice, knowledge and action, and campus and community.

At its founding, the Ginsberg Center united under one umbrella existing programs such as Project Community and SERVE, each with rich histories that span multiple decades; the first scholarly journal for the field, The Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning; as well as new programs such as AmeriCorps and America Reads. In 2012, after an extensive review process and in response to new campus and community paradigms, the Ginsberg Center began to shift its focus from a programmatic orientation to developing broader reach and impact on campus and in communities.

This shift is consistent with trends nationally, as reflected in the excerpt of the 2012 External Review, below:

This field has evolved rapidly in the past 10 years. Colleges and universities have paid increased attention to how we prepare students for effective involvement in democratic communities. General education requirements now often include some form of community engagement and/or civic learning aspiration as an essential learning outcome and have established rubrics modeled after the American Association of Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) LEAP (Liberal Education and America’s Promise) initiative. Further, it is now rare to find an institution that hasn’t established some institutional structure to support public service.

Likewise, professional associations such as the AAC&U, the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU), and Campus Compact, have launched a variety of initiatives and released publications designed to strengthen and shape civic education (i.e., A Crucible Moment, the American Democracy Project). Campus Compact’s TRUCEN (The Research University Civic Engagement Network) is notable in that it focuses specifically on how research intensive institutions such as the University of Michigan can add to this national dialogue while taking into consideration the distinctive qualities of the U.S. research institution. The group has published two papers (New Times Demand New Scholarship: Research Universities and Civic Engagement – A Leadership Agenda, and New Times Demand New Scholarship II : Research Universities and Civic Engagement – Opportunities and Challenges), defining terminology, and outlining how and why research universities can promote engaged scholarship at their own institutions, across research universities generally, and potentially throughout higher education. These, along with the online Research University Engaged Scholarship Toolkit, provide a relatively comprehensive summary of how the field has advanced in research university settings. (Ginsberg External Review Report)

Even as other universities have added their own centers to this growing field, the Ginsberg Center has continued to be regarded as a leader, particularly for its co-curricular engagement and student leadership model. From 2010 – 2014, through the leadership of Ginsberg, the University of Michigan received national recognition on the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll five times, with Distinction for the three most recent years (2015 recognition is still in process); a Ginsberg Center staff member was named BreakAway National Advisor of the Year; and Ginsberg was chosen in 2014 to co-host one of three national alternative break trainings.

The Ginsberg Center is currently home to programs such as America Reads and Alternative Spring Break; multiple initiatives that focus on literacy; engaged learning partnerships with faculty; and the research oriented peer-reviewed journal, The Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning. The Ginsberg Center’s work reinforces the University’s mission by serving “the people of Michigan and the world,” as well as engaging students, in particular, in distinctive experiences and on complex issues that shape their development so they may become “citizens who will challenge the present and enrich the future.”

Ginsberg Center staff contribute to students’ education at U-M by facilitating experiences that move beyond simply engaging students in service. Ginsberg’s work is to challenge students’ understanding of critical social issues, help them explore issues from different perspectives, and to engage with others, often different from themselves, to recognize and build on assets found in all communities.

Additionally, Ginsberg Center staff support faculty and academic staff to incorporate community engagement to advance their research and teaching. Working with faculty to shape new curricula, providing training for graduate student instructors, and integrating learning tools that allow students to fully understand experiences and their impact are examples of the value-added approach of Ginsberg.

The Ginsberg Center also supports student groups who, by their mission or principles, are involved in service, activism, or community engagement, as well as individual students who wish to get involved and volunteer in their communities. Broadening students’ perspectives, as well as serving as a conduit between U-M students and the community, is central to Ginsberg’s work.

The Ginsberg Center has contributed to the growth and success of programs and student organizations across campus, such as Circle K and Cultivating Community, which currently utilize Center advising, support and space to fulfill their missions; others, such as Arts of Citizenship and Project Community, were formerly components of Center programming that have transitioned to academic units and continue to thrive. Ginsberg’s ability to serve as a “backbone” for the campus through connecting with community partners, providing support and training on best practices for engagement, and providing access to University and community partners are critical components that serve to position the University of Michigan as a civic partner within southeast Michigan, throughout Michigan, and beyond.

Universities such as Harvard, Princeton, Stanford, Cornell, and Georgetown have all embarked on broad-scale initiatives to increase engaged learning, and are utilizing both curricular and co-curricular opportunities to advance a holistic education for students. As the University of Michigan continues to expand its focus on engaged learning across the institution, Ginsberg’s role in supporting service and community engagement will continue to provide rich pedagogical tools for advancing integrative learning for students.

Strategic Planning Process and Salient Findings

Upon her arrival as the new director of the Ginsberg Center in August 2015, Mary Jo Callan reached out to stakeholders across campus as well as current and prospective community partners with the broad goal of understanding the current state of community-engaged learning, and issuing a broad solicitation for requests, suggestions, and constructive criticisms that could inform an updated vision and mission for Ginsberg.

Shortly after launching this outreach, the strategic planning process was officially announced, and formalized through the engagement of Bridgeport Consulting. Ginsberg Center staff were invited to play a central role in shaping the strategic planning process, conducting stakeholder outreach, contributing ideas, and serving as a crucial sounding board for emerging content.

As the discovery process unfolded, salient themes began to emerge, which in turn served as anchor points for the strategies and tactics that would eventually form the basis of this plan. These themes, strategies, and tactics are described in the following sections.

Benchmarking against leading practice institutions such as Stanford, Tufts, and Florida State was conducted as a part of the internal and external reviews previously completed, and that data was used in the development of this plan. Additional benchmarking was not conducted, but will be in the future as additional ideation or specific implementation advice is indicated.

Themes Arising from Stakeholder Engagement

Four primary, interconnected themes emerged among stakeholder observations during the discovery phase:

  1. Preparing students. Students require advance preparation, and benefit from post-engagement reflection, with regard to community-engaged learning. In order to engage in a productive, mutually-beneficial, non-extractive relationship, students must be equipped with appropriate tools, skills, and paradigms to integrate their educational experience with empathy and ethical reasoning. Of particular emphasis in preparing students should be attention to building knowledge, skills, attitudes and abilities to navigate issues of identity, power, privilege, and inequity in service to social change, and to integrate this knowledge with their academic course work. The value of community engagement as a basis for future active citizenship and socially just leadership is optimized when students are able to make meaning of, and integrate the learning gained from, their experiences. Driving question: What are the most effective ways to help students prepare for - and process - their community-engaged experiences while at the University of Michigan and throughout their lifespan?
  2. Adding coherence to University efforts and activities. One strength of the University of Michigan is the agency of faculty, staff, and students, all of whom enjoy substantial autonomy with regard to establishing community-engaged relationships. As one University-based stakeholder observed, “there are a thousand doors to community engagement at the University of Michigan.” With that said, it cannot be denied that this approach can result in significant confusion and fatigue for community partners - not to mention an arguably diminished impact on a systemic scale - when deployed in the absence of any clear and consistent organization among numerous individual actors. Driving question: How might we increase the visibility of community-based engagements, in order to provide the opportunity for greater collaboration and coherence across campus as needed and desired?
  3. Brokering relationships or match-making. University stakeholders reported some degree of difficulty in discovering appropriate organizations with whom to engage with in regard to community-engaged service, scholarship, and research. Faculty in particular indicated that they have too many time constraints to prioritize and fully invest in every aspect of these activities in the manner they intend. Community partners voiced concern about the nature of how they are engaged. As one community partner noted, “I continue to answer the calls from random U-M students and professors, hoping that this project could be a resource we need. Most times, the project isn’t really useful to my organization, and I never hear from the student or professor again.” Similarly, community-based organizations reported the frustration and disillusionment that arise when standing before the University’s many doors, not knowing which doors will lead to meaningful contact or direct help. Driving question: Could fruitful connections between the University and community partners be brokered more effectively and efficiently?
  4. Community stewardship. Relationships and connection with community-based organizations too often rely on a single point of contact within the University. These links could be considered risky and tenuous, given the temporal “life cycle” of projects, as well as the natural attrition and turnover of students, faculty and staff. As one faculty member shared, “I’m increasingly uncomfortable going to the same well of a handful of partners I happen to know” as a shortcoming of her community-engaged work. Driving question: Could we improve upon brokering the initial connections described above to nurturing and sustaining relationships over time such that we build resilience and reciprocity into the system and amplify the impact of our collective efforts?

The Ginsberg Center: Moving into the future

The four primary themes of stakeholder feedback reflected in the previous section are consistent with and reinforcing of the Ginsberg Center’s core values, as expressed above and in Appendix B. The strategies and tactics articulated in the remainder of this document represent the ways in which Ginsberg will put these values into practice toward advancing the interests of both the University and the community.

Several points should be made before continuing. First, it will be noted that greater attention is paid to the third component (positive community impact) than on students and faculty. This emphasis is intentional, and reflects the significant investment that the University of Michigan campus as a whole, including the Ginsberg Center, appropriately devote both to student preparation and faculty engagement and support. In other words, in those two spaces, we do much good work well, though there are improvements still to be made, not least in combining them more closely.

Second, as the salient findings from our broad outreach indicate, a predominant concern is the complex articulation between the university and its community partners. As a result, the driving theory of change represented in this strategic plan overall is the Ginsberg Center’s desired role in balancing the efforts and investments of on-campus constituents (namely, students, faculty, and staff) with the needs and expertise of the off-campus communities with which the University of Michigan works. To do so, the Ginsberg Center will need to focus significant new effort in this particular domain.

Finally — although we highlight and discuss three strategic areas of interest — what is unquestionably most essential is connection or coordination between them.

Summary of strategies, tactics, and staging:

Strategic Area of Emphasis 1: Student Learning and Leadership

With a locus within Student Life, the Ginsberg Center has unique access to students and student organizations. Using this proximity, Ginsberg’s existing efforts to connect students with community-engaged learning opportunities can be brought to scale. In addition to working with individual students and select student organizations who engage in Ginsberg activities and programming, Ginsberg can, as a part of the student organization registration process, work with leaders of the nearly 500 hundred student organizations identifying “service” and/or “activism” as part of their mission or core work. Similarly, with its position as a campus-wide center not affiliated solely with any specific school or college, Ginsberg is situated to reach and appeal to a broad range of students across campus, and engage faculty and staff in a multitude of schools and colleges.

Given that the societal values of civic engagement and citizenship are integral to social change leadership, the Ginsberg Center proposes to play a significant role in advancing the University’s growing interest in student leadership education, chiefly (though not exclusively) through partnering with other Student Life units in a complementary and mutually-reinforcing way.

The following strategies and tactics emphasize Ginsberg’s core mission of social change as we work to build the capacity of our students as ethical, empathic citizens and leaders. Some of the tactics in this area include expanding upon existing work-study and paid positions in order to increase equity on campus in order that more students are able to take advantage of community-engaged service and learning opportunities.

Strategic Area of Emphasis 1: Student Learning and Leadership

Partner to build capacity in framing, advancing leadership education for Social Change

  1. Partner w/ other Student Life units to convene and advise student organizations re: service (Fall 2016)
  2. Engage student organization leadership & advisors toward amplified service impact (Expand in Fall 2016)
  3. Equip undergraduate students to provide peer training for socially just community-engaged learning (Expand in Winter 2017)
  4. Partner to equip graduate students to provide curriculum support for socially just community-engaged learning (2016-17)
  5. Expand student fellowships, internships & community leadership opportunities (Winter 2017)
  6. Expand work-study & other paid opportunities for students to serve & lead in community (2017-18)
  7. Partner to build on the MLEAD C.O.R.E. model of leadership education for social change (Underway)
  8. Assess & measure student growth and learning (2016-17)
  9. Advance community engagement efforts by sharing relevant research & resources with program staff (2016-17)
  10. Partner to develop online resources to expand students’ understanding of best practices in community engagement (2016-17)

Re-establish focus on increased democratic participation

  1. Partner with Central Student Government to mobilize student voter turnout in Nov. 2016 elections (Underway)
  2. Convene & co-lead workshops & fora focused on election issues (Fall 2016)

Strategic Area of Emphasis 2: Faculty Engagement and Support

Recognizing that faculty research and teaching reside at the heart of community-engaged academic learning, the Ginsberg Center seeks to continue to broaden engagement with faculty across campus. The opportunities presented by faculty, alongside their vital role in the academic progression of students, make clear the importance of engaging and serving faculty well when executing on Ginsberg’s mission.

As framed, this area of emphasis acknowledges that the established faculty appointment, tenure, and promotion processes do not (and need not) universally privilege community-engaged work. Therefore, the Ginsberg Center proposes to offer modest but tangible support such as seed grants, research funds, technical assistance, and recognition to faculty who choose to lead efforts in this domain. Mindful of the premium placed by faculty on autonomy so clearly expressed during the discovery phase of this strategic planning effort, Ginsberg respectfully aims to adopt a “work with the willing” philosophy that seeks to serve faculty who have expressed interest in partnership or support in community-engaged teaching and research.

Moreover, the Ginsberg Center aims to craft innovative methods of engaging with faculty that adds value to their work. Some of these involve the supports described above; others will go further by addressing some of the time, administrative, and other challenges associated with engaging in leading practice community-engaged service and scholarship. Still others will be demonstrated by Ginsberg’s contributions to the field, through evaluation of community-based engagements and publication of the results.

Strategic Area of Emphasis 2: Faculty Engagement and Support

Enhance & leverage the Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning (MJCSL)

  1. Review editorial board to ensure active involvement of U-M faculty (2016-17)
  2. Enhance marketing & distribution of MJCSL; re-design print and web versions (2016-17)
  3. Increase the use of MJCSL in Engaged Learning Partnerships resource support (Fall 2016)

Maintain & deepen partnership w/ Counsel to the Provost on Civic Engagement

  1. Renew agreement between VP SL & Provost to continue Ginsberg funding for this position (Underway)
  2. Add Ginsberg Center Faculty Advisor designation to title (Fall 2016)

Connect faculty interests & expertise with community-based needs

  1. Partner to offer evidence-based workshops on establishing civic engagement/ service learning courses (2016-2017)
  2. Offer seed & matching grants for community-engaged research & engagement, partner w/ schools & colleges (Expand in Winter 2017)
  3. Build on discipline-specific relationships with centers & schools across campus to support high-impact community-engaged learning (Underway)
  4. Partner to offer workshops to help faculty to identify effective strategies to execute, evaluate, and disseminate their community engagement efforts (2016-17)

Leverage & advance faculty knowledge, expertise, & networks

  1. Re-establish Faculty Advisory Board (Fall 2016)
  2. Establish faculty fellowships, affiliates (Winter 2017)
  3. Sponsor learning communities to advance knowledge, best practices, evaluation & dissemination (Expand in 2016-17)
  4. Enlist faculty expertise to build capacity & systems to translate community-defined needs for faculty & academic program audiences (Underway)
  5. Connect faculty to research & resources that advance their community engagement efforts (2016-17)

Strategic Area of Emphasis 3: Positive Community Impact

The Ginsberg Center seeks to increase the permeability between the community and the University of Michigan through both structural and procedural changes.

Toward this end, the Ginsberg Center proposes to become an impartial broker and access point for community partners who seek to engage with the University of Michigan. While the University certainly cannot be expected to meet every interest expressed by the community, nonetheless, Ginsberg could play a valuable role in providing a clear and visible point of contact for community organizations. From there, Ginsberg proposes to add value both to the community and to the University by curating, translating, and disseminating community-engaged interests and opportunities in which students, faculty, and staff from throughout the university might engage as goals align and capacity allows.

Similarly, the Ginsberg Center proposes to play a match-making or brokering role in service of faculty members, academic programs and/or student organizations who seek opportunities to engage with community-engaged service and learning. Having done the up-front and ongoing work of establishing and stewarding relationships with multiple community partners, Ginsberg could relieve University constituents of this time-consuming and labor-intensive work, thereby serving all entities’ interests.

In service of these roles, the Ginsberg Center will be attentive to avoid duplicating efforts - or subsuming a community’s agenda with one prescribed by the University - by understanding and aligning efforts with existing community-defined priorities. The perfect opportunity to do so conveniently exists in the immediate vicinity of the University of Michigan’s Ann Arbor campus, within Washtenaw County. Influential funders in Washtenaw County have adopted a Coordinated Funding model in recent years in which public and private health, human service, and housing organizations are working together to define desired outcomes and articulated meaningful progress metrics at the community level. Examples of these community level outcomes include: increased high school graduation rates for youth; increased developmental readiness of children entering kindergarten; reduced homelessness; and decreased food insecurity for residents.

In the near term, in order to pilot the approaches described in this strategic plan and build proof of concept, the Ginsberg Center proposes to focus the geographic scope of its primary community engagement to Washtenaw County - while maintaining existing community partnerships in Detroit, southeast Michigan, and around the country. The local Coordinated Funding model could serve as one valuable organizing construct for the impact Ginsberg seeks to enact.

This “outside in” approach provides a potentially groundbreaking opportunity to evaluate the broad and deep impact of the University of Michigan’s community-based engagement efforts. This specific type of evaluation has not been conducted elsewhere, and could provide a unique and potentially significant differentiator in terms of scholarly contribution to the field.

Strategic Area of Emphasis 3: Positive Community Impact

Serve as a community engagement center for the social sector, in order to connect University talent, research, & teaching resources toward community needs

  1. Conduct community-defined needs assessment to advance impact, proactivity, and balance (Underway)
  2. Translate community needs for U-M audiences (Underway)
  3. Align with existing community priorities & initiatives (e.g., Coordinated Funding priority areas & outcome targets) (Underway)
  4. Focus on long-term stewardship of new & existing community partnerships (Expand in Fall 2016)
  5. Convene issue-specific opportunities for faculty, staff, & students to connect with community (Underway)
  6. Collaborate with engaged learning offices & centers to disseminate & amplify opportunities for University - Community partnerships (Underway, continue to expand)

Create feedback mechanisms & tools re: service engagement to assess quality & impact

  1. Create evaluation models, such as online survey tools, to measure effect of intervention, & follow-up strategies (Fall 2016)
  2. Support faculty to establish course outcomes tied to these feedback mechanisms (2016-17)
  3. Support student-focused program staff to establish outcomes tied to these feedback mechanisms (2016-17)

Integrate community voice into Ginsberg & broader U-M planning, programming, & educational efforts

  1. Establish a Community-Leader-in- Residence program (Underway)
  2. Re-establish Community Advisory Board (Fall 2016)

Pilot to build proof of concept by containing geographic scope

  1. Focus efforts in Washtenaw County (Underway)
  2. Scale to additional communities in which U-M has a presence, while maintaining established partnerships in Washtenaw County (2018-19)
  3. Maintain existing partnerships in Detroit, in the region & throughout the nation (Underway)

Foundational Infrastructure

The Ginsberg Center enjoys great benefit in its position as an established center within the University of Michigan with a dedicated budget of $1.3 million and a seasoned, energetic staff of ten. Nonetheless, we are cognizant of the need to recalibrate resources as a prerequisite to executing on the strategies and tactics described above. As one example, a modest expansion of available financial resources will be necessary to augment faculty research seed funding opportunities. Further, greater specialization among staff -- particularly related to community engagement and partnerships -- will be required. The full complement of Center offerings will be assessed for improvement opportunities, especially with regard to scalability. In attending to these foundational infrastructure elements, Ginsberg also aims to increase marketing and communication efforts to partners both on- and off-campus, and optimize the use of technology in advancing the work described within every area of emphasis.

Foundational infrastructure prerequisites needed to pursue the above:

Focus on developing & mobilizing needed resources

  1. Partner w/ Office of University Development (OUD) & Student Life Leadership to cultivate major gifts (Underway)
  2. Re-engage w/ Ginsberg Alumni to increase support (e.g. Bicentennial Reunion) (Underway)
  3. Support OUD in the establishment of a Development Advisory Board 2016-17)
  4. Develop & strengthen marketing efforts & materials (Fall 2016)

Clarify staff deployment, with focus on community

  1. Create additional community-focused positions (Underway)
  2. Enhance capacity to translate community-identified partnership opportunities to UM audiences (Underway)

Assess, refine, & modify existing offerings

  1. Include considerations such as numbers served, efficacy & outcomes of service, alignment w/ overall strategy & mission (Summer 2016)

Leverage U-M assets to improve marketing & communications

  1. Streamline efforts to maximize impact (Underway)
  2. Target different tools to diff populations (students, faculty, community orgs) (2016-17)

Maximize technology for resource sharing, matchmaking & tracking engagement

  1. Partner to develop or strengthen software/platforms to share community needs & opportunities for students (Summer 2016)
  2. Partner to develop or strengthen software/platforms to share community needs & opportunities for faculty & staff (Summer 2016)
  3. ID software/platform for tracking engagement (2016-17)
  4. Develop web resources for faculty use including bibliographies, FAQs, evidence-based best practices, sample syllabi in range of disciplines (2016-17)


In designing and conducting this strategic planning process, the Ginsberg Center sought to embody the principles and values that drive the entirety of our work. In the spirit of discovering the mutual benefit that could be realized through the co-creation of Ginsberg’s future, and in the interest of building just and authentic relationships, we took care to engage a diversity of stakeholders both on- and off-campus to inform, expand, and refine our thinking. We are grateful and inspired by the willingness of literally hundreds of individuals and groups to partner with us in developing the content herein.

Special thanks are owed to Edward and Rosalie Ginsberg’s sons, William and Robert, and their respective wives Inger and Jan, who generously shared wise counsel and warm encouragement through the process. The Vice President and Associate Vice President for Student Life, Royster Harper and Simone Himbeault Taylor, respectively, were invaluable assets in providing University-wide perspective, relationships, and resources needed to develop and advance this plan. The Vice Provost for Engaged and Global Learning, James Holloway, also provided crucial perspective and guidance in the development of this plan.

Nick Tobier, Senior Counsel to the Provost on Community Engaged Learning, provided indispensable wisdom and substantive contributions to this planning process and resulting product, from the perspective both of a faculty member and of Academic Affairs leadership. We are deeply grateful for his partnership. This partnership was in large part made possible through an agreement between Student Life and the Provost’s Office, to leverage Ginsberg Center funding to create a position focused on advancing community engaged learning across the institution.

Bridgeport Consulting, headquartered in Ann Arbor, MI was an indispensable source of strategic planning expertise, objective perspective, and project management discipline. We are grateful to Kerry Sheldon for her accessibility and thoughtful shepherding.

We are grateful to the many current and potential community partners who met with us to share their experiences, perspectives, and hopes regarding engagement with the University of Michigan. Their candid feedback and offers to partner more deeply were key to the development of this plan, and to Ginsberg’s work going forward.

We are also grateful to the Ginsberg Center Faculty Advisory Committee, former Ginsberg Center faculty directors, and multiple University leaders and senior faculty who graciously contributed to the contents of this plan, especially including the strategies and tactics included in it.

Last but not least, the Ginsberg Center staff offered positive, thoughtful, future-focused contributions throughout, regularly stretching beyond the natural and expected discomfort that can accompany the potential for organizational change. We are eager to move forward in building our new future together.


Appendix A: Defining Ginsberg’s Frames and Terms

Our Perspective: Community Engaged Learning

The Ginsberg Center uses the term Community-Engaged Learning to emphasize our approach of putting community-defined needs at the center of any curricular and co-curricular community engagement effort.

Community-Engaged Learning is a pedagogical approach that involves hands-on experiences within a community and has several key components:

  • Addresses societal needs not currently being fully met by other sectors
  • Reciprocal benefits for community partners, campus partners, and students
  • Intentionally integrates community-based needs and academic learning objectives
  • Prepares students for engagement, promotes ongoing reflection and/or critical analysis
  • Interrogates structures of inequality and questions the distribution of power
  • Supports developing a lifelong commitment to civic engagement

Below, we define a number of terms and ideas that influence our particular orientation to community engagement:

Social change is the result of a collaborative approach that works to address major societal problems by examining and addressing the root causes of these problems. Social change happens through active engagement with stakeholders as well as having a deep understanding of the root causes and needs of the community. Social change acknowledges each person’s sense of responsibility to others and the realization that making things better for one pocket of society makes things better for the society as a whole.

Social justice is both the goal and the process of seeking a society in which there is full and equal participation of all groups in a society that is mutually shaped to meet their needs, and where the distribution of resources is equitable and all members are physically and psychologically safe and secure. Social justice involves social actors who have a sense of their own agency as well as a sense of social responsibility toward and with others and the society as a whole.

Community-based research (CBR) brings community and University members together to solve problems. CBR is a collaborative enterprise between community members and academic researchers, values academic and community knowledge equally, and has the goal of social action for the purpose of achieving social change and justice.

Civic engagement is the broader term that means “working to make a difference in the civic life of our communities and developing the combination of knowledge, skills, values and motivation to make that difference. It means promoting the quality of life in a community, through both political and non-political processes.” Civic engagement often comprises a wider range of activities than has traditionally been associated with service-learning, such as enacting ways to alter public policy, ranging from petitioning to protest and engaging at various levels in the political process.

Asset-Based Community Development builds on the assets that are already found in the community and mobilizes individuals, associations, and institutions to come together to build on their assets-- not concentrate on their needs.

Service learning, specifically, seeks to strike a balance between service and learning, as well as recipient and provider and is defined as a “form of experiential education in which students engage in activities that address human and community needs, together with structured opportunities for reflection designed to achieve desired learning outcomes.”

Appendix B: The Ginsberg Center’s Core Values

  1. Learning and Consciousness Raising. We believe an integral part of higher education is the learning that occurs through service and community involvement, results in the critical understanding of social issues, and develops a deeper commitment to justice.
  2. Social Justice. Our work reflects the vision of a more just society. We seek to address the root causes of social inequality by challenging the personal beliefs and social systems that create it.
  3. Ethic of Service. We believe that each of us has the ability and power to influence our global society, positively and negatively. Therefore, we seek to promote an ethic of lifelong service and social responsibility. Through education, reflection and community partnerships, we empower individuals and groups to identify and respond to oppression and inequality, to bring about fundamental change in social systems and commit to a lifelong investment in service and social responsibility.
  4. Personal and Professional Development. We believe in challenging individuals to explore and develop their values and identity by providing meaningful opportunities for personal, professional and intellectual growth. These opportunities for growth include community involvement, issue education, critical reflection and leadership development.
  5. Community Partnership. We believe that our service in the community must engage community members as equal partners. We actively involve the voices and perspectives of community partners in our work at the Ginsberg Center: in training students, setting goals, planning events and developing programs. We value the expertise of our partners and stakeholders, and base roles and responsibilities on each partner's capacities and resources. We share accountability, risks and costs of our partnerships.
  6. Authentic and Diverse Coalitions. We believe that social justice is advanced when we identify our commonalities, build upon our strengths and engage our differences. Our efforts to build authentic partnerships and coalitions across social, economic and geographic boundaries and roles are sincere and based on engagement, honest and open dialogue, mutual respect and shared vision and goals. We seek to foster collaborative decision-making and a collective vision, resulting in solidarity within and between groups of students, staff, faculty and community members.
  7. Integrity of the Ginsberg Center. We believe that our commitment to service and social justice mandates that we live our core values and act with respect, honesty, trust and fairness. We strive to communicate authentically, demonstrate collaboration and share knowledge and resources. These actions are essential to maintaining the integrity of the Ginsberg Center, living by our core values and furthering social justice and equity.

Appendix C: Student Learning Outcomes

The Ginsberg Center has been collecting data on our programs since 2009. More recently, the Center has connected its work to the Student Life Learning Outcomes. Moving forward, the Center will also be connecting to learning goals identified by Transforming Learning for the Third Century (TLTC) Initiative. Below, we note points of intersection between TLTC goals and pertinent Student Life Outcomes. Both sets of outcomes are associated with specific measures used in assessments done by the Ginsberg Center, faculty, staff, or community partners.

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