Strategic Direction 3: Community Engagement

Strengthen UNC Asheville's impact on the community through civic and cultural engagement, sustained partnerships, and a focus on economic vibrancy.

As a public liberal arts university, UNC Asheville recognizes that community engagement is part of the role of a scholar in modern society.  Community engagement, broadly defined, includes such activities as faculty, staff, and student involvement in community projects and research; collaborating and communicating with civic and political leaders; providing expertise and informing policy decisions; creating and sustaining a downtown presence; and providing opportunities for the community to come to UNC Asheville.

While our commitment to our home city of Asheville and its surrounding communities is a key priority, UNC Asheville defines its communities broadly, to include Asheville, Buncombe County, western North Carolina, the entire state, the nation, and ultimately the world. Community engagement allows students, faculty, and staff to interact with the world beyond the campus, be it the diverse heritage of the local community or the global community. Innovative partnerships at all levels not only enrich the educational and cultural experiences of students and faculty, but can also help stimulate the economy and identify new approaches to addressing common challenges.

It is essential that UNC Asheville’s community engagement be sustainable and genuine. Programs and projects will require long-term commitments and resources, ensuring their viability over time. Support for faculty, staff, and students, and coordination of community outreach across the campus will be essential for success in this important area.

Strategy 1

Create a more unified approach to developing and orchestrating community engagement experiences and civic leadership activities across UNC Asheville.

Preliminary thoughts on action areas for further planning:

  • Develop an advisory group of both campus and community members to inventory and increase understanding of existing programs and identify new opportunities for community engagement.
  • Identify ways to unify our community engagement and civic leadership activities, preserving autonomy while creating connections, providing a front door, preventing redundancies, coordinating outreach and “inreach” and evaluating these programs.
  • Build innovative and sustainable public-private partnerships that benefit the university, the community, and the broader world.
  • Maximize curriculum engagement with external communities, through such programs as internships, mentorships, and service learning opportunities.
  • Expand and enhance UNC Asheville’s downtown presence.
  • Additional action areas to be identified.

Strategy 2

Put systems in place to leverage current community and civic engagement activities of faculty, staff, and students, and provide incentives for even greater participation.

Preliminary thoughts on action areas for further planning:

  • Identify and assess appropriate incentives to support enhanced community engagement.
  • Encourage students to engage in civic leadership and democratic processes to address current societal issues.
  • Strengthen engagement with the K-12 schools in the community.
  • Build on the success of athletics community engagement programs, particularly in working with youth.
  • Additional action areas to be identified.

Strategy 3

Provide more educational opportunities in Asheville and surrounding communities and invite community members to campus for issue-related conversations, athletic events, arts, and performance experiences.

Preliminary thoughts on action areas for further planning:

  • Equip faculty, staff, and students with the skills to navigate interracial and intercultural conversations successfully, and share these conversations with the community.
  • Encourage and support faculty and staff to undertake leadership roles that leverage their academic or administrative areas of expertise.
  • Build greater awareness of campus events across the community.
  • Additional action areas to be identified.

Strategy 4

Engage as an essential partner and leader as policies are developed and decisions made about the future of the city, region, and state.

Preliminary thoughts on action areas for further planning:

  • Ensure that UNC Asheville meets its responsibility to participate in important discussions of economic prosperity, education, diversity, and community issues, both locally and state wide.
  • Play a leadership role in communicating with essential organizations about public policy and current societal issues.
  • Continue to inform policy at the local, regional, and state levels and demonstrate the value of UNC Asheville to the legislature and other decision makers.
  • Engage students in civic involvement at the local and regional levels, providing them opportunities to use their education to contribute to important issues facing society today.
  • Additional action areas to be identified.

Strategy 5

Broaden UNC Asheville’s partnerships and networking efforts to include a global perspective and enable greater worldwide engagement of faculty and students.

Preliminary thoughts on action areas for further planning:

  • Expand global networks, including study abroad programs and opportunities for faculty to present their research internationally.
  • Additional action areas to be identified.

Strategy 6

Create systemic ways for alumni to actively engage with UNC Asheville, its students and community in ways that enhance graduates’ connections with the university.

Preliminary thoughts on action areas for further planning:

  • Involve alumni in a well-orchestrated program of student mentoring that includes work internships, community leadership and service, and other types of mentoring.
  • Develop innovative approaches for connecting alumni with the university and with other alumni who share their interests.
  • Additional action areas to be identified.