Engaging the community

Lisa Klein, UWL’s community engagement coordinator, center, assisted with last year’s move-in day. This year due to COVID-19, move-in days have been extended and participants will be required to wear face masks. Those spotted wearing no-sew cotton masks during the welcome more than likely will have a mask made by Coulee Region RSVP volunteers. The volunteers are cutting more than 300 masks from T-shirts donated by UWL staff and faculty specifically the move-in.

UWL program celebrates successes of first year

UWL’s involvement with GROW has grown. A new back-to-school volunteer effort is planned. No-sew face masks are on their way to campus.

These are just three of the inaugural university-community projects resulting from the new community engagement initiative that took shape last fall when Lisa Klein took the helm of the new initiative.

Lisa Klein, UWL community engagement coordinator.

“Within the first four months of being on campus, I was impressed to learn the magnitude of community engagement already taking place at UWL,” says Klein who became community engagement coordinator in August 2019.

Since, Klein has worked with the University Communication Office to develop an internal marketing campaign to share community engagement data with the campus community last spring. The plan included a semester-long set of data promoted on digital signs and in the Campus Connection.

Like many other programs, the plan was interrupted by COVID-19. But watch for the campaign to be shared with the greater La Crosse area via social media and reintroduced on campus beginning this fall. Klein says her efforts have led to the expansion of existing programs and the creation of new ones.

The university’s relationship with GROW La Crosse grew once Klein discovered it was hard for the non-profit to collaborate with UWL student interns during winter because GROW’s typical “office” is a garden. She worked with the UWL Foundation to locate a no-cost space on campus so the non-profit partner could work more easily with UWL  students — improving access for everyone.

Meanwhile, she’s helped collaborate with the community for this fall’s move-in week. Look for different faces directing traffic and welcoming the city’s newest citizens to campus in August.

“Residence Life staff have created an amazing plan to invite members of our community to help with the process — all while following physical distancing and masking guidelines,” notes Klein.

And, if you see someone wearing a no-sew cotton mask during the welcome it more than likely was made by Coulee Region RSVP volunteers. The volunteers are cutting more than 300 masks from T-shirts donated by UWL staff and faculty specifically for move-in week.

Klein says working with community engagement has been exciting and challenging at the same time. While academic departments and UWL offices are enthused about the work, community engagement lacks consistent language and processes among higher education institutions nationwide.

“This type of work is done differently — using different models and different language depending on the community needs and the institutional resources,” she explains. “At UWL, we get to create our own system, and that’s when the challenge becomes a part of the overall excitement of this work.”

Klein says La Crosse area businesses, non-profits and civic organizations are supportive and interested in future community collaborations. She has started to build relationships with civic organizations like the La Crosse police and fire departments and neighborhood associations, as well as businesses and non-profits.

“Building relationships, trust and mutual respect is the foundation of a partnership,” she notes. “I’m excited to be starting down this path with so many wonderful organizations in La Crosse.”

COVID-19 has altered efforts. Before the pandemic, Klein was working with several community stakeholders to gain support for new partnerships. Among them: a neighborhood resource officer between the UWL police and city police departments, participation in the Pump House Regional Arts Center’s Canstruction© sculpture competition to raise food donations, as well as working to connect the La Crosse Fire Department to provide important Community Risk Prevention education to student renters.

Klein says those efforts have been put on hold, but the foundation for continued partnerships with the organizations — and others — has been laid. She continues the conversations virtually.

At the same time, she’s also re-directed efforts by starting virtual professional development courses and engaging with other institutions to learn how they do community engagement.

“I have been busy developing potential definitions for community engagement, a framework for Community Engaged Learning (CEL) and a process to help all of us move this initiative forward,” she says. “I look forward to start getting feedback from the campus community this fall.”

Get involved with community engagement

Refer ideas for partnerships or potential community connections to Klein — Cleary Alumni & Friends Center
608.785.8153 (office)
608.518.2235 (cell)
lklein@uwlax.edu

Community Engagement – First year recap

The Community Engagement pillar continues under the leadership of Greg Reichert, vice chancellor for Advancement and president of the UWL Foundation, and Lisa Klein, community engagement coordinator, advised by the Community Engagement Council. 

Items completed —

Community Engagement Plan: Under the direction of Lisa Klein, the Community Engagement Council has developed and approved an updated strategic plan.

Community Engagement Data & Publicity: The Community Engagement Office, in collaboration with University Communications, developed an on-campus, internal marketing plan to disseminate data on CE activities. Telling the story of UWL’s community engagement activities, stakeholders on campus learned how UWL has acted as a resource, given back and provided entertainment for the greater La Crosse community, among other activities. A complete list of stories is available through University Communications

Chancellor’s Community Council: The Community Engagement Office, in collaboration with the Chancellor’s Office, reviewed and added new community organizations to the council to build partnerships and help tell the university’s story to community stakeholders.

Faculty Professional Development: The Community Engagement Office, in collaboration with the Center for Teaching and Learning (CATL), hosted two workshops in spring 2020 before the pandemic. In response to a short faculty survey about the types of community engagement faculty were interested in learning more about, the two offices hosted a workshop titled, “High Impact Community Engaged Learning Practices and Processes” in March. In February, a workshop titled “Raise Funds to Support High Impact Practice in Your Classroom” was also hosted. Beginning in June, the Community Engagement Office began posting Community Engaged Learning opportunities in the CATL Weekly.

Community Collaboration: Lisa Klein has started connecting with many local agencies including the City of La Crosse (mayor, police, fire, planning), legislators, neighborhood associations, La Crosse Chamber, area non-profit organizations and school districts, among others. Within the first year, she has engaged with approximately 350 different people and/or organizations through in-person visits, emails and/or phone calls. The connections are leading to increased communication and opportunities with different offices and departments on campus.

Items in progress —

Civic Action Plan: The Community Engagement Council and other stakeholders will work on developing a Civic Action Plan for UWL in academic year 2020-21, under the direction of Lisa Klein. 

Community Engagement & Community Engaged Learning Definitions & Language: Under the direction of Lisa Klein, the Community Engagement Council is developing definitions and a common language for community engagement, as well as framework for Community Engaged Learning involving mutually beneficial partnerships with community organizations.

Community Engagement Data & Publicity: The Community Engagement Office, in collaboration with University Communications, is developing an off-campus, external marketing plan to disseminate the data on CE activities. Telling the story of UWL’s community engagement activities, stakeholders in the community will learn how UWL has acted as a resource, given back and provided entertainment for the greater La Crosse community, among other activities. The stories are the same as the information provided internally during spring 2020 on digital signs and in UWL News. These stories will be provided to external audiences via social media and the UWL website. The marketing plan will also include two new videos explaining what Community Engaged Learning (CEL) looks like at UWL.

Community Engagement Webpages: Lisa Klein, in collaboration with University Communications, is developing several new Community Engagement webpages that focus on students, faculty, staff and community partners. The webpages will provide definitions of Community Engagement, framework for Community Engaged Learning (CEL) practices and process, video examples of CEL, data that helps tell the story of UWL community engagement, and more.