“Imagine what we can do if we channel the talents of our university — our entire university — to partner with towns and cities — one at a time — to enhance every aspect of community life. Imagine!” – Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter, inaugural address, Nov. 4, 2016
In 2018, this challenge issued by Chancellor Vitter will be realized as the University of Mississippi rolls out its formal community partnership program, M Partner. This innovative, collaborative program seeks to match diverse and comprehensive university resources with community goals and needs. Whether those needs relate to health care and education, economic development and policy, marketing and tourism, resiliency, or core government systems, the goal of M Partner is to create substantial and sustainable results that will be viable in the community for decades to come.
The program will marry three aspects of formal community partnerships to create a mutually beneficial relationship in which both the university and the community work together to attain sustainable results. The three lanes of effort include:
- A robust student service-learning component in which students and professors work alongside community members to achieve meaningful results in the community and enhance learning and teaching in the university.
- Research and scholarship fueled by real world challenges and informed by lessons learned from partners at the community level.
- Engagement of university and community leaders to apply best practices and creative problem-solving that will enhance community life and inform university outreach and service activities.
2018 will be a pilot year for M Partner, during which the university will engage up to three communities for a period of 18 months to two years. As the program matures, the university will use a competitive selection process and will develop time frames as needed. The partnership will be secured through a memorandum of understanding between the university and the community following a tailored assessment of the community’s readiness and suitability for a formal partnering arrangement. M Partner will be guided by Katrina Caldwell, Ph.D., vice chancellor for diversity and community engagement and director of M Partner, and Alice M. Clark, Ph.D., interim vice chancellor for university relations.