History & Background
“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 Emeritus Jeffrey Vitter, inaugural address, Nov. 4, 2016
In 2018, this challenge issued by Chancellor Emeritus Vitter was realized as the University of Mississippi unveiled its formal community engagement and partnership program, M Partner. This innovative, collaborative program has sought 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 seeks to 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.
The pilot phase of M Partner took place from 2018-2020 in Charleston (Tallahatchie County), Lexington (Holmes County), and New Albany (Union County). During the pilot phase, 25 faculty and staff members engaged more than 400 students in 35 courses and projects, 18 programs and special events, and 15 national service placements in M Partner communities. The current phase of M Partner is working in Ecru in Ecru and Pontotoc (Pontotoc County). From 2020-2022, 29 faculty and staff members engaged over 360 UM students and VISTA members in 38 academic courses and projects, 8 special events, and 3 national service placements. These efforts have reached over 8,500 people across the partner communities.
In the future, the university will continue to use a competitive selection process to find ideal partner communities. Such partnerships 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 is guided by Laura Martin, Ph.D., associate director of the Grisham-McLean Institute for Public Service and Community Engagement and director of M Partner. She can be reached at email@example.com or (662) 915-2078.
M Partner is a member of the Educational Partnerships for Innovation in Communities – Network (EPIC-N), an international network of institutions across the globe who use the EPIC Model to partner existing course work and university human capital with the needs of local governments, and communities, to improve quality of life. Learn more at www.epicn.org.