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Place-Based Community Engagement


Augsburg University has a long history of deeply-rooted and long-term work in Cedar-Riverside neighborhood and the surrounding community, an approach known today as place-based community engagement. In fact, part of the reason Augsburg moved to Minneapolis in 1872 from its first location in Marshall, Wisconsin, was so that seminary students could gain experience serving city congregations in Cedar-Riverside and across the city. This commitment to place-based engagement has been affirmed and sustained across our history, from Professor Joel Torstenson’s call in the 1960s for faculty to embrace the modern metropolis as both classroom and place for contribution to the public good, to our early leadership in the field of service-learning, and the mission of the Center for Global Education and Experience. Over the last thirty years, dedicated staff and faculty have established and maintained numerous partnerships with local neighborhood organizations and individuals, connecting students, faculty, and community members. These partnerships are grounded in trust built on long-term, reciprocal relationships, and support a variety of initiatives and projects. Augsburg has continued to uphold these efforts through funding staff positions focused on community engagement, and prioritizing experiential education as part of the university’s mission and strategic plan.

Examples of this place-based partnership work in Cedar-Riverside include:

Midnimo at the Cedar Cultural Center

Sisterhood Boutique

Campus Kitchen: Community Garden and Meals at Brian Coyle

Health Commons

Cedar Riverside Community School

Community-Based Learning

Place-based community engagement is defined as “a long-term university-wide commitment to partner with local residents, organizations, and other leaders to focus equally on campus ad community impact within a clearly defined geographic area.” [1] Engaging with stakeholders from across the university and neighborhood community, a place-based approach aims to enact real and meaningful social change through partnership and co-creative work.

In recent years, Augsburg has engaged with a cohort of higher education institutions from across the country who are similarly interested in deeply focused, long-term, and place-based community engagement work. Recently formed into a formal organizational network, the Place-Based Justice Network (PBJN) consists of twenty member institutions that participate in annual summer institutes, continuous learning opportunities, leaderships retreats, and other activities focused on place-based community engagement in higher education. 

As a network the PBJN aims to transform higher education and the communities surrounding them by actually working to deconstruct systems of oppression through a place-based community approach. The values of the network emphasize anti-oppression, anti-racism, intersectionality, self-determination, and deliberative process. This move toward an explicitly anti-oppression framework is an important and unique shift in the field of university community engagement, and one which we strive to incorporate deeply into our ongoing place-based work. 

[1] Erica K. Yamamura and Kent Koth, Place-Based Community Engagement in Higher Education: A Strategy to Transform Universities and Communities, (Sterling, VA: Stylus, 2018), 19.