Austin College Center for Community and Regional Development
Developing collaboration to improve quality of life and strengthen a shared future
With Austin College’s “corporate headquarters” located in the North Texas/Southern Oklahoma region since 1876, the concerns of the region are certainly concerns for the College. The 2015-2020 Austin College Strategic Plan, Adding Value to a Changing World, calls for the College to serve as an accelerator for the cultural and economic growth of the region and to cultivate the unique opportunities that its location provides for learning, service, and scholarship.
Austin College leadership recognizes that campus and community collaboration can be a powerful means to “move the needle” on issues of regional importance. Seeking to build upon the success of the College’s nationally recognized Social Entrepreneurship for Poverty Alleviation (SEPA) program— developed in collaboration with the Texoma Council of Governments—plans for further interaction are in development. Through the SEPA program, more than 43 nonprofit organizations have had training and intern assistance with grant writing that has resulted in more than $230,000 dollars in funding.
This April, during the celebration of the 100th anniversary of Sherman Hall’s dedication—built with funding from the citizens of Sherman—the plan to enhance regional collaboration was furthered with announcement of the Center for Community and Regional Development (CCRD). The center establishes a framework for action in four key areas, now in development:
- The Community Learning Lab supports paid internships for students in grant writing, responds to identified needs, and creates regional networks;
- Outreach & Facilitation, through which Austin College will host regional lectures and symposia, develop business relationships, and pursue regional funding opportunities;
- Regional Innovation Initiatives will produce robust regional data, facilitate the newly launched Texoma Innovation Collaborative for entrepreneurship, and develop global connections;
- Leadership Education will support the College’s nonprofit and public service curriculum and develop professional education options for community leaders and businesses.
Each initiative of the CCRD is structured to have positive impact on the social and economic health of the region and provide replicable, scalable solutions for community leaders while preparing graduates of Austin College for leadership and service in a changing world.
This spring, the center hosted a Grantmakers Panel on campus, inviting non-profit organization staff and board members and other interested parties to interact with area foundation representatives. In two panels, individuals from 12 foundations offered insights on what they look for in proposals, best practices, funding trends, and more.
One participant was overheard saying that he believed he could have paid several hundred dollars to go to a similar conference in Dallas but that the information wouldn’t have been as helpful as what he received in that setting (at no cost).
Partners in the event were Austin College, Texoma Council of Governments, Texoma Health Foundation, and United Way of Grayson County.
Cary Wacker of Austin College is director of the CCRD.
To learn more about opportunities to engage with the center, contact her at 903.813.2042.