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Featured Member

Community-University Partnerships Enhance Quality of Life

Briefly, what is the mission of your organization and what is your role?
What do you most want people to know about the work that you do and the unique characteristics of your organization?
What are you passionate about in your work?
What is your dream for the future of your organization and/or community-campus partnerships you're involved in?
What lessons have you learned that you would like to communicate to others involved in community-campus partnerships?
What is the biggest challenge you face in your work and how are working to overcome it?
If you could give advice to a policy maker (Congress, President, Secretary of Health, Surgeon General, etc.) what would you recommend?
Why did you join CCPH? How would you describe the organization to your colleagues?
What does "community-campus partnership mean to you?
What value do you see in being a member of CCPH to meet your future goals for your organization?
What strengths and talents do you bring to CCPH?

Q: Briefly, what is the mission of your organization and what is your role?

Richard Eberst, Director of Community University Partnerships (CUP) at California State University at San Bernardino, gives a speech during the CUP Symposia in 2001.

A: Currently, I am the director of Community-University Partnerships (CUP) at California State University at San Bernardino (CSUSB). CUP's mission is "To advance community-university partnerships that enhance the overall quality of life of our service region, increase the relevancy of our educational efforts, and bring new vibrancy, repute, and resources to CSUSB and to the community." In doing this we are directly addressing one of the three goals of the CSUSB strategic plan which is to "Adopt a long-term strategy for university engagement in community partnerships." The most important thing readers should know about CUP is that we span all five Divisions of the University and our partnerships focus on five areas: Culture and the Arts, Educational Quality of the Work Force and Citizenry, Economic Transformation, Health Enhancement, and Family and Community Enrichment and not just health. However, most of my colleagues understand that if universities are to truly engage in community health enhancement they cannot separate "health" from these other dimensions. For a list of current CUP partnerships click here. To read about the successes of our "Focus 92411" partnership click here.

Q: What do you most want people to know about the work that you do and the unique characteristics of your organization?

Members of the Board of Directors of “Focus 92411” meet with representatives from “California Healthy Cities and Communities” at a recent board meeting.

A: I think we are unique in many ways. First and foremost, we make every effort to help the community identify their actual needs, issues and challenges that they face and then we return to campus to try to build partnerships to directly address these issues. We have tried very hard to avoid having a few professors sit around a table and say "how can we get the community to help improve the educational experience of our students or meet campus goals." Our focus and goals are developed by a wide range of "community" members and our approaches are then generated in response to those community needs and issues. Thus, we form partnerships with the community to first identify the challenges and issues in the community and then we work to convert these partnerships into ones with departments and interdisciplinary collaboratives.

I think we are also a little different in that our goals represent one of the three goals of the campuses' strategic plan and we report directly to the President through the Provost. Moreover, our Executive Committee is comprised of members from all five campus Divisions and we award our Fellowships to any member on campus, not just faculty. We have provided Fellowships to secretaries and staff in a variety of units outside of Academic Affairs.

Q: What are you passionate about in your work?

A: My passion has always been the health of school aged children. After 30 years in health education, disease prevention and health promotion I fully realize that we need healthy communities, healthy schools and healthy families to produce healthy youth. Healthy people are not created by our "illness" care industry. What we call the "health" care system is a great misnomer since it only focuses on those with "disease." I also know that of the four things that affect health (biology, environment, medical care and life style), life style is by far the most important but has the fewest resources put into it. In order to truly create a health literate populace, we need to have a more balanced focus on all four of these aspects through coordinated, interdisciplinary community-based partnerships. One of my passions, therefore, is to help create the situations which will lead to major reductions in our need for "illness" care, place more emphasis on "good" health promotion, and expand the over-all quality of life of our fellow citizens.

Q: What is your dream for the future of your organization and/or community-campus partnerships you're involved in?

A: I refer to my dreams as "hallucinations" since they are considered radical by most of my academic colleagues. Initially, I would like to see CSUSB, and other campuses, create a Division of Community Partnerships (or community engagement) equivalent in structure and influence to other Divisions such as Academic Affairs and Student Affairs. I would like to see universities and colleges return to some of the basic underpinnings for which American universities were originally founded in the 17th Century (e.g. to improve the quality of life of those in and around the campus). Campuses today are like hospitals in many ways. In hospitals, the very best health care is "inside" the building and the very worst health care is right across the street. Universities are following suit. The very best quality of life is on the campus and the very worst is right across the street. At least much of this is true at many of the campuses I know about.

Practically, I dream that we will eventually have five major "partnerships" for each of our five focus areas (Culture and the Arts, Educational Quality of the Work Force and Citizenry, Economic Transformation, Health Enhancement, and Family and Community Enrichment). These partnerships would be fully engaged in developing regional agendas for their areas and keeping track of a select set of "indicators" which will be used to assess our over-all impact on the region. I dream that we will have a "Community-University Partnerships Director" in each of our academic colleges (or departments) and one in each of the other non- academic divisions. These leaders would help create and maintain campus and community partnerships. They would keep track of and fully report on their efforts and outcomes as part of the campuses' accreditation self-study process. There would be some level of community service-learning required at some level for all graduates and the campus would be the regional focus for all regional community enhancement efforts.

Q: What lessons have you learned that you would like to communicate to others involved in community-campus partnerships?

A: Over the years I think I have learned a few important lessons from my colleagues that I try to remember and practice as best as I can. Here are a few of them:

  • Always remember that change is hard
  • Efforts must eventually be related to the Retention, Promotion and Tenure (RPT) process
  • "Partnerships" needs to be part of larger unit (division)
  • Attempt to institutionalize partnerships
  • Take a "holistic" approach to all efforts
  • Always follow through with your assignments/promises
  • Make sure every member of the partnership has a chance to participate
  • Go slowly, but make steady progress
  • Get as many people as possible involved
  • Reflect frequently
  • Give all partners a little of what they want. (WIIFM = "what's in it for me")
  • Do not get distracted: Focus
  • Always be open and honest
  • Get community members involved from the very start
  • Swallow your ego
  • Give credit to others
  • Secure "baseline" funding whenever possible
  • Maintain regular and frequent communications (use variety of channels)
  • Have a complete strategic plan (but adjust strategies often)
  • Follow the strategic plan
  • Build in assessment from the onset
  • Integrate with current campus structures whenever possible
  • Have fun and make it fun for your partners

Regarding students, I would suggest that they must: 1) Understand how working with community partners is directly related to their course goals and objectives. They need to see their experience in the community as another way to learn just like having another "required reading text" for their classes. If they are engaging in community service which they do not fully (or at least to a large extent) understand and do not understand how it will help them learn the content of the course, then service-learning viewed as another silly assignment. 2) Appreciate how what they learn in the community can be applied to their life in general and not just to their "education" or "career." 3) Be aware of the bigger picture related to what they are working to accomplish in their careers. If they do their job as best as they can but do not support and cooperate with the rest of the world's common efforts, then it makes little difference how well they do their own jobs. This means they need to think and function in a more holistic manner.

Q: What is the biggest challenge you face in your work and how are working to overcome it?

Members of the “Vital Communities Dialogue” planning committee meet to discuss their next steps..

A: There are a couple of huge challenges. Initially, just getting people together in the same place at the same time is often a heroic enterprise. We are all so busy today and have a zillion demands on our time, our minds and our hearts. Technology has been of some assistance with this challenge but there is still no equal to having different people and different ideas around a table working face to face. This is where the real difference that is needed to be effective can be expressed. Getting a legally blind community partner to a meeting can be a huge challenge. But successfully doing this pays for itself ten fold in the validity of the outcomes. Generating goals, objectives and strategies for community engagement without the input of students or reasonable cross-sections of community stakeholders is not "true" partnering.

A second challenge has been the past "institutionalization" of isolation across campuses. Faculty work hard at isolating themselves and are most often rewarded for singular efforts. Working alone, like driving alone, especially in California, has become a way of life. Professors are also not rewarded or promoted for what is mostly viewed as community "service." We need to generate a transition to "community engagement" as the fourth element of professorate accomplishment. In addition, Deans need to report what accomplishments they have assisted in creating in the community as well as the number of publications and external grants their colleagues have generated.

Q: If you could give advice to a policy maker (Congress, President, Secretary of Health, Surgeon General, etc.) what would you recommend?

A: Fortunately I have had a couple of opportunities to do just that and here are some of my "educational messages" for major policy makers:

  • Put more funding in to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDCP) and less into the National Institutes of Health (NIH). We need fewer narrow and isolated research articles collecting dust on shelves and more translation of what we already know into the actions of the everyday lives of Americans. That is what CDCP does.
  • Fund efforts that are interdisciplinary and address larger generic challenges and not just extremely narrow medical outcomes which affect only a small cohort of individuals by putting money into researchers' pockets.
  • Connect NIH funding for universities to producing real community outcomes in areas outside of the top 20 causes of death.
  • Work to address the more important underlying issues affecting health.
  • Encourage more complex approaches to helping our society create better health. What we are doing in community partnerships IS harder than rocket science. There is nothing more complex than a human being ? much less a huge number of humans in one place.
  • Accept the fact that what is required are major institutional changes.
  • More fully engage the everyday members of our nation in determining our national health foci and significantly reduce the "leverage" currently practiced by major power brokers such as big health businesses, pharmaceutical companies, unions, and medical trade groups.
  • Generate more elements within all government agencies similar to the Community Outreach Partnership Centers (COPC) program at the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) which are designed to build partnerships among universities and communities directed a significant community change.
  • Avoid any focus on "community service" for K-12 or college students devoid of efforts that do not directly connect the goals and objectives of specific courses to community service. Focus on service-learning, not community service.
  • Encourage and support coordinated college (and K-12 school) health programs that help to create healthy students who are more able to role model good health and translate their actions into healthy communities.

Q: Why did you join CCPH? How would you describe the organization to your colleagues?

A: CCPH has offered me many benefits both personally and professionally. One of my personal goals in life is to be exposed to as many creative individuals as possible who share some of the same passions and dreams (hallucinations) as I do. CCPH has this and is a truly innovative leader in so many areas of my interest. Additionally, the underlying theories, approaches and research of CCPH can be applied to my work in the other four areas of CUP. CCPH seems to me to be genuinely interested in making a difference in communities and not just providing a service to members. CCPH is well organized, thoughtful, open, and dynamic unlike some of my other national organizations. Lastly, CCPH provided me with many great ideas and specific assistance even before I became a member. That was very impressive to me.

I generally tell my colleagues that CCPH is a professional association which is working to accomplish the same goals as we are at CUP, but specifically in the health arena. I tell them that currently most members come from the medical professional schools who are working to improve community health and generate improved learning experiences for their health-related majors. However, CCPH is expanding its focus to other non-medical related universities and colleges with the goal of creating more interdisciplinary interactions.

Q: What does "community-campus partnership mean to you?

To me this is a longitudinal process where campus and community members come together to develop common actions around a specific community challenge. These actions will provide expanded and more effective learning opportunities for students and faculty while equally providing services which will directly address either the community challenge or the ability of the community partner to address the challenge.

Q: What value do you see in being a member of CCPH to meet your future goals for your organization?

I hope that CCPH will continue to provide me the opportunities to engage with bright and imaginative folks who openly share ideas and learn about the successes and failures of their colleagues. I greatly value how CCPH has asked its members how the organization can help its members be more effective in their community partnerships and thus more effectively create healthy communities and individuals.

I think the best part of CCPH has been the national conferences. CCPH has been quite thoughtful in how it has organized the conferences so as to be as practical as possible to the attendees. I have also been fortunate to be part of several CCPH task forces which have been very valuable experiences for me and for Community-University Partnerships. I encourage each of you to become involved in one of the many opportunities CCPH has for member involvement.

Q: What strengths and talents do you bring to CCPH?

My vision (hallucinations) of how health care and community partnering might be developed could be considered somewhat unique and of use to CCPH and its members as we move deeper into the 21st century. Also, I think my long and wide experience in coordinated school health programs and disease prevention and health promotion might also be of some assistance to other members. Lastly, my recent experience in working across so many disciplines on my campus might offer some informative value as CCPH attempts to create wider dispersion of its programs.

For more information contact:

Richard Eberst
Director
California State University, San Bernardino - Health Science & Human Ecology Dept.
Community-University Partnerships
TO-43, 5500 University Parkway
San Bernardino, CA 92407
Phone: (909) 880-5345
Fax: (909) 880-7793
Email: reberst@csusb.edu

For a list of current CUP Partnerships click here.

To read about other previous featured members click here.

 

 
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