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Featured Member

The Power of Community-Campus Partnerships

The CCPH Featured Member is William J. Benet, the Director of the Greater Rochester Area Community/University Partnership Project (CUPP).

The mission of CUPP is to strengthen the capacity and ability of Rochester area organizations that primarily seek to initiate multifaceted changes needed to address the root causes of inequity in the health, social, and economic sectors. CUPP's efforts focus on addressing these inequities particularly related to the underlying issue of poverty, through collaborative, comprehensive, and holistic efforts that seek to empower individuals and organizations.

In his interview, William describes how through his own passions and endeavors, along with the efforts of CUPP, he is creating and supporting community-campus partnerships to address the severe inequities affecting humankind. William views community-campus partnerships as vital in addressing both inequity and human capacity to make change, "We need to bring together the community and the campus in order to unleash our human potential to reclaim control over our future." Read William's interview to learn more about his work and view of community-campus partnerships and their importance to the future of our societies.

  1. Briefly, what is the mission of your organization? If you wanted our readers/members to know only one thing about your organization, what would it be?
  2. What do you most want people to know about the work that you do and the unique characteristics of your organization?
  3. What are you passionate about in your work?
  4. What is your dream for the future of your organization and/or community-campus partnerships you’re involved in?
  5. What wisdom would you like to communicate to others in this field or to your colleagues (similar to tips and lessons learned)? What advice would you give to others? What advice would you give to a student or professional just entering into the field?
  6. What is the biggest challenge you face in your work and how are you working to overcome it?. Or how have you overcome it?
  7. If you could give advice to a policy maker (Congress, President, Secretary of Health, Surgeon General, etc.) what would you recommend or say?
  8. Why did you join CCPH? How would you describe CCPH to your colleagues? And, specifically why did you join CCPH as an organizational membser?
  9. What does “community-campus partnership” mean to you?
  10. What value do you see in being a member of CCPH to meet your future goals for your organization and for the field? What is your favorite part of CCPH?
  11. What strengths and talents do you bring to CCPH?
  12. What keeps you motivated to do the work you do?

1. Briefly, what is the mission of your organization? If you wanted our readers/members to know only one thing about your organization, what would it be?

The mission of the Greater Rochester Area Community/University Partnership Project (CUPP) is to strengthen the capacity and ability of Rochester area organizations that primarily seek to initiate the organizational, systems, and policy changes needed to address the root causes of health, social, and economic inequalities, particularly related to the underlying issue of poverty, through collaborative, comprehensive, and holistic efforts that seek to empower individuals and organizations.

For me, the most important thing about the CUPP is our intention to go beyond addressing symptoms and trying to bring about the societal change necessary to address underlying problems. While we are in our infancy, and while our efforts to date have not reached that level, it is gratifying to me that our partnership has stated that as part of our mission.


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

I think that one of the unique characteristics of our CUPP is that we are a partnership of departments from 9 colleges and universities along with 2 consortia that represent hundreds of human service organizations in the Rochester area.


3. What are you passionate about in your work?

As I said above, I am passionate about addressing underlying problems: problems that create poverty, environmental destruction, and militarism. At this point in history our survival as a species is actually threatened by these problems arising from unchecked corporate power. We need to bring together the community and the campus in order to unleash our human potential to reclaim control over our future.


4. What is your dream for the future of your organization and/or community-campus partnerships you’re involved in?

While we have begun some excellent efforts to increase the capacity of our community based organizations, I look forward to the day when we can begin working on those societal change issues.


5. What wisdom would you like to communicate to others in this field or to your colleagues (similar to tips and lessons learned)? What advice would you give to others? What advice would you give to a student or professional just entering into the field?

I think the greatest challenge we face is maintaining respect for all of the people we work with. One of the greatest dangers is that we can begin to think that we have all of the "answers" when in reality it is only through true collaboration that we are able to collectively find solutions to the problems we face. For a student or professional just entering the field I would ask them to remember that wisdom comes not only from books but from the lived experience of every member of the community.

6. What is the biggest challenge you face in your work and how are you working to overcome it? Or how have you overcome it?

The biggest challenge (aside from making sure that our efforts really are collaborative, "power with" and not "power over") is always funding. We are addressing that in several ways. First, we are seeking to broaden our funding base from multiple sources so that we are not dependent on a single grant source. Second, the partnership does not apply for monies directly but through lead organizations that are most appropriate for the particular funding being sought. Third, all of our funds to date have come through one of our community partners which means that we have not been faced with the large "indirect" that most of our university partners would require if they were the lead organization.


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

Time is running out. We must place the health of our citizens above corporate interests. Right now, we have placed shareholder and corporate rights above the rights of the community. If we do not restore the rightful place of society as the regulator of corporate actions, then the environmental destruction, economic inequities, and military adventures engulfing our world will lead to our ultimate demise.


8. Why did you join CCPH? How would you describe CCPH to your colleagues? And, specifically why did you join CCPH as an organizational member?

There are 2 major points about CCPH that led me to join. First, CCPH's commitment to creating true collaborative community/campus partnerships rather than following the traditional top-down approach. Second, the broad definition of health adopted by CCPH. The threats we face are extensive, complex, and highly resistant to change. Only by recognizing the interrelated nature of these problems can we have any hope of ensuring the health and well being of individuals and communities.


9. What does “community-campus partnership” mean to you?

As I have tried to stress throughout this interview, it is about establishing true collaborative partnerships. All too often the Ivory Tower has remained aloof from the community or when it has engaged the community it has treated the community as a "subject" to be studied rather than as a partner in finding solutions to the problems we all face.


10. What value do you see in being a member of CCPH to meet your future goals for your organization and for the field? What is your favorite part of CCPH?

As a new member of CCPH the best part for me has been the conference and the exchange of knowledge that occurred there.


11. What strengths and talents do you bring to CCPH?

I think I have a somewhat unique background, combining my academic experience with over 30 years in not-for-profit management and 28 years of policy making as an elected official. From this I think I have developed the ability both to see the big picture and to master the details necessary to complete projects effectively.

12. What keeps you motivated to do the work you do?

At heart I am an optimist who believes that a better world is possible and that it is through collaborative democratic action that we can attain that better world, where the health of each individual and of the community is strengthened. As a citizen within a democratic society, I feel a great responsibility to help bring that better world about.

William J. Benet, PhD.
Director, Greater Rochester Area Community/University Partnership Project (CUPP)
483 Pearl Street
Rochester, NY 14607
Email: BillBenet@aol.com

To read about previous featured members click here.

If you would like to be an upcoming CCPH Featured Member, or would like to refer a colleague, please email CCPH at info@ccph.info

 

 
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