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Perceptions of Partnership Study

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Nearly all nonprofit organizations in Iowa have at least one partnership with a college or university, often partnering with more than one. This is among the findings of a study released by Iowa Campus Compact, a statewide coalition of colleges and universities committed to educating students for engaged citizenship and creating community-campus collaborations.

The study, funded by the Corporation for National and Community Service and led by researcher Dr. Kara Trebil-Smith, found that most of these partnerships center on student opportunities including class projects, individual student experiences such as internships, and group student organization volunteerism. Community organizations often receive unique expertise and skills from these students or the faculty and staff working with them. In return, students and higher education institutions receive enhanced education through the real-world, skill-building experiences that these organizations provide.

“These types of partnerships are often seen as sporadic and based on individual initiative,” said Iowa & Minnesota Campus Compact Executive Director Emily Shields. “Yet, as this study demonstrates they are prolific and central to the operations of nonprofits and the education of students.”

While the study found that there are many success stories, the findings also highlighted challenges and recommended changes that could lead to even greater impacts on organizations, students, and higher education institutions. The recommendations are meant to help both community organizations and higher education institutions consider new approaches including focusing on a smaller number of high-quality partnerships, making navigating partnerships easier, better preparing students for experiences, and providing more professional development and partnership infrastructure.

The study findings also suggest that there is ample opportunity in the state for partnerships to grow in other areas of higher education work, including community-based research opportunities. Throughout the study, Iowa Campus Compact details how the findings and recommendations will inform the ways in which the organization supports both member higher education institutions and nonprofit organizations.



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Seed Coalition strengthens the capacity of colleges and universities to fulfill the public purposes of higher education through its coalition of diverse college campuses in Iowa, Minnesota, and the Midwest. Our network includes rural and urban campuses, public universities and private colleges, community colleges, and trade schools.

We connect higher education professionals who work in the spaces of community and civic engagement and educate students through community and civic learning experiences. Learn about our mission and values and meet our members.

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