Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Connecting with Universities

When we launched the Tutor/Mentor Connection (T/MC)in 1993, we realized that we would need to engage the resources of universities and their alumni. This map shows locations of colleges and universities in the Chicago region. In 1993 when I talked about getting universities involved, a researcher at the University of Chicago thought I was crazy. "If you think you can get universities to work together" she told me, "maybe all of your other ideas are invalid, too."

I never claimed I could get universities, or the people within single universities to work together. However, I have been working to get some people in each university to work with the T/MC, and to engage their resources to help volunteer-based tutor/mentor programs grow in different parts of the region.

If groups from different universities are building knowledge libraries, and working to engage university an alumni resources to help volunteer-based tutor/mentor programs grow in the neighborhoods of their universities, we can host that information in the T/MC library, and invite representatives from each school to share what they know at the conferences we host each year.

In other words, we can facilitate the exchange of ideas and information, and help each university grow in its role. If a small non profit can do this, teams at any of these universities can do it better.

This strategic plan for University ownership of a Tutor/Mentor Connection strategy was created by graduate students from DePaul University 10 years ago. The T/MC web site was created in 2005, and is hosted, by IUPUI in Indianapolis.

This is a slow process, because it involves building relationships, and building ownership. One group that I'm working with is a first year "coming to Chicago" class at DePaul University. Last fall, Janet Hickey approached me with a goal of doing a project with my organization. I suggested a research project, where the students use T/MC maps and program locator to build their own understanding of poverty, and the availability of tutor/mentor programs. That 2009 project is described here.

Today, we will launch a 2nd year of this project. The class goals will be posted on this web site, along with links to student blogs. You can see them on this PDF.

Instead of just repeating what was done in 2009, this group will build upon that, to understand the way tutor/mentor programs are funded. As they share this information via blogs, we hope it leads to others from DePaul, and other universities, to take on similar strategies, that ultimately lead to new ways to support the growth of high-quality "mentoring to career" programs serving youth in all high poverty neighborhoods of the Chicago region.

Follow the progress of this group of students over the next three months. Visit the blogs on the T/MC forum and see how other students and alumni of other universities are doing similar work.

Join in. This is a strategy with room for many leaders. We hope teams will come from every university, and from the business community, where their alumni are working and leading companies.

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