‘Synergy Works’ helps connect GV to surrounding communities

Courtesy / GVNIS

Courtesy / GVNIS

Peter Chhum

Grand Valley State University will feature the second annual “SynergyWorks” on March 14. The conference is centered on improving university and community partnerships.

Hosted by the Office of Community Engagement, it will further explore methods to integrate GVSU with its surrounding communities through the theme of synergy.

Inspired by the “Signature Partnership Initiative” started at the University of Louisville, the model consists of a university effort to enhance the quality of life and economic opportunity for neighboring communities. The goal of the initiative is to work with various local partners to improve the education, health and social status of individuals and families.

“The idea of SynergyWorks is all about collaboration,” said George Grant, Jr., dean of the College of Community and Public Service. “We have a university filled with knowledge and skills and ways to access information, and we have a community of people finding ways to make things better themselves. The conference is about collaborating between the two.”

The conference’s keynote speech will feature Daniel Hall, vice president for Community Engagement at the University of Louisville, who will describe the university-wide initiative being used in neighboring West Louisville.

Hall’s topic, “Transforming Community: A University-Wide Imperative,” will provide a case study for how a university can work with its local neighborhoods to achieve, impact and benefit both sides.

Cynthia McCurren, dean of GVSU’s Kirkhof College of Nursing, has worked with the University of Louisville in previous years and encouraged GVSU to observe its model of neighborhood partnerships.

“We can consider what might be replicable in our West Michigan community,” McCurren said. “We are most fortunate that Dr. Hall is coming to Grand Valley to further share his insight and knowledge that will advance our ability to envision true community engagement in West Michigan.”

She added that students can use this opportunity to further their education outside of the classroom and apply their knowledge to a real world situation.

“There is no substitute for the value of learning in the ‘real world,’ to appreciate complexity, and to experience diversity and social justice,” McCurren said. “There is heightened growth in interpersonal development, the ability to work well with others and leadership skills.”

Ruth Stegeman, director of the Office of Community Engagement at GVSU, agreed with McCurren and added that “community-based learning is a high-impact practice.”

“Students who participate in community-based courses benefit through enhanced deep learning of course content and development of higher-order skills that employers desire,” Stegeman said.

The SynergyWorks conference will take place at the Eberhard Center on GVSU’s Pew Campus in room 215. Students, faculty, staff and community leaders are invited. To register, visit www.gvsu.edu/community.