Local Colleges and Universities: Solid Ties to the 'Place' We Call Home

Author: Allison Nanni

A great college or university nurtures the interplay of ideas, people and places in ways that serve them all. The University Colleagues Collaborative (UCC) grew out of a desire to talk about the distinctive roles area institutions of higher education play in this “place” we all inhabit.

The University Colleague Collaborative, comprised of a group of communications professionals from seven area schools, contributes to the weekly “Beyond the Campus” column. UCC members are Bethel College, Holy Cross College, Indiana University School of Medicine-South Bend, Indiana University South Bend, Purdue College of Technology, Saint Mary’s College and the University of Notre Dame.

“We don’t function as islands,” says Tim Sexton, associate vice president for public affairs at the University of Notre Dame. “On the contrary, a sense of ‘place’ is important. We view the prosperity of the region and the health of our colleges and universities as undeniably linked.” 

In 2011, the collaborative originated when local higher education professionals began talking to executives from the South Bend Tribune about ways to better tell the powerful stories unfolding beyond the confines of their various campuses.

For Kenneth Baierl, director of communications and marketing at Indiana University South Bend, the stories that are told each week in the South Bend Tribune’s Beyond the Campus column are the most impressive feature of the collaborative. Baierl says, “I am impressed by how the local colleges and universities impact the community. We each serve our students and the community in different yet complementary ways. I can’t imagine what South Bend would be like without these institutions and the bright, talented and caring students that study, do research, volunteer and work here.” 

As assistant director of marketing and communications at Bethel College, Lissa Diaz says it is often challenging to know what is going on beyond her own school. However, through the collaborative, she meets with other communicators monthly to share ideas, industry trends and events and to cultivate relationships.

Diaz says, “We learn what is working for other colleges and assist in getting the word out about the good things happening on both our campus and other campuses. Really, we work together to promote higher education as a whole.”

Michael Sanders, director of Purdue College of Technology at South Bend, describes the collaboration with his colleagues as “invaluable in bringing attention to the fact that we are here in the community and that students can earn a Purdue degree in a high-tech field while living at home.”

Patricia Adams, director of community engagement at Holy Cross College, appreciates the commonalties and the relationships that have developed between communications professionals over time. “Even though we recognize the different focuses of our institutions, we see our common bond in reaching out into the community. We encourage each other and praise our students’ successes when helping others.”

The director of media relations at Saint Mary’s College, Gwen O’Brien, says that the very exercise of implementing a weekly column has demonstrated to both the community and to the UCC members themselves the scope of influence of the area’s colleges and universities. “Our students are not just ‘passing through,’” says O’Brien. “Each story helps to identify all the local nonprofit colleges and universities as caring about the community.”