Today, I have the sincere pleasure of announcing a new campus-wide initiative that is a direct expression of our identity as a Catholic, Jesuit, humanistic university – Opportunity Northeast. This initiative is dedicated to improving the quality of life for individuals, youth and families in Northeast Spokane while creating transformative learning opportunities for our university’s students, faculty and staff.
Opportunity Northeast is the name of a place-based initiative (“PBI”) that has been in the making for the past several years. Our institution has a history of involvement in Northeast Spokane through a variety of community-engaged learning courses across the College and Schools, as well as programs organized by our Center for Community Engagement, such as Campus Kids, Zag Volunteer Corps, Campus Kitchens, the Hillyard Youth Collaborative and others.
Our faculty and students experience truly significant learning opportunities through these engagements, and many children, elderly residents, business owners, and families in Northeast Spokane are impacted by them. Through these endeavors, we have also come to understand our neighbors, and to recognize and respect the important community-building work they are doing here. What is also clear is that we can do more to help.
Opportunity Northeast builds on these relationships with an eye towards engaging more intentionally around community-identified priorities, aligning our efforts with community-based partners and non-profits, and working strategically toward the outcomes our neighbors identify.
Northeast Spokane continues to face significant economic, educational and health challenges and we believe our thoughtful, strategic work here will, over time, help make significant improvements.
The Center for Community Engagement and faculty colleagues conducted a listening project last year to update the findings of our 2014-15 Mapping Assets and Promoting Strengths (MAPS) project community assessment study. As a result of this research, we identified three initial areas of focus for this work:
Educational Opportunity: Building a pipeline of support to improve educational access, outcomes, and opportunities for youth; working with partner organizations to offer educational opportunities and programs for adults; contributing to increased financial security and job readiness
Whole Health: Improving access to wellness programs, health screenings and care; building a safer and more connected community; addressing food insecurity; and supporting community efforts to increase access to high-quality affordable housing
Engaged Campus and Community: Engaging the entire University in providing learning and engagement opportunities for GU students, faculty and staff, and supporting community leadership development efforts
A number of generous benefactors have stepped forward to provide initial funding for Opportunity Northeast. They are working with us to encourage innovation and strategies that will help make a positive and lasting impact. Opportunity Northeast will be housed in the Center for Community Engagement (CCE), and its reach will be campus-wide. There will be opportunities for every member of our campus community to be involved.
I am grateful to all of those – and there are many – who have worked to explore, develop, and establish this initiative. I am equally grateful for the community members and partner organizations who have welcomed our students and involvement, and who are working with us to develop Opportunity Northeast.
I am confident this will become a signature initiative for our institution, and equally important, a powerful, contributing asset for the families who live in Northeast Spokane. I invite you to take the time to learn more about Opportunity Northeast and to get involved. Please visit www.gonzaga.edu/ONE and watch for more information coming soon from CCE.
Thayne M. McCulloh, D.Phil., President
February 10, 2020