The Anchor Learning Network is a CUMU member-only learning community created and managed in partnership with The Democracy Collaborative (TDC) and with support from the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

The CUMU-TDC Anchor Learning Network (ALN) is designed to facilitate a more rapid and effective advancement of the anchor mission within member institutions, in home communities, and across the higher education sector. By leveraging a peer learning framework, ALN members will systematically transform higher education to fully serve its public mission and advance the long-term social, economic, and physical health of our campuses and communities.

In February 2018, a call was issued to CUMU member institutions to participate in a pilot year called the Higher Education Anchor Mission Initiative. Thirty-three answered the call and, over the course of 2018, collaboratively worked to identify resources and develop new tools for implementing, expanding, and evaluating anchor mission practices within their institutions, higher education, and the communities they serve. The Anchor Learning Network builds on this momentum and over the next three years, ALN participants will have made significant progress to institutionalize the anchor mission on their campuses and will be leaders in transforming the national perception of higher education.

Higher Education’s Anchor Mission

Higher education institutions are critical local economic engines and mission-driven organizations inextricably linked to the long-term well-being of those we serve—because of this, we as higher education leaders, are uniquely positioned and incentivized to play a more active role in supporting our local economies.

Colleges and universities in the United States are local centers of research and innovation.

Imagine what these capabilities could accomplish if they were fully aligned to help collaboratively solve the problems facing our nation’s most under-served communities.

Initiative institutions employ over 125,000 people.

Imagine how much opportunity colleges and universities could create through inclusive hiring and workforce development in our hardest-hit neighborhoods.

Initiative institutions spend over $6 billion on goods and services each year.

Imagine how much stronger local economies could be if more of this purchasing power was spent in the communities our colleges and universities call home.

Initiative institutions hold $24 billion in endowments.

Imagine the potential impact if more of these funds were invested in transformative local economic development.

CUMU member institutions committed to an anchor mission intentionally apply their economic power and human capital in a long-term partnership with their local communities, to improve mutual well-being. With public trust and funding for higher education declining, imagine the potential impact if hiring, purchasing and investing power was better aligned with academic research to equitably benefit the local economies our universities call home. It is in the interests of higher education institutions and the public for us to align our economic assets as well as our educational mission behind community improvement.

Understanding that all communities have different contexts and histories, ALN participants will explore opportunities for advancing anchor mission strategies in multiple areas—hiring, workforce development, small business and innovation centers, purchasing, supplier diversity, affordable housing, and community investing—while gaining an understanding of how to advance racial equity through anchor work.

Activities and Commitments

With support from The Annie E. Casey Foundation, TDC and CUMU provide access to facilitated peer learning exchanges, tools, and strategies through the Anchor Learning Network. CUMU members interested in joining the Anchor Learning Network must commit to the following for a period of three years.

  1. Designate a point of contact to represent your campus.
  2. Support campus-wide engagement to sustainably evolve and institutionalize the anchor mission: This includes collecting Anchor Dashboard data at least annually to share via a confidential online database; creating and assessing annual strategic internal anchor mission goals; and identifying and engaging key stakeholders inside and outside the university to advance the institution’s anchor goals.
  3. Participate in in-person meetings, remote support groups (monthly calls and online), webinars, and online peer learning platforms: At least two institutional representatives should participate in two in-person meetings aligned with CUMU’s Annual Conference in October 2019 and a spring 2020 convening. Representatives will also participate in webinars and serve as peer leads by making presentations and leading workshops on anchor mission lessons and insights, at higher education association conferences throughout the year.
  4. Act as ambassadors via strategic communications and marketing: Publicly share information and experience, through your institution’s communications and marketing strategy, about the value of anchor mission work with universities involved in ALN as well as other higher education and place-based anchor institutions.

Pilot Year Participating CUMU Member Institutions (2018)

In February 2018, 33 CUMU member institutions joined in a pilot year called the Higher Education Anchor Mission Initiative. Over the course of 2018, they collaboratively worked to identify resources and develop new tools for implementing, expanding, and evaluating anchor mission practices. This pilot year led to the creation of the Anchor Learning Network.

Augsburg University

California State University, Los Angeles

Cleveland State University

College of Staten Island

Drexel University

Florida Atlantic University

Georgetown University

Indiana University Northwest


Johns Hopkins University

Loyola University Chicago

Marquette University

Medical College of Wisconsin

Metropolitan State University

Metropolitan State University of Denver

Portland State University

Purdue University Northwest

Rutgers University-Camden

Rutgers University-Newark

SUNY Buffalo State

Towson University

University of Arkansas at Little Rock

The University of Chicago

University of Denver

University of Louisville

University of Michigan-Dearborn

University of Missouri-St. Louis

University of Pittsburgh

University of San Diego

Virginia Commonwealth University

Wagner College

Weber State University

York University