The Coalition of Urban and Metropolitan Universities Annual Conference is highly regarded as a vibrant platform to explore and share new ideas. The conference is focused on CUMU member institutions, their community partners, and their work addressing contemporary challenges through dialogue and presentations delivered in a variety of formats that allow for in-depth conversations and actionable next steps.

27th Annual Conference
The Essential Role of Urban and Metropolitan Universities

October 23–26, 2022 | San Diego, CA

As our institutions and communities continue to navigate a global pandemic, wrestle with a long-overdue racial reckoning, face environmental challenges, and witness the great inequality in how communities are able to respond to these challenges—we recognize that we are still in the midst of crisis. Our conference offers an opportunity to pause and reflect on how we are responding to our current moment while also looking forward as we begin to articulate how we emerge from crisis.

This year’s conference invites us to consider the essential role urban and metropolitan universities play in leading a recovery grounded in community, equity, and innovation.

San Diego: Our Host City

Beyond the magnificent natural beauty of Southern California, San Diego offers extensive learning opportunities. Local CUMU members—University of San Diego and Cal State San Marcos—are immersed in the fabric of the region and provide opportunities to a diverse population.

San Diego, California’s second largest city, is situated in the traditional territory of the Kumeyaay Nation. It’s home to several Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard bases; it’s only a thirty minute drive to Tijuana, MX, the world’s busiest border crossing; and San Diego County has the largest concentration of American Indian reservations in the United States. Local member institutions have created specific professional roles and departments to address the diverse needs of these populations, and serve as models for other institutions.

Beyond a full schedule of presentations, CUMU will facilitate connections through community experiences and workshops that showcase the people, neighborhoods, and programs that our local member institutions support. Local CUMU members and their partners will collaborate to bring critical conversations to attendees:

  • Cross-border and regional dynamics: meeting the needs of community members and students
  • Military and veteran engagement in a new era
  • Political dynamics and the role of the university in the election and census
  • Inclusive and affordable real estate and urban redevelopment
  • Community-based leadership development and the role of higher education

Major Themes

The 2022 CUMU Annual Conference, The Essential Role of Urban and Metropolitan Universities, invites presenters to reflect broadly on how the urban mission can be fully integrated into operations, structure, partnerships, and academic objectives within the following major themes. 

The COVID-19 pandemic required governments, businesses, higher education institutions, schools, communities, nonprofits, and individuals to make rapid shifts in navigating nearly all aspects of daily life. Two years later and our communities and institutions are still facing the daily effects of the pandemic. All CUMU members have had to make challenging decisions to slow the spread of the virus and keep their communities healthy. While our world is still grappling with the negative effects of the pandemic, we have also seen CUMU members display great strength, creativity, and responsibility for their students, staff, and communities. Institutions played critical roles in ensuring the health and well-being of communities, both locally and globally, through their public health research efforts and on the ground support of their engaged missions. CUMU members continue to find ways to creatively navigate in the face of the pandemic, innovating delivery of education for students, creating safety nets to meet basic needs in their communities, and adapting the ways they engage and support their campus communities, cities, and metropolitan areas.

Large-scale development projects are spurring investments in dis-invested neighborhoods across the CUMU membership. While CUMU members are expanding their footprints, they are doing so in ways that drive inclusive economic growth and creatively address affordable housing shortages. Stakeholders are utilizing multi-faceted approaches to incorporate pathways for residents to share in the employment and business development opportunities; benefit from neighborhood revitalization; and access services offered by the redevelopment. As cities reimagine what growth, real estate development, and place look like, what role have our member institutions played in that reimagining? As anchors, how are we leveraging our assets and galvanizing other anchors to move our cities forward in new, inclusive and equitable ways?

“Inclusive entrepreneurship policies aim to ensure that all people, regardless of their personal characteristics and background, have an opportunity to start and run their own businesses.” (OECD). CUMU members are supporting inventive initiatives and practices to unlock the entrepreneurial potential on their campuses and in their communities, particularly among historically underrepresented groups: BIPOC, women, immigrants, youth, seniors, the unemployed, and people who experience disability. In addition to industry engagement, colleges and universities spend over $43 billion on goods and services annually. Many CUMU member institutions, specifically Anchor Learning Network participants, are changing procurement policies to redirect purchasing dollars to local, and increasingly minority-owned, businesses. By committing to purchase local goods and services, CUMU member institutions encourage local business development and growth that helps to create more healthy and stable communities.

Through comprehensive initiatives and partnerships, CUMU member institutions are removing barriers to college access and creating sustained pipelines into higher education for their urban and metro communities. Our members are partnering with K-12 schools to bridge the digital divide, address the inequitable impact of COVID-19 on students from low-income school districts, support first generation students, and mitigate the loss of learning created by the pandemic. Members are also investing in programs and leadership to ensure that once students enroll, they graduate and are not saddled with student loan debt. Students across North America are grappling with rising costs of tuition, housing, and the basic needs of food and healthcare. This struggle to afford basic necessities creates challenging learning environments. CUMU members are developing innovative programs to address homelessness, trauma, unaffordable and inadequate housing, and more.

It’s imperative that higher education invests in local communities. A growing number of CUMU member institutions are undertaking hyperlocal engagement—strategically organized community engagement efforts that focus on a bounded area within its larger city or metropolitan region in ways that enhance the institution’s ability to form partnerships and advance community development. CUMU members are finding success utilizing hyperlocal engagements through implementation of community-based learning, student-leadership programs, community partnerships, and volunteerism. Also contributing to this success is the increased focus on measurement of engagement to inform and refine future projects.

As our communities and our campuses continue to reckon with institutional racism, as our students speak out and spur action and change on campuses, how are our members reimagining initiatives, programs, and impact with a laser focus on changing the trajectory for communities and campuses through an explicitly anti-racist and anti-oppressive lens? Many of our members are working to dismantle racism in their communities and on their campuses and have committed to the ongoing person, structural, and systemic work required of truly inclusive communities. Institutions recognize that equitable and inclusive environments strengthen communities both inside and outside of the institution while helping to develop engaged citizens and future leaders in an ever-changing global society. How are we creating space for authentic dialogue and action-oriented planning as institutions?

CUMU members are increasingly collaborating with other higher education institutions, local governments, and corporate and nonprofit leaders to more efficiently and effectively meet the needs of the populations they serve. Bringing experts together can lead to stronger socioeconomic outcomes for residents, helping reach both institutional and regional goals.

CUMU members are examining their role as job creators to fill their own vacancies and needs, but also to support regional and industry demands. How is higher education responding to and leading the way to reimagine how we educate, train, and prepare the employees and leaders needed for tomorrow? As our economy reels from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, our members are addressing pressing human capital demands, leading workforce development recovery in justice-oriented ways, and employing innovative local hiring strategies—all while grappling with the “Great Resignation” in their communities and on their campuses.


Present your work to an engaged group of higher education leaders, faculty, staff, and community partners. Proposals are due Friday, March 18.


Want to connect with higher education leaders and their community partners? Discover new sponsorship opportunities.


  • October 16–18, 2023: Washington, DC


Missed a conference? View programs and information dating back to 2007.

Thank you to our conference supporters

Discover new opportunities to connect with and establish strategic partnerships with higher education leaders and their community partners from across the United States, Canada, and South Africa. To learn about sponsorship opportunities, email

We are truly thankful that our early committed sponsors have confirmed their commitment to support this fall’s annual conference—each one noting they firmly stand behind CUMU’s mission.

Title Sponsor

Signature Sponsor

Local Host Sponsor

Local Host Sponsor