A history of stronger communities

The Coalition of Urban and Metropolitan Universities (CUMU) was founded in 1989 by a group of presidents and chancellors to recognize and affirm their shared mission to use the power of their campuses in education, research, and service to enhance the communities in which they are located. On this occasion, the founders of CUMU came together to create a viable niche in higher education for those institutions united through their philosophies. Member institutions pledge to enrich their metropolitan communities while strengthening the universities’ core commitment to teaching and research.

Organizational milestones

► 1989

The first meeting of university leadership to define the “Metropolitan University” is held at Wright State University. This first convening is sometimes considered the first CUMU conference.

► 1989–1993

Wright State University serves as the first CUMU headquarters. During this time period the organization holds conferences and publishes the journal, but does not formally collect membership dues.

► 1990

50 institutions sign the original Declaration of Metropolitan Universities, formalizing CUMU as an organization.

The first issue of Metropolitan Universities journal, Identity and Culture, is published, with Ernest A. Lynton serving as the first executive editor of the journal.

► 1993–1994

NASUGLC (now called the APLU) and AASCU join together to create an Office of Urban and Metropolitan Programs that serves as headquarters for CUMU. A membership fee is assessed to existing AASCU and NASULGC members that wanted to also be CUMU members. A full-time senior staff member is hired jointly by the organizations to staff the organization.

► 1994

CUMU headquarters moves to University of North Texas.

► 1996

Metropolitan Universities celebrates 25 issues with 7.1: Service Learning.

The Ernest A. Lynton Award, named after the first editor of Metropolitan Universities journal, is created.

First formal bylaws are written and approved.

► 1997

Barbara Holland is named the second executive editor of Metropolitan Universities journal, beginning with issue 8.1 Faculty Roles and Rewards.

► 2002

CUMU headquarters move to Eastern Michigan University and CUMU is incorporated in the state of Michigan. 

The first formal CUMU mission statement is approved.

Metropolitan Universities celebrates 50 issues with 13.4: Partnership for Urban Teacher Education

► 2006

Following a competitive bidding process, Towson University is made the new CUMU headquarters, where it is still housed today. Staffing support increases based on growth of conference, programs, membership, and operations.

► 2009

Metropolitan Universities celebrates 75 issues with 20.1: Building Bridges to Regional Stewardship.

► 2010

CUMU reaffirms and revisits their founding mission with the 21st Century Declaration of Metropolitan Universities.

► 2014

The 20th Annual CUMU conference, “Universities as Anchor Institutions: Driving Change,” is held in Syracuse, NY. See photos from the conference on our Flickr page.

► 2016

Metropolitan Universities journal becomes an open-access online journal.

Valerie Holton is named executive editor of Metropolitan Universities.

► 2017

Management of the Ernest A. Lynton Award is transferred to the Swearer Center at Brown University.

► 2018

A partnership with The Democracy Collaborative is formalized, resulting in the Higher Education Anchor Mission Initiative.

Emily Janke, Ph.D., receives inaugural Barbara A. Holland Scholar-Administrator Award.

► 2019

Lina Dostilio, Ed.D., appointed first CUMU research fellow. Fellowship will establish a cross-city research agenda focused on hyperlocal engagement.

Building off the success of the Higher Education Anchor Mission Initiative, CUMU and the Democracy Collaborative launch the Anchor Learning Network. 31 CUMU members join the initiative.

CUMU turns 30 years old. Milestone is celebrated at 25th Annual Conference, All In: The Urban Mission, in Philadelphia, PA.

► 2020

Building off the success of the Higher Education Anchor Mission Initiative, CUMU and the Democracy Collaborative launch the Anchor Learning Network. 31 CUMU members join the initiative.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, CUMU moves annual conference to a virtual format. Leading voices. Leading change. features a series of thought-provoking and action-oriented key notes tackling economic inclusion and recovery, systemic and structural racism, and transformation through crisis.

Learning & Sharing Virtual Series launches as a virtual, members-only program to connect with one another amid ongoing pandemic.

Programming Inventory launches as a resource for faculty, administrators, students, and community partners to learn best practices and hear innovative perspectives.

► 2021

CUMU research fellowship granted to the Portland State University Homelessness Research & Action Collaborative

Lina Dostilio, Ed.D., and Deirdre Gonsalves-Jackson, Ph.D., awarded 2021 Barbara A. Holland Scholar-Administrator Award.

► 2022

CUMU welcomes Anthony Medina as director of programming.

CUMU Huddles launch as spaces for CUMU members and their partners to share ideas, process shared challenges, and connect with one another virtually.

Valerie Holton, Ph.D., LCSW, named executive director of CUMU.

In the Now Series launches to bring together CUMU members to discuss critical, emerging issues and opportunities affecting our communities in a variety of session types.

► 2023

Patrick M. Green, Ed.D., named editor of Metropolitan Universities journal.

30 CUMU member campuses convene in Philadelphia for the 2023 Anchor Learning Network Action Summit.

Stacey M. Johnson, Ed.D., selected as director of learning and engagement to lead CUMU programming.

► 2024

Michelle Meggs, D.A., named the 2024 CUMU Impact Fellow.

Leaders from 22 CUMU member campuses convene in St. Louis, MO, for the 2024 Anchor Learning Network Action Summit.