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.

26th Annual Conference
Beyond Boundaries: From Hyperlocal to Regional Collaborations

October 19–21, 2020 | San Diego, CA

CUMU member institutions are at the forefront of developing innovative solutions to changing educational, social, and economic challenges—work that aligns with our core public-engaged mission and expands the boundaries of institutional impacts. Through hyperlocal and regional collaborations, that are both equitable and reciprocal, CUMU members and their partners will be uniquely positioned to play an ever important role in creating new pathways for future success.

The 2020 CUMU Annual Conference, Beyond Boundaries: From Hyperlocal to Regional Collaborations, asks CUMU members to reflect on the diverse needs of our metropolitan areas and to identify collaborative approaches, not only between government, healthcare, corporate, and community partners, but also among neighboring colleges and universities and surrounding residents.
Conversations that will occur in San Diego will be relevant to schools in the urban core and those within regional and metropolitan areas.

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 2020 CUMU Annual Conference, Beyond Boundaries: From Hyperlocal to Regional Collaborations, asks CUMU members to reflect on the diverse needs of our metropolitan areas and to identify collaborative approaches, not only between government, healthcare, corporate, and community partners, but also among neighboring colleges and universities and surrounding residents. Presentations and conversations will take into account the following major themes.

It’s imperative that higher education invests in local communities. CUMU members are finding success utilizing hyperlocal engagements through implementation of community-based learning, student-leadership programs, community partnerships, and volunteerism. Also contributing to success is the increased focus on measurement of engagement in order to inform and refine future projects.

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. 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, mental health, unaffordable and inadequate housing, and more.

Campuses across the CUMU membership are committed to fostering successful environments for all, regardless of personal identities, abilities, or neighborhood residence. Institutions have directed equity and inclusion efforts across all levels of higher education from course curricula to the strategic hiring of faculty and staff. Additionally, student leaders are often the ones to spur action and change on campuses. Administrators across the CUMU membership are championing student efforts by providing access to resources and expertise in order to ensure that social justice and equity endeavors are sustainable. 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.

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. Development is associated with gentrification, but benefits are generally not enjoyed by existing residents. 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.

CUMU members are examining their role as job creators to fill their own vacancies and needs, but also on how they can support regional and industry demands. Anchor Learning Network members, are collaborating with one another to strategize how longtime, local residents can benefit from positions at their institutions and many others are collaborating with local industries and organizations to establish mutually beneficial programs; Graduates are developing transferrable skills and businesses are benefitting from more prepared employees. Finally, CUMU members have developed programs that work with “opportunity youth,” meaning young people neither in school nor the workforce, in order to reconnect them to educational and employment opportunities. These individuals face immense challenges, but members are working on how to support these young people.

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 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.

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 social and economic outcomes for residents, helping reach both institutional and regional goals.

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. All CUMU members made challenging decisions in a rapid manner in order to stop the spread of the virus and keep their communities healthy. There are tremendous impacts of the pandemic that will alter campus operations for years to come, but this is also a time that we have seen CUMU members display their strength 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 provided increased technology access, created safety nets for basic needs, crafted innovative remote-learning opportunities, and adapted to new means of communication, all within days.


Present your work to an engaged group of higher education leaders, faculty, staff, and community partners.



  • Washington, DC, October 18–20, 2021
  • New Orleans, LA, October 2022


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