The CUMU Learning & Sharing Virtual Series is a free, CUMU members-only program focused on critical dialogue with practical takeaways that create action. This virtual series brings together CUMU administrators, faculty, staff, students, and community partners to learn from one another and share challenges and successes on a set of discrete issue areas. This virtual series is offered at no-cost to CUMU members and their partners.

Fall 2021 issue areas

Each Learning & Sharing Virtual Series is guided by discrete issue areas to focus our collective work. Presentations for the fall 2021 series focus on these issue areas.

Developing holistic and collaborative approaches to meet basic needs

The needs of students are greater than ever as we continue to navigate the pandemic, economic turmoil, and other intersecting issues. Institutions of higher education play crucial roles in developing collaborative solutions to address hardships relating to housing, food insecurity, healthcare, educational access, mental health, and beyond.

Leaders recognize that basic needs of students, families, and the community are interconnected, so we must address these challenges simultaneously. When basic needs are not fulfilled, prospective students can be forced to make the decision not to pursue higher education in order to provide basic needs support for themselves and their families. This trend happening right now; first generation and lower income students were already less likely to enroll and graduate from two or four year institutions, and gaps have only widened during the pandemic. Considering these challenges, discussions and solutions to address basic needs must be centered on equity and student success.

  • We invite presentations that highlight promising practices at your institution that support basic needs of students and the broader community. Presentations should demonstrate progress either internally or with external stakeholders and feature content that other institutions could benefit from.

Developing and nurturing mutually-beneficial outcomes during a time of uncertainty

The past 18 months have presented extraordinary challenges, specifically in maintaining community engagement and external partnerships; CUMU members have successfully pivoted to virtual formats and adapted certain goals and strategies amid the crisis. These partnerships cross public and private sectors and include K-12 schools, hospitals, community organizations, businesses, and economic development organizations.

As more individuals have gained access to vaccinations, many components of society are returning to ‘normal.’ However, shifting collaborative relationships and partnerships to pre-pandemic models isn’t as simple as turning on a light switch, and it may not make sense to revert to ‘the way it was before’ either.

  • We invite presentations that demonstrate how your department or institution is maintaining, constructing, or re-evaluating existing community engagements and larger-scale cross-sector partnerships. Presentations should consider lessons learned and provide ideas for how to achieve success amid changing public health guidelines. Please consider how these initiatives support the larger urban engaged mission and institutional DEI goals, and how these changes may become standard practice.

Enrollment, retention and attraction

Higher education institutions are experiencing a difficult enrollment climate. Demographics of the ‘traditional’ college student have been changing for quite some time. This past year, wages for entry-level positions have increased, barriers for international students worsened with pandemic restrictions, and student loan debt continues to be a major challenge for millions of individuals and families. The enrollment challenge is complex and different institutional divisions have varied roles and solutions to identify strategies to attract and retain students.

  • We invite presentations that creatively explore how urban engagement agendas and initiatives can support institutional goals in addressing enrollment challenges. Some examples may include plans to more successfully reach targeted demographic groups (transfers from two-year institutions, students who have some credits but have not obtained a diploma, international students, veterans, etc.), K-12 pipelines and partnerships with school districts to foster longer-term enrollment growth.

Identifying policies, programs, and partnerships that foster lasting change

CUMU members are developing strategies that move beyond rhetoric to actualize anti-racist initiatives at the individual, departmental and institutional levels. In order to achieve racial equity and foster systemic change, leaders from across the coalition are finding ways to ensure equity is centered and integrated across and within each department on campus. Campus stakeholders are also revisiting external partnerships to identify how collaborative relationships can coincide and complement internal efforts.

  • We invite presentations that highlight ideas that spur critical action and lead to necessary change. Some examples may include strategies that address equity from intersectional lenses, how economic inclusion efforts can support DEI work, institutional measurements of success, leadership response to challenges regarding university-police relations, and more. 

Economic development in the midst of financial distress and recovery

The pandemic created a shock to businesses, nonprofit organizations, higher education institutions and local governments. At the start of the pandemic, many higher education institutions implemented furloughs, hiring freezes, cuts to spending for non-essential projects, and more to ensure post-pandemic fiscal security. Key components of the anchor mission center around hiring, purchasing and investment, but even as institutions were grappling with significant budgetary challenges, actions were taken to support local businesses and communities. As the economy reopens, there are still many challenges that must be addressed. Institutions have the opportunity to pave the way for a more equitable and fair economy.

  • We invite presentations that explore and address one of the following ideas: workforce development challenges pertaining to current skills-gaps, internal inclusive hiring goals, more equitable economic development strategies, and anchor strategies that will lead to a more successful future for all.

What’s included in the series?

The Learning & Sharing Virtual Series provides opportunities for CUMU members to do exactly that—learn and share. CUMU members and their partners can engage and take part at any level and shift involvement as necessary to accommodate schedules and needs. Presentations focus on providing members with useful information with actionable steps that can be acted upon in their own communities while also creating space that promotes dialogue to address the critical issues.

This fall, our programming is being streamlined into two presentation formats to simplify expectations for presenters. Our goal is that attendees will also have a clearer idea of what they can expect from participating in sessions.

Have you led a successful project, partnership, program, or case-study that’s working at your institution? Are you planning or implementing a new initiative or program? We are not only seeking presentations about what’s worked, but are open to presentations on ideas that are still in the beginning stages. These sessions can spark creativity or feedback from session attendees.

During these last 18 months, many CUMU members have shared that they’ve needed to remain nimble and flexible to ‘build the plane while flying,’ and uncertainty will remain in the coming year. Presenters should showcase their work and/or methodologies, highlight what worked, and present positive outcomes, goals or considerations.

30 minutes, including Q&A.

Lightning presentations are quick, engaging, and should inspire attendees to seek you out to learn more. Most importantly, they are fun. Presenters should highlight an idea, success, approach, or trend; bring to light an issue or challenge; or give a personal perspective on a topic.

Lightning presentations are 10 minutes and are paired with others and include a shared Q&A at the conclusion of the session.

Have questions? We have answers.

Do you have an innovative idea you’d like to share with the CUMU membership, but don’t think it fits into any of the above areas? Contact us. We would be happy to discuss other ideas with you. Please email

Yes, we accept and onboard institutional members on a rolling basis. Fees are prorated quarterly based on timing of membership during the fiscal year (July 1–June 30). Our institutional membership dues are modest for all of the different programs and tools available. Please submit your institution’s membership interest via this form or email for more information.

Yes, we welcome presentations from members and community partners. Simply list the co-presenter’s university’s affiliation as your institution.
If the lead presenter is affiliated with a member institution and the co-presenter or facilitator is not affiliated with a member, the submission will be accepted. However, if the lead presenter is a non-member, unfortunately we cannot accept the submission at this time.
Yes, please select the affiliated member institution on the call for proposals site. Community partners vary institution-to-institution but generally we are referring to organizations that are working in collaboration with the CUMU member institution to address challenges and opportunities in their cities and communities. Examples might include nonprofit organizations, schools, local government, workforce and economic development agencies, after school programs, community-based organizations, and healthcare organizations.

Yes, there is an inventory of all recent virtual programming, including Learning & Sharing sessions from fall 2020 and spring 2021. Please check out the inventory here.

Yes, however, we will not record the question and answer component, and recordings will be made public after the series concludes in order to encourage live participation.


We’ve added sessions to the CUMU programming inventory—a resource for faculty, administrators, and students to learn best practices and hear innovative perspectives on today’s biggest issues