Fellowship will establish a cross-city research agenda focused on hyperlocal engagement.

The Coalition of Urban and Metropolitan Universities (CUMU) is proud to announce that Lina Dostilio, Ed.D., has been named CUMU’s first research fellow. During her five-month appointment, Dr. Dostilio, associate vice chancellor for community engagement at the University of Pittsburgh, will work to establish a cross-city research agenda on the effects of hyperlocal engagement on community capacity.

“I am appreciative that CUMU, through creating this fellowship, is advancing cross-institutional questions of how higher education institutions are organizing themselves to be more impactful in their local communities,” said Dostilio. “At the University of Pittsburgh, we have been a strong partner to the city and region. We are deepening our work as a community-engaged institution and investing in long-term, place-based community engagement initiatives which see our local communities as partners from whom we learn and with whom we work, shoulder to shoulder.  It is so important for us to learn and share with other urban and metropolitan universities who are also approaching their engagements from places of deep commitment.”

Across the United States and Canada, CUMU member institutions are committed to place-based engagements and value them as a powerful way to connect the resources of the campus to the communities they serve to foster mutually-beneficial impacts.

A growing number of institutions are developing hyperlocal engagements—instances in which community engagement efforts are focused on a bounded area within a larger city or metropolitan region. These hyperlocal engagements often are supported by some form of built infrastructure such as a community engagement center. These hyperlocal commitments enable institutions to more closely track how it affects the area of engagement.

Over the course of the fellowship, Dostilio will develop a research program that focuses on establishing a cross-city research agenda on hyperlocal engagement. She will investigate the relationship between hyperlocal engagement and dimensions of community capacity and will work to create a space for dialogue and collaboration on data, instruments, policy, and strategies.

“This project is interested in how universities honor the existing capacities of the communities they engage and how hyperlocal efforts may influence those capacities over time. Examples of the kinds of capacity we are exploring are community readiness for change, civic engagement, and social connectedness, among others,” added Dostilio.

CUMU Strategy Advisor Barbara Holland, Ph.D., notes that CUMU, since its founding in 1989, has worked to provide a platform for member institutions to support one another and strengthen their urban and metropolitan identity.

“CUMU has long focused on the collaboration of urban and metropolitan higher education institutions and their cities, working together to identify, implement and evaluate innovative strategies to address regional opportunities, ambitions and needs. This research fellowship builds on this rich history and will facilitate shared inquiry among CUMU’s 100+ member institutions,” said Holland.

The development of a research fellow program was based on feedback from member and non-member stakeholders as part of CUMU’s current strategic direction plan. The focus on hyperlocal engagement was identified at the 2018 CUMU Annual Conference.

According to Bobbie Laur, CUMU executive director, one of CUMU’s core strengths is its ability to build connections across a growing membership to support the place-based mission of higher education.

“There’s never been a more important time for institutions to be authentic about their responsibility and capacity for place-based engagement and service. Lina’s scholarship on hyperlocal engagement will help to define CUMU’s research agenda and move this important work forward,” said Laur.

Founded in 1989, the Coalition of Urban and Metropolitan Universities (CUMU) is the longest-running and largest organization committed to serving and connecting North America’s urban and metropolitan universities and their partners. CUMU focuses on strengthening institutions that are developing new responses to the pressing educational, economic, and social issues of the day. Learn more at cumuonline.org.

Dr. Lina Dostilio is the Associate Vice Chancellor for Community Engagement at the University of Pittsburgh. She is responsible for supporting community-facing work that includes community relations, cultivating strategic opportunities to advance Pitt’s community engagement agenda, and implementing the University’s place-based community engagement initiative through the development of neighborhood-based community engagement centers.

Dostilio was previously the scholar-in-residence directing the Campus Compact’s Project on the Community Engagement Professional, a national research project staffed by 19 research fellows across the country that has produced “The Community Engagement Professional in Higher Education: A Competency Model for an Emerging Field” (Stylus Publishing, 2017), and “The Community Engagement Professional Guidebook” (Stylus Publishing, 2019). She also serves on Campus Compact’s content advisory board for the Community Engagement Professional Credentialing Project.

In 2011, she was an invited member of the civic learning roundtable discussions held by the U.S. Department of Education that led to the National Task Force report titled, “A Crucible Moment: College Learning and Democracy’s Future.” Dostilio has also served as past-chair of the board of directors of the International Association for Research on Service-Learning and Community Engagement, and is on the editorial board of Metropolitan Universities journal. She frequently consults with campuses that seek to institutionalize civic engagement, build their community engagement infrastructure, and develop innovative partnership models.