Local and Community Engagement Committee

Written by Tabatha Cruz and Tania D. Mitchell,
2024 Local and Community Engagement Committee Co-Chairs

The Local and Community Engagement Committee (LCEC) was formalized in 2021 under the leadership of ASHE President D-L Stewart and led by Awilda Rodriguez and Heather Shotton (Wichita & Affiliated Tribes, Kiowa, and Cheyenne). The LCEC is tasked with centering space and place through engagement with higher education institutions and Black, Indigenous, and Other Peoples of Color (BIPOC) communities in the location of the annual conference. Through the development of educational resources and engagement opportunities, the LCEC provides conference attendees with additional avenues for meaningful learning and reflection.

During the 2023 ASHE Annual Conference in Minneapolis, the LCEC hosted immersive experiences including: a presidential session with Twin Cities community leaders, an ASHE DASH podcast playlist on Minnesota waterways, a syllabus with resources on Minnesota history and present-day policies, and an exhibit and presentation on the impact of Dakota and Ojibwe treaties with the U.S. government on the lands and lifeways of the Indigenous peoples and of the place now called Minnesota. The LCEC is honored to return to the contemporary and ancestral homelands of the Dakota/Lakota/Nakota and Anishinaabe (Ojibwe) peoples for the 2024 ASHE Annual Conference. As Co-Chairs, we are grateful to continue building upon the groundwork established by our predecessors and look forward to engaging with attendees and community partners in new and creative ways.

Minnesota is home to approximately 200 institutions of higher education serving a multitude of learners, including distinct and unique cultural considerations. The fabric of the Twin Cities (i.e., Minneapolis and St. Paul) community is woven with a rich history of Black and Indigenous liberation movements, progressive policy making, and radical coalition building. Minnesota is well known for its leadership in legislative action to support LGBTQ+ communities with activism and organizing in the Twin Cities as key to those efforts. It is also a nexus point of immigrant and refugee diasporic communities including Karen (South Myanmar), Somali, Hmong, and numerous Latinx/e/a/o populations. The increasingly diverse and continually shifting demographics in the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul, and across Minnesota, require institutions of higher education here to be responsive to the needs and expectations of a changed and still changing student population. Advocating for equity and inclusion in higher education institutions is crucial to ensure access to educational opportunities, foster diverse perspectives, and create an environment where all individuals can thrive, contribute, and succeed. If and how higher education institutions can be places and provide the spaces where true equity and inclusion are possible are questions critical to our scholarship and practice. We encourage all ASHE members to be intentional in your consideration of space and place within your research and practice.

This year’s conference theme, “I Am A Scholar,” offers an additional lens to place and space that feels meaningful to the work of local and community engagement. With respect and gratitude for that opportunity, we offer the following guiding questions:

  1. How do we recognize, integrate, and honor the knowledge of the communities where we live, work, and research?
  2. How can we challenge the marginalization, silencing, and/or erasure of the contributions of communities from research, teaching, and transformation in higher education?
  3. Where can we create space to center and cultivate the scholars outside of higher education institutions whose knowledge making can inform, challenge, and transform our own?

It is with these questions in mind that we plan to shape the activities of the 2024 LCEC.

We are proud to work alongside an amazing group of colleagues and community partners on this endeavor and look forward to fostering a transformative conference experience for all.

The Local and Community Engagement Committee (LCEC) includes:

  • Co-Chairs:
    • Tabatha Cruz, University of Minnesota
    • Tania Mitchell, University of Minnesota
  • Members:
    • Brittany Anderson (Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Anishinaabe), American Indian Science and Engineering Society
    • Gresham Collom (Stockbridge-Munsee Mohican), St. Cloud State University
    • Orkideh Mohajeri, West Chester University of Pennsylvania
    • Travis Olson, Michigan State University
    • Jess Proskin, University of Minnesota
    • Fernie Rodriguez, University of Minnesota
    • Elaine Ward, Merrimack College