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International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach congratulates Matt Robinson at the graduation ceremony for the International Coaching Enrichment Certificate Program in April 2023.
International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach congratulates Matt Robinson at the graduation ceremony for the International Coaching Enrichment Certificate Program in April 2023.

A framework for engagement

Photo courtesy of the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee

Matt Robinson discusses next steps for UD’s Community Engagement Initiative

The University of Delaware is seeking to renew its designation as a community engaged university from the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. Leading that effort is Matt Robinson, a faculty member in the Lerner College of Business and Economics for more than 20 years and, since July 2023, the director of UD’s Community Engagement Initiative (CEI). 

What is community engagement?

People use different terms to describe what they are doing in partnership with the community. Any time a faculty member, staff member or student uses their expertise to engage communities in reciprocal relationships that improve the quality of life in those communities, that’s community engagement. The community partner and the University each benefit from the partnership, which is impactful and sustainable. The relationship is what we are doing with the partner, not to the partner. 

What does it mean to be an engaged university?

An engaged university is one that prioritizes the efforts of faculty, students and staff in all colleges and at all levels. It supports them through training and workshops on best practices and in grant funding. For faculty, it means recognizing their efforts through annual reviews and promotion and tenure decisions. UD has centers in all of its colleges that have trained professionals working with community organizations in the state, nationally and internationally. I am proud to say that UD is an engaged university and is always challenging itself to be the best. 

What does it take to apply for the Carnegie Foundation classification? 

Carnegie designated UD an community engaged university in 2015, and that designation must be renewed after 10 years. The application is a reflective process. We look back at our work and determine where we have succeeded and where we can improve in realizing our commitment to community engagement. We’ve convened representatives from across the University to participate in that process. The University has a great story to tell. We have come so far since our first application, through the tireless efforts of those who are engaged in the work, and past and current CEI staff who have served as the organizers and promoters of all of those doing the engaged work. 

How does UD ensure that community engagement continues throughout the institution?

CEI is drafting the University's next Civic Action Plan, a framework for how UD will advance community engagement for the next several years. Every college, along with the Division of Student Life, Intercollegiate Athletics and Recreation Services, and Library, Museums and Press, participates in the process. Each college and unit will define how community engagement relates to its mission and priorities. 

What are the next steps for the Community Engagement Initiative?

At CEI, we are enhancing our website to become a portal of information for both the UD community and for our external partners. We are doing a more effective job of highlighting the great work of our faculty, staff and students. We want to continue to offer educational programs to faculty and students on best practices in engaged scholarship and to offer the Annual Provost’s Symposium on Engaged Scholarship, which brings together all institutions of higher education in Delaware. Finally, we want to continue to offer the excellent Community Engagement Scholars program. As that program continues to grow, CEI staff is preparing the next generation of engaged citizens and professionals. 

About Matt Robinson

Matt Robinson is no stranger to community engagement and scholarship. He has spent the last 20 years doing sport development work funded by the U.S. Department of State, the International Olympic Committee and the United States Olympic Committee. He has collaborated with the National Basketball Association (NBA), Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), US Soccer and the Olympic committees of multiple countries. 

The International Coaching Enrichment Certificate Program (ICECP) which Robinson leads has trained more than 400 coaches from 120 countries in 25 different sports. These individuals have all implemented projects in their native countries that have ranged from preparing athletes to compete and win medals in the Olympic games, to a coach who built a rowing training center on the Nile River in the Sudan to train Rowing Athletes and Coaches in East Africa, to one who started a grassroots archery program for children in Nepal. 

Robinson is a sought-after speaker on the topic of sport diplomacy, athlete and sport development and developing legacy plans for cities and countries who host major international sporting events. He has secured over $3 million to fund these initiatives.

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