Tips for Partnering With a University
I frequently hear from K–12 school administrators that they are interested in forming a partnership with a neighbouring institution but are unsure how to do so. In other instances, a school may be hesitant to form a partnership with a university because the institution’s accountability measures and high-stakes assessments may make it difficult for the school to achieve its goals if interns or student instructors are allowed inside the school. But these kinds of partnerships can make a school stronger by bringing in people of the local community and supplying resources that go beyond what the limited budgets of many schools would allow for.
Every university is its own unique ecosystem, and within that ecosystem are partners with whom you may collaborate on your own terms and in ways that are beneficial to both parties.
CREATE A WIN-WIN SITUATION
To begin, you should consider what you want from a university and how you believe members of the university community could benefit the community at your current school.
Do you need any volunteers for your after-school programme or your STEM initiative?
Would you be interested in having guest speakers talk about their professional experiences?
Do you need assistance in conducting an evaluation of a programme or an intervention?
Would you be interested in applying for a grant that would bring professional development opportunities to your faculty members?
All of these are valid ways in which collaborating with a university could help serve the needs of both your teachers and your students. However, a partnership should be a situation in which both parties profit, therefore you should also consider how the university can take advantage of the situation.
It can turn out to be a really beneficial experience for both you and the university students if you let them volunteer at your institution. According to one body of research, for instance, it has been demonstrated that children gain from having positive role models in STEM occupations who are roughly the same age as them. The majority of educational institutions have student chapters of important professional organisations, such as the Association for Computing Machinery, in addition to speciality organisations for groups that are underrepresented in a particular field (e.g., Society of Women in Engineering, Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers). Engaging student groups such as these is a terrific method to provide role models for your kids and to allow college students to encourage and support K–12 students with similar objectives. This gives college students a sense of what it is like to teach, which is beneficial for the college students.
A significant number of graduate students are actively looking for work experiences that will allow them to put their critical thinking abilities to use while also enhancing the experience section of their résumés. Even if you have to pay for their services, it is likely that they will do it at a rate that is significantly lower than what evaluation companies charge. These up-and-coming experts might benefit from some direction, and because of this, you are assisting them in better comprehending the requirements of a school system.
Additionally, professors are frequently in need of volunteers and data for their research projects. Many of them would be pleased to share their findings with you and your leadership team as well if you would just give them permission to collect data and present results in research projects, regardless of the results of the investigations.
In order to be eligible for many funds, researchers must first demonstrate that they have worked with local schools or provided outreach. Organizations such as the National Science Foundation use the term “broader impacts” when discussing how the research they fund could improve society, build talent in their particular field, create a culture of innovation, or engage a wider audience. These are all examples of potential “broader impacts.” You may assist them in reaching their larger impact goals by giving them the opportunity to contact with new members of the community and by helping to inspire interest in pursuing occupations that require a college education.
A letter of support from a school district can make all the difference and can bring some wonderful university connections and programmes to your children and instructors. Grants are competitive and may require multiple efforts before securing funding. If you reach out to public colleges with the intention of forming a collaborative relationship with them, you may be able to assist them in meeting a portion of their obligation to serve the state in which they are located.
REACHING OUT TO START A PARTNERSHIP
A university is very similar to a K–12 school system, but it is much more compartmentalised due to the presence of colleges and departments. You could try getting in touch with the central office, as well as the department or college that is most relevant to your interests. The central point of contact at the university can be the office of public relations or the office of the provost, depending on the size of the institution (the chief academic officer). It is likely that one of the two maintains a roster of professors who are interested in talking about their research and areas of expertise for their speaker’s bureau.
If you are interested in participating in a particular subject area offered by the university, you should search for the relevant college or department on the website of the university. I would propose that you reach out to an administrative assistant in the department and ask them to help connect you with a professor who is interested in outreach activities. In your message, explain your situation and provide them with the name of the professor. Administrative assistants will play a critical role in facilitating your ability to contact with the appropriate individuals, just as they do in elementary, middle, and high schools. Be mindful, though, that it can take a few of connections before you find the appropriate person who is willing to work with you on a partnership.
Because they are familiar with your environment and are able to facilitate the formation of relationships on your behalf within the university, colleges of education can also be excellent starting points. In conclusion, a human connection should never be undervalued. Meeting people who work at the institution and establishing connections can be made easier with the assistance of your parents and organisations such as Rotary and Kiwanis.
To ensure that working together is advantageous to both parties, it is best to get to know one another on a more personal level and establish trust gradually. To get started, send an invitation to a student or member of the faculty to speak to a club or class on a career day. Or you may extend an invitation for them to take part in a peer mentoring programme that is already in place.
Take responsibility for the relationship. Establish a schedule of recurring meetings to explore the opportunities and requirements that the institution and you share, as well as to plan how the two of you may work together to accomplish those requirements. It takes time to establish partnerships, but if you play an active role in the process, you can increase the likelihood that a university relationship will improve your learning environment and assist you in achieving your objectives.