From the Executive Director
The best part of my job as executive director of the Office of Engagement Initiatives is collaborating with so many people from across Cornell. Each new link in this CEL network is vitally important — leading to greater impact on student learning, new faculty and staff opportunities and greater benefits for communities.
Every day, my OEI colleagues and I brainstorm with faculty, students, staff, community partners, alumni and university leadership about new possibilities for learning and research with and for community partners. We learn from faculty and staff who have been engaging with communities for years, and investigate the curiosities of those who want to do this for the first time. Together, we share evidence-based approaches or, in many cases, uncover new ways that community-engaged learning can advance our individual and shared goals.
Supporting community-engaged learning also means collaborating with the people who work behind the scenes to make the university run and those who are more visible in their tireless efforts. I’ve had the pleasure of working with administrative support divisions — Institutional Research and Planning, Risk Management and Purchasing, for example — to help remove barriers to CEL at Cornell and make it more accessible, feasible and financially sustainable. Through collaborations with the Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies, the Office of Academic Diversity Initiatives, the Cornell Atkinson Center for Sustainability and the Center for Teaching Innovation, we’ve shared best practices and strategies among central units to advance each of our collective agendas. As we build capacity through Cornell’s colleges, schools, departments, divisions and units to offer high-quality and sustained community-engaged learning, we build broad ownership for community-engaged learning across the university, so that it has ever more champions in ever more places.
CEL programs and projects are taking place in classes, co-curricular programs, research labs, athletics and residential life, and the variety of activities never ceases to amaze me. I extend my deepest gratitude to everyone already involved in making community-engaged learning a hallmark of the Cornell experience, and I look forward to working with all of you as we keep building a better world together.
Basil A. Safi
Executive Director, Office of Engagement Initiatives