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Using the Power of University Extension and Community Colleges to Increase Engagement


Long the foundation of Land-Grant Extension services, community engagement is increasingly central to the mission of public universities. Extension is a proven engagement and outreach platform for public university service. Engaging with a state’s people enables universities, in partnership with communities, to nimbly address local challenges. University-community collaborations are ideally poised to address transdisciplinary challenges such as climate change, pandemics, social justice, workforce, and youth development.

Universities can repurpose their Extension services to the challenges communities are confronting. Partnering with other higher education institutions including community colleges expands capabilities of both to bring the powers of education and research to communities. In doing so, they not only empower their citizens, they will empower themselves and their missions.

What are strategies for increasing community engagement in meaningful ways? What works? What doesn’t? In what ways are institutions innovating? In this panel discussion, we’ll chat with three experts who’ve helped land-grant universities and community colleges increase campus and community engagement in innovative and authentic ways.


Scott Reed, PhD

Scott Reed is an emeritus of Oregon State University (OSU), where he served in various College of Forestry roles. He was a professor, executive associate dean, Extension program leader, and Dean and Director of OSU’s Extension Service. Scott served as the OSU’s Vice Provost for University Outreach and Engagement. He pioneered the innovative Open Campus, linking educational resources to advance college and career readiness, degree completion, and community development. Scott holds BS and MS degrees in forestry from Michigan State and a Ph.D in policy and economics from the University of Minnesota. Scott currently serves as a Catalyst for Extension Foundation. He’s also a principal of the newly formed Longview Engagement Associates.

Lou Swanson, PhD

Lou Swanson is an Emeritus Professor of Sociology and Emeritus Vice President for Engagement of Colorado State University (CSU). His current projects include the creation of Longview Engagement Associates with Dr. Scott Reed. In addition, Lou is working with the North American Agricultural Advisory Network (CSU-System) and collaborating with Anhui Agricultural University (China) on university-based Extension. A rural sociologist, Lou was on the faculty in the Department of Sociology in the College of Agriculture at the University of Kentucky and later chaired the sociology department at CSU. He also served as Associate Dean for Research in the College of Liberal Arts. In 2006 Swanson became the first VP of Engagement, serving in this capacity until his retirement (including Director of CSU Extension from 2010-2019).  He received his BA in Political Science at St. Andrews Presbyterian College, a Master of Technology in International Development at North Carolina State University, and a Ph.D. in Rural Sociology at Pennsylvania State University.  He served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Tunisia, as a Resident Fellow at Resources for the Future, and in 2009 was recognized as an Outstanding Alumni in the College of Agricultural Sciences at Penn State University.

Eric Dunker, PhD

Eric currently serves as the Associate Vice President of Dean of Business, Technology, and Workforce Partnerships at Arapahoe Community College in Colorado. Eric leads the programming and partnership efforts for the innovative Sturm Collaboration Campus in the South-Denver area and leads ACC’s workforce development team. This unique campus is centered around engagement across the talent pipeline ecosystem and recently earned the Colorado Economic Development Partnership of the year. Eric’s engagement experience includes serving as the Coastal Regional Director for Oregon State University Outreach & Engagement division. Before joining Oregon State, Eric worked for an urban, Hispanic Serving Institution in downtown Denver in several capacities, including directing extended campuses, assessment programs, and academic support services. He earned his Bachelors in Business Administration from Bucknell University, Masters in Higher Education Administration from Colorado State University, and PhD from the University of Denver in Curriculum & Instruction.

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