WMU News

WMU center gets new name, expands mission

Oct. 8, 1999

KALAMAZOO -- Western Michigan University's Institute for Leadership Transformation is getting a new name to go along with its expanded mission.

At its Oct. 7 meeting, the WMU Board of Trustees approved the institute's new title, the Center for Community Asset Building, to better reflect the work the center is now undertaking.

The Institute for Leadership Transformation was born three-and-one-half years ago and focused primarily on bolstering the efforts of African American school superintendents in Michigan and the Mississippi Delta to improve education in troubled urban and rural school districts. Over the course of the past three-and-one-half years, the center's focus has broadened to encompass whole communities.

"It became clear that there were a lot of impediments to higher educational achievement that emanated from outside the schools," says Lynn Todman, center director and a WMU senior research associate. "We began to see homes, neighborhoods and communities as part of the solution and decided we had to take a broader view. It became clear that where communities are troubled, schools were not going to work well."

The center expanded its horizons to take on community development defined as building community assets. Its broadened mission and scope of activities is now aimed at strengthening communities' financial, physical, social, political and human/intellectual assets, Todman says.

Center strategies for community asset building include providing technical assistance, conducting applied research, staging conferences and forums, promoting learning opportunities for students and establishing a clearinghouse for "best-practice" information on issues vital to communities.

The center's new name not only mirrors its current activities and mission, but also brings it in line with new University-wide guidelines that define different categories of academic units, including "centers", "institutes" and "schools." Trustees approved those guidelines last year.

Under the guidelines, a center is a unit formed for the purpose of linkage and visibility and focused on a theme or set of skills. Often interdisciplinary in nature, centers do not offer degree programs, but may at times offer courses.

An institute is similar, but is a degree-granting unit that may offer course work for a degree.

Media contact: Mark Schwerin, 616 387-8400, mark.schwerin@wmich.edu

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