Arts & Sciences, Education

Gaining connection and strength through community partners 

More than 60 community engagement partners from across Milwaukee gathered recently at Marquette to help build long-lasting relationships. The Nov. 30 conference was the first of its kind since the pandemic and focused on partnership building through community service, volunteering, community-based projects, curricular connections, reflection and bi-directional learning. 

Kelsey Otero, senior director of community engagement, explained that the ethos of service runs deep through the university’s culture, and the commitment to building a better world unites our students and alumni across generations. 

“Many of the partners that are here today already work with Marquette University and they are excited to come back, deepen the partnership and identify new opportunities to engage,” Otero says. “We also have a lot of community partners who are interested in engaging with us for the first time and they’re coming to learn from us and to learn from other organizations that have been our partners for a long time.” 

Throughout Marquette University’s 142-year history, community engagement has been an essential part of our foundation as a Catholic, Jesuit institution located in the urban heart of Milwaukee. At the core of the longstanding mission is to develop people who will dedicate their lives to the service of others, actively entering into the struggle for a more just society. 

Community partner and Marquette alumna Dr. Tonya Hameister, director of educational services at early childhood educational foundation Next Door of Milwaukee, embodies that mission. She says her interest in community service began at Marquette. 

“I received a philosophy degree and an elementary education degree as an undergrad. I look back and I see that my interest in service to the community started at Marquette and continues to grow,” Hameister says. “Giving back to Marquette and supporting their desire to be active members of the community is really a beautiful experience.” 

Next Door Milwaukee is a strong university partner for 414 Fellows, an AmeriCorps program offered through Marquette’s Arrupe Center, and for the Next Step Clinic, which helps families in Milwaukee who have concerns about the mental and developmental health of their children.  

Meanwhile, Otero looks forward to more events like this. The goal of community partner gatherings is for all attendees to leave with a new connection.  

“That could be a connection with someone at Marquette University who they haven’t previously worked with, or someone at a new agency or community organization in Milwaukee,” Otero says. “As much as we want to deepen partnerships at Marquette, I think we also play a really important role as a facilitator, helping community leaders network with peers at other local organizations that they haven’t had a chance to connect with yet.” 

The community partner gathering was hosted by the Arrupe Center for Community Service and Social Responsibility, Burke Scholars, Campus Ministry, Career Services, Service Learning, Trinity Fellows and the Office of University Relations