Anchor Institutions are Intertwined with Their Communities | OP-ED
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Every member of a community plays a vital role. “Anchor institutions,” refers to institutions that utilize their resources to impact and improve the well-being of the communities in which they reside. By their very definition, anchor institutions must be focused on being the difference-makers, empowering their communities to address their needs. For Holy Family, our mission of educational excellence is the service we provide.
At Holy Family University, with campuses in Northeast Philadelphia and Newtown, Bucks County, our service is educating the community to benefit the community. Our students and alumni grow up here, are educated here, and share their knowledge and life’s work to better these communities. We take this powerful promise to heart.
These partnerships require strong relationships and trust, each of which must be cultivated over time and earned by action. At Holy Family, these connections are forged through transparency and communication of our shared values, strong visions, and consistency. Community members must be respected, seen, heard, and acknowledged, and should be welcomed into the “home” of the anchor institution beyond the business purpose, such as for speakers’ series, use of fields, art installations, and community outreach such as volunteer drives to benefit local organizations, as well as community events such as vaccine clinics, voting, reflection services and more.
For an anchor institution, the community is its lifeblood, and conversely, members of the community must see themselves reflected in the anchor institution. The Holy Family community’s energy and inspiration are derived from those who surround us. There is a reciprocity of investment (time, resources, capital) between the anchor institution and its community. While other institutions might have had to remain stagnant during the pandemic, due to strong fiscal practices, we were able to continue with capital improvement projects, including a new turf field, which employed many local contractors and construction companies. Over time there becomes a cycle of community members utilizing the services of, and building relationships with, the anchor institution, then going back into the community for work and service, which then contributes back to the culture and growth of the institution as well as the community.
Recently, alumna Lisette Agosto Cintron was honored as an Al Dia Women of Merit. Having received a doctorate in education leadership at Holy Family University, Agosto Cintron is a principal at The School District of Philadelphia, continuing that cycle of service and education. Connective ties are broadened and deepened throughout the community with corporate partnerships, such as internships, providing mutually beneficial opportunities for local and regional businesses while developing connections for the participants. The focus must not be just on undergraduate education, but also certificate pathways and graduate programs to allow community members to continue to advance in their careers.
While many of Holy Family University’s students come to us right out of high school, 40% of our students are over 25 years old. Lifelong learning is how we continue to break boundaries and innovate for the future, building up the community around us.
At Holy Family University, we are so proud of those at our institution and those who surround us in our communities. They are the embodiment of our highest aspirations. They encapsulate why we get up each morning and give all that we have. Holy Family University is for the community and of the community, and this becomes the difference-maker in transforming lives through higher education.
Dr. Anne Prisco is the president of Holy Family University. Prior to joining Holy Family University, Dr. Prisco was president of Felician University and vice president at Loyola Marymount University. She was a faculty member at St. John’s University, and held senior leadership roles at Hunter College and Lehman College, CUNY. Dr. Prisco serves on a number of local and national boards.