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CUMU and The Democracy Collaborative partner with 31 colleges and universities to launch the Anchor Learning Network

Mobilizing anchor institutions



Washington, DC — September 9, 2019  

The Anchor Learning Network (ALN) is a joint project of the Coalition of Urban and Metropolitan Universities (CUMU), a national organization dedicated to connecting urban universities and their community partners, and The Democracy Collaborative (TDC), an international research and development lab for the democratic economy, and is supported by the Annie E. Casey Foundation. It builds on the success of the Higher Education Anchor Mission Initiative, a year-long pilot program launched in 2018, in bringing colleges and universities together to jointly explore how they can adopt an anchor mission: using their place-based assets—educational and operational—to advance the well-being of the communities they call home. This new multi-year initiative will provide a key platform for the 31 universities who have committed to take part as members. As CUMU’s Executive Director Bobbie Laur notes, “CUMU was founded on the idea of stewardship of place. Our members share a common mission to use the power of their campuses in education, research, and service to enhance the communities they serve. The Anchor Learning Network provides a platform for members to build on that mission to create more equitable outcomes. We very much look forward to continuing our partnership with the Democracy Collaborative and working with our member institutions to develop best practices that will not only advance their place-based missions in innovative ways, but will inform and strengthen the entire higher education ecosystem..”

The impact of this growing collaborative effort to advance the anchor mission in higher education is already being registered in new institutional commitments by participants. For instance, the University of Missouri–St. Louis (UMSL), is emphasizing the anchor mission in community engagement and economic development as part of a new strategic plan. Karl Guenther, appointed to the newly created Director of Anchor Institution Initiative at UMSL, says “Working with the Democracy Collaborative and the Coalition of Urban and Metropolitan Universities, UMSL has been able to learn about Anchor Institution best practices, access peer-to-peer knowledge, and develop tools that assist us in our work locally. Among other benefits, participation in the Anchor Learning Network will support our work to execute on our local procurement efforts. ” The University of San Diego has also made the anchor mission explicit in their “Envisioning 2024” plan, with new commitments designed to support local, diverse, and small business through institutional purchasing to be rolled out soon. 

Many members of the Anchor Learning Network are already advancing the state of the field through innovative new initiatives. The Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at SUNY Buffalo State, for instance, has been at the forefront of university-based small business development centers learning how best to fulfill their new mandate under the recently passed Main Street Employee Ownership Act to provide technical support to advance employee-owned businesses. Others are finding new ways to work together with other local anchors through anchor collaboratives, like the University of Maryland, Baltimore, which is working to build career ladders for the local workforce and purchase more from local vendors through the multi-anchor Baltimore Integration Partnership. For Danny Fisher-Bruns, Manager of Higher Education Engagement at the Democracy Collaborative, “Colleges and universities that embrace the anchor mission are a powerful part of a growing movement around building community wealth and a democratic economy. When these higher education anchors are able to collaborate and learn from each other, this impact is multiplied, scaling up and accelerating the benefits realized by their local communities.” 

The support of the Annie E. Casey Foundation has played an essential role in developing the ALN. “For many years, the Annie E. Casey Foundation has been focused on helping universities, health systems and other institutions leverage the full range of their assets to strengthen the neighborhoods that surround them – especially low-income communities of color,” says Charles Rutheiser, a senior associate in Casey’s Center for Civic Sites and Community Change. “The launch of the Anchor Learning Network is an important step toward fully realizing that vision and delivering on the anchor mission. As a long-time partner of The Democracy Collaborative and the Coalition of Urban and Metropolitan Universities, we have the utmost confidence that these organizations will tackle the uneven distribution of opportunity and improve outcomes for children and families.”

  Members of the Anchor Learning Network currently include:

Augsburg University

Buffalo State, SUNY

California State University, Los Angeles

Case Western Reserve University

Cleveland State University

College of Staten Island

Drexel University

Florida Atlantic University

Georgetown University

Indiana University Northwest


Johns Hopkins University

Loyola University Chicago

Marquette University

Medical College of Wisconsin

Metropolitan State University

Metropolitan State University of Denver

Rutgers University - Camden

Rutgers University - Newark

Towson University

University of Chicago

University of Denver

University of Louisville

University of Maryland Baltimore

University of Michigan-Dearborn

University of Missouri-St. Louis

University of San Diego

Virginia Commonwealth University

Wagner College

Weber State University

York University


For more information, visit: 



John Duda, Director of Communications, The Democracy Collaborative, (202) 559-1473 x102

Arthur Smith, Coalition of Urban and Metropolitan Universities, (410) 704-3162,


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