College Leadership

Presidential Civic and Community Engagement Initiative

Presidential Civic and Community Engagement Initiative

As a college rooted in the Catholic, Augustinian tradition, we are pleased to build on our commitment to our local communities, neighbors and region through the launch of the Presidential Civic and Community Engagement Initiative.

Institutionalizing Civic and Community Engagement Under One Initiative

While Merrimack— through our individual programs, faculty, students and staff—has a proud history of serving others in our communities, we have seen inequities deepen across the region as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

As we endeavor to foster a more just, peaceful and sustainable world, we understand the need for our students to become more involved as citizens.

“By harnessing the strengths of our great institution, and deepening our own civic and community commitments, I am confident that we can be a strong steward for the next chapter of the region as we achieve even greater possibilities together.”

As a result, President Hopey is pleased to launch the Presidential Civic and Community Engagement Initiative to more deeply connect our campus community with our neighbors and external partners, as we seek to strengthen and build our collective capacity to achieve community rooted goals.

Beginning Goals of the Initiative

The initial work of the initiative will include:

  • Completing an inventory of all of the partnerships, programs and public policy initiatives forged by our campus over the last decade.
  • Seeking input from our community partners.
  • Beginning a Civic Action Planning process led by The Advisory Council to help map out our institutional strategy for civic and community engagement for the years ahead.
  • Addressing gaps and increasing efficiencies.
  • Deepening our external relationships to make them even stronger and more impactful.
Developing the Next Generation

We seek to graduate the next generation of civic-minded career-ready professionals and community leaders. We will provide students with even greater opportunities to contribute to solving real-world problems through civic learning and democratic engagement in the classroom, in their research and through their academic community-based experiences.

What Is Civic Engagement?

The Carnegie Foundation defines community engagement as the collaboration between institutions of higher education and their larger communities (local, regional/ state, national and global) for the mutually beneficial exchange of knowledge and resources in the context of partnership and reciprocity.

“Merrimack was delighted to be recognized by the Carnegie Foundation for its deep commitment to working with community partners…”

Our purpose, as a unified Civic and Community Engagement Initiative, will be to combine our resources to enrich teaching, scholarship and creative activity on campus, while we prepare educated and engaged citizens ready to strengthen our democracy and address critical societal issues. This work will be achieved through a wide spectrum of programs we already support within the City of Lawrence and throughout the Merrimack Valley. We will look to deepen and sustain existing partnerships while we bring people from different backgrounds together to build capacity and spark positive change. Together we can make a difference.

Carnegie Foundation Recognition

Last year, Merrimack was recognized by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching with their prestigious Community Engagement Classification, an elective designation that underscores our commitment to community engagement. Merrimack is one of 119 U.S. institutions to be selected in 2020 under this designation.

“Merrimack was delighted to be recognized by the Carnegie Foundation for its deep commitment to working with community partners in order to address societal problems and increase our collective impact to improve the lives of many, including in Lawrence, North Andover, Andover and Haverhill,” said Dr. Hopey. “We now look forward to building upon our commitment to make long-lasting impacts.”

Civic and Community Engagement Initiative Leadership

In February, Associate Professor of Education, Elaine Ward, was named to lead as the chair of the Civic and Community Engagement Initiative.

Dr. Ward has more than 20 years of leadership and academic experience in higher education, with a focus on institutional leadership and development, student support and services, faculty development, and community and civic engagement.

“As a College and as faculty members, it’s our responsibility to educate the next generation of civic-minded, career-ready, and democratically engaged citizens, professionals and community leaders.”

She has worked with diverse student populations in the United States, as well as in Europe. Her research interests include institutional leadership and change, faculty identity and the development and the institutionalization of campus-community engagement. Dr. Ward is co-editor of Publicly Engaged Scholars: Next-Generation Engagement and the Future of Higher Education and editor of Legacy Lived: A Generation of Ernest A. Lynton Award Recipients Advancing the Scholarship of Engagement.

A conference chair and a past board member of the International Association of Research on Service-Learning and Community Engagement, Dr. Ward currently hosts monthly community conversations on behalf of the Association. She also served on the National Advisory Committee for the Carnegie Community Engagement Classification.

“As a College and as faculty members, it’s our responsibility to educate the next generation of civic-minded, career-ready, and democratically engaged citizens, professionals and community leaders,” said Dr. Ward. “The health of our democracy and the prosperity of our communities depends on it. As Merrimack College moves into the next phase of its own development guided by our Agenda for the Future, I have never been prouder of the College’s commitment to its role and responsibility as a steward of change in the region.”

Civic and Community Engagement Advisory Council Members

Elaine Ward
Andrew Maylor
Vice President, Chief Business Officer
April Bowling
Faculty, School of Health Sciences
Mary McHugh
Executive Director, Civic and Community Engagement
Cindy Carlson
Faculty, School of Science and Engineering
Russ Olwell
Associate Dean, Winston School of Education and Social Policy
Sean Condon
Vice President of Academic Affairs and Provost
Peter Rojas
Assistant Dean, Intercultural Initiatives
Leila Rice
Vice President, Office of Development and Alumni Relations
Luis Sáenz De Viguera
Faculty, School of Liberal Arts
Darren Conine
Vice President for Enrollment and Dean of Admission
Simona Sharoni
Vice President for Inclusive Excellence, Institutional Access and Leadership
Fr. Ray Dlugos
Vice President, Mission and Ministry
Ana Silva
Faculty, Girard School of Business
Rosana Urbaez
Director, Hands to Help
Erin Mathis
Senior Director of Grants
Susan Marine
Vice Provost and Professor Graduate Education

Defining our Goals, Measuring Our Impact

Reporting directly to the President, Dr. Ward will work with Provost Sean Condon and Vice President Jeffrey Doggett to lead the Civic and Community Engagement Advisory Council. Together, the advisory council will:

  • Finish conducting a comprehensive inventory of all external community-related work done by faculty, staff and students.
  • Assess our impact in the community in a report back to the president, senior leadership and the campus.
  • Align our community engagement efforts with the Agenda for the Future, including community-focused priorities that advance our strategic plan in the form of a civic action plan.
  • Increase our visibility related to civic and community engagement work.
  • Identify and begin to apply for external grant opportunities to support community engagement initiatives and other research that advances our commitments to our communities.

Civic and Community Engagement Efforts at Merrimack

Stevens Service Learning Center

The Stevens Service Learning Center engages more than 1,100 students who provide more than 18,000 hours of community service in 75 placement sites each year.

Pioneer Scholars

Merrimack is recognized by the state of Massachusetts Early College Program for its work in conjunction with Abbott Lawrence Academy in Lawrence, MA preparing underrepresented high school students for the rigors of college academics at no cost to their families, while at the same time earning college credits. Each year, Merrimack’s Pioneer Scholars program awards 10 full scholarships to top students from each class of the Early College Program.

Financial Capability Center

The Financial Capability Center teaches financial management to business students while training them to serve as financial coaches in the community.

Hands to Help

Hands to Help is Merrimack’s physical presence in the community and through our satellite site in Lawrence, faculty, staff and students provide services to the immediate community and surrounding areas, including after school tutoring, college application support, ESL classes, tax assistance, job preparation and resume building, and summer day camp.

The Food Recovery Network

The Food Recovery Network is a national program that empowers student volunteers to fight hunger and food waste in their communities by recovering and preparing meals for the food insecure.


Jumpstart brings students and community volunteers together for year-long individualized tutoring and mentoring.

Austin Scholars

Austin Scholars is Merrimack’s longest existing living-learning community grounded in a commitment to faith-based community service. Faculty teach courses with a service-learning requirement where students participate in traditional learning, reflection and weekly service in neighboring communities.

Lawrence Math and Science Partnership

The Lawrence Math and Science Partnership is a specialized learning center that offers an after-school STEM program for middle school students from five schools in Lawrence, the Boys and Girls Club of Lawrence, the Adelante Education Center and the Lawrence YMCA. The program is facilitated by Merrimack College student mentors and operates in the schools and community organizations.

Active Science

Active Science is an innovative social enterprise that uses experiential-based learning to increase physical activity and promote academic achievement among children. Through the program, children interact with a variety of technologies such as activity monitors, tablets and a mobile app. The collaboration in Lawrence is focused on improving levels of physical activity among Lawrence school children, enhancing the quality of physical education, and promoting school time and afterschool physical activity in grades K-5. The collaboration has been crafted to support the Lawrence Public Schools’ efforts to improve academic performance and reduce the academic achievement gap, especially in STEM fields.

Youth Voice

Youth Voice is one of Merrimack’s most recent civic and community engagement programs, forming a collaborative network of Merrimack faculty, students and community partnerships to support local youth. Learn More About Youth Voice