2019–20 Theme ‘Community’ Belongs to Us All

After receiving many thoughtful and creative submissions from students, faculty, and staff, the Spencer Center for Civic and Global Engagement selected community as the university-wide theme for 2019–20.

“It was, by far, the most consistent message we heard — expressed in different ways, but all revolving around the deep human need to belong and to be connected,” said Christina Harrison, director of the Spencer Center.

The theme also expands to touch on broader issues in both local and global communities that students encounter in their coursework and experiential learning opportunities like study abroad.  

“We want to apply the concept off campus, as well, considering ways in which we can strengthen our connections to the surrounding Staunton community and the world,” said Harrison.

The Spencer Center will host a monthly workshop series starting in September, featuring interactive activities designed to spark deeper conversations across the university.

September Workshop: What Is Community? How Do We Build It?                                                    

A popular word, but what actually makes a “community?” Does it just happen, or does it require skills and knowledge to create? What does it mean to be a member of a community, and what communities do you belong to? What connects you to them?                       

October Workshop: Identities                                                                                   

How do our various identities form a foundation for building community? How does our awareness of our personal identities strengthen our voice and equip us for being active members of society?

November Workshop: Building Bridges Across Communities                                      

In response to religious-based violence around the world, how can we develop interfaith understanding and peace? Whether we are members of a particular faith community or not, how can we promote respectful understanding and build connections?

January Workshop: Deliberative Dialogue — A Vital Skill for Building Community             

Many different experiences, opinions, and perspectives coexist in communities, creating challenges for communication and collaboration. How can we learn to create opportunities for dialogue across different identities, viewpoints, and political perspectives? What dialogue skills are important for compromise and also empowerment?

February Workshop: Community, Resilience, and Health                                        

Resilience is the ability to withstand and recover from adversity, and in regards to health, resilience can help communities reduce negative health outcomes. How do we build resilient communities to improve health outcomes? How can people who share similar health conditions join together to recover and thrive?

March: Now What?                                                                                  

Given what we’ve learned, how do we use our knowledge, skills, and awareness to build community at MBU? In Staunton?


“It was, by far, the most consistent message we heard — expressed in different ways, but all revolving around the deep human need to belong and to be connected.”

Christina Harrison, director of the Spencer Center