Fostering Community-Campus Partnerships

Colleges and their surrounding towns benefit when they serve as one extended community. Student public service programs supported by The Duke Endowment are fostering collaboration between institutions of higher learning and their surrounding neighborhoods. The programs work to strengthen communities and make a difference in the lives of residents and students.


The campus "bubble" is a well-known term at colleges across the country. With student life often revolving around campus activities — classes, study groups, dorms, fraternities and sororities, extracurricular clubs and sports — students often have little time to explore opportunities off-campus. Spending too much time inside the bubble can leave students feeling detached from the world-at-large, including those neighborhoods close to campus. Even as many colleges and universities play important economic and cultural roles in their towns, there is often a distinct separation between “town and gown.”

Growing Demand for Service Learning Opportunities

College students across the country are seeking to broaden their perspectives and expand their educational experience through local, national and international service learning opportunities. The volunteer rate for young adults attending college is almost 27 percent, according to the Corporation for National & Community Service. For young people, the experience gained through service is often considered a necessary asset as they prepare to enter today's global business environment. Colleges and universities can harness student energy and foster civic engagement by offering meaningful service learning opportunities.

Find national statistics and trends on college students and volunteering in this Corporation for National & Community Service report (pdf).


The Duke Endowment has supported several programs that provide service learning opportunities for students and strengthen ties to communities.

Duke-Durham Neighborhood Partnership

    Through service learning opportunities for Duke University students, the Duke-Durham Neighborhood Partnership supports community goals to improve life in 12 neighborhoods around campus, including boosting achievement at seven public schools and one charter school. Projects and partnerships address neighborhood priorities, which include K-12 education and enrichment, affordable housing, safety and security, neighborhood revitalization and accessible health care. The Duke Endowment began supporting the Duke-Durham Neighborhood Partnership at its launch in 1996. 


      The program provides funding for Duke University undergraduates who wish to pursue an intensive civic engagement experience anywhere in the world, including in Durham. DukeEngage participants take part in service projects sponsored or led by Duke, or in student-initiated projects in collaboration with faculty or staff. Students choose to serve in communities locally, nationally or internationally. In 2007, The Duke Endowment and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation provided $15 million each to endow DukeEngage.

      Northwest Crescent Center

        Furman University, with other community partners, developed Northwest Crescent Child Development Center to improve children's school readiness and to serve as a multi-service hub for families living in neighborhoods near Furman's campus in Greenville, S.C. The center has housed early childhood and adult education programs, a community health clinic and senior citizens' programs. It is located in a crescent-shaped area once known for the textile mills that sustained families and neighborhoods. Now that many mills have closed, the area has become home to a growing population of Latino immigrants and families with young children living at or below the poverty level. Furman students and faculty volunteer through the center to lead and contribute to projects. Between 1998 and 2006, the Endowment awarded $2.2 million to develop Northwest Crescent Center. Northwest moved into a new facility in the fall of 2005.


        Area of Work

        • Campus and community engagement

        Program Area

        • Higher Education

        Grantmaking Status

        The Endowment is continuing to work through current grantees and is not accepting new applications.

        Areas of Work

        • Prevention and early intervention for at-risk children

          To equip children and families with skills to ensure that children reach developmental milestones to lead successful lives.

        • Out-of-home care for youth

          To drive child welfare systems toward greater accountability for child well-being.

        • Quality and safety of health care

          Improving the quality and safety of health care delivery

        • Access to health care

          Improving health by increasing access to comprehensive care

        • Prevention

          Expanding programs to promote health and prevent disease

        • Academic excellence

          Enhancing academic excellence through program and campus development

        • Educational access and success

          Increasing educational access and supporting a learning environment that promotes achievement

        • Campus and community engagement

          Promoting a culture of service, collaboration and engagement among schools and communities

        • Rural church development

          Building the infrastructure and capacity of United Methodist churches to enhance ministry and mission

        • Clergy leadership

          Strengthening United Methodist churches by improving the quality and effectiveness of church leadership

        • Congregational outreach

          Engaging United Methodist congregations in programs that serve their communities