Congratulations to Chris Burke, GT’s Executive Director of Community Relations, for being chosen as one of five fellows from across the nation to participate in the 2022 Anchor Fellows Program run by the national Anchor Institutions Task Force. The program prepares fellows “to successfully navigate the engagement of anchors in their local communities” and strengthens their abilities to help their anchor institutions “build and maintain the commitment and infrastructure to sustain a comprehensive commitment to democratic local engagement.” Read the full announcement here.

At this point, you may be asking yourself – what is an anchor institution, anyway? Anchor Institutions are place-based (unlikely to move) “powerful collaborators [with local communities] in economic, educational, and civic renewal efforts” (Harkavy et al 2014:99) that have a strong self-interest in ensuring that the places where they are located thrive and view their own future as closely connected to and dependent on the future of their region. Anchor Institutions are grounded in long-term partnerships with their own local communities. They are committed to engaging in relationships that reduce disparities and advance the public interest along with institutional interests (e.g., faculty research and student learning). Anchor Institution work is guided by the values set forth by the Anchor Institutions Task Force: Collaboration & Partnership, Equity & Social Justice, Democracy & Democratic Practice, and Commitment to Place & Community.

Chris has been advocating and setting the stage for Georgia Tech to strengthen its role as an anchor institution in our surrounding communities for many years now. When SLS launched its “50 Big Ideas about Sustainable Communities” initiative in 2016, he wrote the entry on “GT as an Anchor Institution,” focusing on Georgia Tech’s tremendous economic impact. Chris also participated in a consortium of seven southern cities funded by the Annie E. Casey Foundation to develop anchor strategies for those cities.  

The timing for the fellows program could not be better. On behalf of the GT Anchor Institution Implementation Strategy Task Force – one of 20 task forces proposing strategies to activate key components of the Institute’s new Strategic Plan – Chris, myself, and Institute Relations colleagues Greg King and Merry Hunter Caudle just submitted recommendations for establishing an Anchor Institution initiative at Georgia Tech. The recommendations are based on a definition, vision, and guiding tenets that were collaboratively developed by our task force over the last four months.

Chris’ participation in the Anchor Fellows Program is sure to be beneficial to Georgia Tech as we move forward building on our own Task Force recommendations to become a truly engaged university by advancing – and training students to advance – the public interest through education, knowledge production, community engagement, economic development, and strategic management of our operations and physical space. Congratulations again Chris, and we look forward to learning from you on this exciting journey!