Published: April 30, 2020
Sio Enrique and Roudy

A newly configured leadership team for CU Engage: the Center for Community-Based Learning and Research is uniquely positioned to continue and expand the University of Colorado Boulder’s legacy of collaboration with community organizations and advancing social change.  

In fall 2019, Roudy Hildreth became the Center’s Executive Director, and Siomara Valladares and Enrique Lopez will be Co-Faculty Directors starting July 1, 2020. The team succeeds Ben Kirshner, who is the Center’s founding director and will remain in CU Engage as a faculty member.

Founded in 2014 and housed in CU Boulder’s School of Education, CU Engage collaborates with communities, schools, and organizations to address complex public challenges. The Center facilitates the development of equity-oriented partnerships that sustain engaged learning and mutually beneficial community-based research. CU Engage serves the entire campus with programs for undergraduates, graduate students, faculty, and staff. CU Engage’s formation brought together five separate community-based programs on campus and has grown to 12 programs that enroll more than 1,000 students and partner with numerous community partners across Boulder Valley, Longmont, and Denver. 

Although community engagement offices are ubiquitous in colleges and universities, they vary considerably in how they approach their work. CU Engage has been recognized for two unique elements. First, CU Engage decided not to separate undergraduate service learning from faculty involvement in community research partnerships early on. This integrated approach enhances student access to research experiences and ensures that program design is guided by cutting edge research and theory. A second distinguishing feature is CU Engage’s commitment to mutualism and reciprocity in its partnerships. Drawing on the community organizing and critical service literatures, the Center has tried to take a patient and sustainable approach that seeks shared decision-making and jointly defined goals. 

“I am excited by the new changes in CU Engage. As the founding director, Ben Kirshner lent his powerful vision, humanity, understanding of the power of working with community members to address inequities and build a transformative Center. His contribution to the university through this work has been invaluable beyond words. We are incredibly grateful that Roudy Hildreth, Enrique Lopez, and Siomara Valladares have agreed to take on the leadership of CU Engage. I can think of no better team to do this work and look forward to seeing how they envision the work of the Center in the future.” said Dean Kathy Schultz. 

As Co-Faculty Director of Community Based Learning, Enrique Lopez will focus on leading CU Engage’s community-based teaching and learning. He will be integrating this leadership position with his work as an assistant professor of STEM education in the School of Education and faculty advisor of the Aquetza: Youth Leadership, Education, and Community Empowerment Program. This summer residential program provides Chicano/Latino youth an interactive, academic enrichment experience examining the historical, social, and political issues surrounding their cultural communities. Lopez’s scholarship focuses on how learning and relational pedagogies mediate youths’ participation in community-engaged programming, particularly those drawing on scientific knowledge and practices. Thus, he brings expertise in integrating student learning with community-based programming to improve people’s sense of civic agency and cultivate deep and meaningful partnerships. 

“I’m honored to join the CU Engage team and work towards advancing its already stellar programming,” he said. “I look forward to working with CU instructors to incorporate community-based learning into their teaching efforts.” 

Co-Faculty Director of Community Based Research Siomara Valladares will lead CU Engage’s community-based research programming. Valladares brings extensive experience in research and evaluation, higher education, and organizational change. She joined CU Boulder in 2016, and over the past four years, Valladares has provided leadership, management, guidance, and support to the Research Hub for Youth Organizing. She will continue in her role as Co-Principal Investigator and Senior Research Associate for the Research Hub alongside this new leadership position. 

“I am delighted to join this leadership team in guiding CU Engage through this next phase of transition, while we continue to enhance student growth, develop meaningful relationships with our community partners, achieve real and collaborative solutions, and strengthen our communities within and outside of CU Boulder,” Valladares said.

Hildreth joined CU Engage in 2014 as Associate Director. In the role of Executive Director, he has transitioned to focus more on strategic planning, budget, fundraising, and increasing impact across programs. Hildreth has been working in the community engagement field for the past 24 years, including stints at the University of Minnesota’s Center for Democracy and Citizenship and Southern Illinois University’s Center for Service-Learning and Volunteerism. He is a scholar of the political and educational philosophy of John Dewey and has an active research agenda that explores the conceptual and practical dimensions of civic participation, and he is excited about this new chapter for CU Engage. 

“We have built a thriving center, and this transition represents an opportunity to start the next chapter,” Hildreth said. “I am really excited to enhance our focus on equity and public impact with communities.” 

Kirshner will still be involved with CU Engage as a faculty member and Co-Principal Investigator of the Research Hub for Youth Organizing, which develops partnerships with organizations that build young people’s capacity to lead social change. As a professor of learning sciences in the School of Education, the transition allows him to focus more on his research. He will continue to work collaboratively with educators to design and study learning environments that support youth voice and activism and also his new campus role on the executive committee of the Renee Crown Wellness Institute. 

“CU Engage is in such capable and visionary hands.” Kirshner said. “I am grateful for the new leadership from Roudy, Sio, and Enrique as the center continues to develop effective ways to partner with communities and make progress addressing our complex public challenges.”