The new Office of Engagement launches to connect students, faculty and staff with community-focused efforts on and throughout the UNO campus, leveraging more strategically to one of the university’s greatest strengths.
Chancellor Joanne Li, Ph.D., CFA, formally announced the office’s creation on Tuesday, Oct. 11, during an event spotlighting “Career Connect,” a newly formed university effort designed to build community relationships with businesses and organizations to offer students guaranteed opportunities for paid internships.
“As an urban metropolitan university, community engagement is central to all we do,” Chancellor Li said. “Today, we are announcing a new chapter in fostering meaningful and impactful community engagement and partnerships.”
Sara Woods, who was named UNO’s chief engagement officer earlier this year, will oversee the Office of Engagement. Woods has served as the director of the Barbara Weitz Community Engagement Center since 2014, a position she will continue to hold as she takes on the new role.
“I am truly honored and excited to lead the Office of Engagement, which will be dedicated to ensuring UNO is best positioned to serve the critical needs and greatest opportunities facing our community,” Woods said. “With a focus on communication, partnership, and UNO’s metropolitan mission, the Office of Engagement will facilitate the growth of engaged research, learning, and service across the UNO campus.”
The Office of Engagement will provide strategy and direction for existing units such as the Service Learning Academy, Volunteer and Civic Engagement Programs, and Barbara Weitz Community Engagement Center. It also aims to expand efforts like the Community Engagement Partnership Initiative and Community Engaged Scholars Transcript Designation.
Woods said that the new structure is the successful culmination of decades of community-engaged efforts that have shaped UNO’s identity as Omaha’s university.
In addition to the construction of the Barbara Weitz Community Engagement Center, the first building of its kind in the world at the time, UNO is recognized by the Carnegie Foundation with its official Community Engagement Classification. In 2014, UNO was recognized among more than 800 universities by the White House for community engagement efforts that spurred economic opportunity.
“[We] will work to ensure that individuals, organizations, and institutions far beyond the physical boundaries of our campus can connect more easily with the extensive knowledge, talent, student energy, information, and events that can be found at UNO any day,” Woods said.