University of Malaya creates center for community engagement and sustainability
Formerly the environmental secretariat of the university, UMCARES (umcares.um.edu.my) has been reorganized and rebranded as the University of Malaya’s community engagement and sustainability Centre. The revitalized unit will now be dedicated to facilitating and strengthening the university’s role in community engagement, and in promoting more sustainable and inclusive development both on- and off-campus.
UMCARES was originally organized to coordinate small-scale campus sustainability initiatives within the university, and off-campus projects. Led by Dr. Zeeda Fatimah Mohamad, UMCARES led programs and projects such as Zero-Waste Program, Water Warriors, the UM Crops Experimental Farm, organic farming in a community in Petaling Jaya, and the Taman Medan Data Transformation Project. The university, however, saw the challenges in sustaining such initiatives, especially the engagement with communities in and around the university. As functional and structural issues arise (e.g. each department has its own approach to community engagement, overlapping initiatives due to the lack of a central coordinating body, few faculty are equipped with community engagement skills), and with the recent mandate by the Ministry of Education for the establishment of “Community Engagement Centers” in state universities in Malaysia, UM has sought to utilize UMCARES’ existing vision and experience to take on this bigger role.
As the new Community Unit, UMCARES will absorb the sustainable campus initiatives, and coordinate all of the university’s community engagement efforts. This Centre will provide support in terms of training, funding, and monitoring. Furthermore, the Centre will oversee and initiate university and corporate CSR funding, as well as source for support for the university’s internal and external community projects and activities.
Dr. Mohamad cited that the university dialogues on IID and community engagement that was supported by UNIID-SEA last year further heightened awareness of these issues and paved the way for constructive change in the community engagement landscape within the university.
To further support the transition of UMCARES into a full-fledged center, the final activity in the series of UNIID-SEA-supported convening meetings will be the UMCARES Retreat and Strategic Planning, which will be held on May 23-25, 2014. To be facilitated by Dr. Serina Rahman, the retreat will the venue for the development of the new guiding framework for UMCARES, and for the expression of this framework into the vision, mission, target activities, and administration of the Centre. The output of this retreat and planning meeting will be presented and discussed with various university units and stakeholders to ensure their involvement in the development of new programs, and in sustaining the initiatives of the Center.
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