About CEC


Leadership for Community Capacity Building


  • Engage in and support community learning
  • Initiate and engage in community and academic partnerships
  • Incubate projects for community sustainability
  • Cultivate and advocate for social justice and inclusion
  • Promote youth and community advocacy for policy initiatives
  • Actively support civic engagement and community action

Community Engagement Center (CEC) was formed in 2000 by faculty, staff and students, and community members interested in better mobilizing the University of New Mexico’s resources and talents towards ever increasing civic engagement. CEC now serves the entire campus and the state of New Mexico.

In a very short time, CEC has come to act as an academic partnership and policy center for communities, neighborhoods, and villages striving to implement more community-driven learning projects for their children, youth and families. In order to support this work, CEC operates as a campus wide linking resource office for more effectively bringing students, faculty, academic units, communities and citizens together to participate in shared learning and community problem solving.

Much of these interactions are conducted between communities, neighborhoods, large public institutions (school, public agencies), and governmental systems (local, tribal, state and federal). CEC’s basic practice is to create spaces where university faculty, students and staff can listen, dialog, and learn with and from children and youth, parents, community members, teachers, and agency representatives. Community partners then identify and document needs and opportunities, and go onto conceptualize and implement imaginative community learning plans—plans that utilize the entire community as a rich context for learning and community improvement. CEC supports and facilitates this mutual community learning process.

In its policy center role, CEC primarily focuses on youth matters, leadership for community capacity building, local community projects and inter-governmental or institutional collaboration. CEC assists community members, leaders and institutional representatives to conduct needs and asset assessments, plan programs, develop youth/adult partnerships, and then provides technical assistance and learning supports designed to articulate community-learning agendas.


The Community Engagement Center (CEC) was formed in 1997 by faculty, staff, students, and community members to utilize community and university assets to meet community identified needs. Formally called the Policy Center, then Community Learning and Public Service, now the Community Engagement Center. CEC's long history serving New Mexico communities began in the 1990s with long-term immersion experiences for faculty and students at the community level.

It was in the mid-1990s that the Institute for Educational and Community Leadership (IECL) gave shape to the future of CEC. This year long institute would bring together community leaders, institutional leaders, students, and youth to research, reflect, listen to community, study, and dialogue about educational inequities. ICEL participants from the South Broadway and Kirtland neighborhoods spoke of the gang violence plaguing their communities. Through research, community dialogue and reflection, the group came to see the need for safe spaces, caring adults and constructive activities to help address this community identified need. This Highlander-like experience gave shape to the UNM Service Corps, a collective of 100 university age students from Central New Mexico Community College and the University of New Mexico.

Currently, the Leadership for Equity Institute within CEC, in the tradition of Highlander and IECL, continues the PRAXIS model of knowledge, action and reflection from an anti-racism lens. Looking at undoing racism as key to institutional and systemic change for addressing health, education, and economic inequities. Strategically recruited to be racially diverse and from New Mexico, the UNM Service Corps represent the communities they serve. From its beginnings as a small pilot project, CEC programming has grown to impact more than 40 underserved communities and neighborhoods statewide with approximately 900 UNM Service Corps alumni.