the desk of...
Dolly Prenzel, U.Va. Community Relations
community relations program at any university exists to facilitate
communication between the institution and the external community
and to promote the development of mutually beneficial relationships
between the two. The program has two components: the "official
program" endorsed by the administration and carried out by
the individual assigned that responsibility, and the environment
in which the official program functions.
institution's students, staff, faculty and leaders create the
environment as they go about their normal lives, on and off the
job, through their actions and contacts with people inside and
outside the university. When members of the U.Va. community are
seen as responsible citizens and leaders who contribute to the
welfare of the greater community, it reflects positively on the
institution as a whole.
our local community, we are frequently called to respond to needs
outside the boundaries of the University. These requests may come
on or off the job, and may or may not be voiced. As University
employees, it is up to each of us to look for opportunities to
help and to serve.
For example, a family touring the University may obviously need
directions. A patient may require special assistance. A governmental
organization may need technical assistance. A business associate
may ask us to serve on the board of a local social service organization.
A civic group may need volunteers to deliver Thanksgiving turkeys
to families in need. A citizen may have a complaint. Do we respond,
or ignore the need? The choices we make as individuals help determine
how the University is seen within the greater community where
are, in a sense, ambassadors for the University as we go about
our daily lives, on and off the job. While some of us would like
to separate our personal lives from where we work or go to school,
most of us have found that to be difficult or impossible. Because
we are U.Va. employees, people listen to what we say and watch
what we do. We are expected to know and understand the position
of the University on every matter. While it is not possible for
any individual to know everything about the University or the
positions it takes, it is important that each of us possess a
basic understanding of the total University, its facilities, services
and programs. It is also important that we make every effort to
be courteous and helpful to anyone who seeks assistance from the
University or us as individuals.
is an awesome responsibility for our students, staff and faculty.
However, in my work in the community, I find that almost all of
us handle that responsibility very well. Our students are generally
seen as responsible and well-mannered, and our faculty and staff
are often cited for their work in the community and contributions
to local civic and social service organizations. When unresolved
problems come to my attention, it is usually because the parties
have not considered the problem from each other's perspective
as human beings. One of the parties is still wearing his official
University hat, and the other individual is still wearing her
official outsider hat. We must take off our hats, sit down and
talk if we hope to solve problems.
I would like to hear from members of the University community
on any community relations matter. For example, where are the
greatest opportunities in community relations? How can we educate
members of the University community in their responsibilities
as ambassadors for the University? How can the University address
the "elitist" image, which is sometimes mentioned? You
can write to me at Booker House, call me at 924-1321, or send
me e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.