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Community Voices: Public service college celebrates anniversary

K. Charles Peterson | 5/23/2012, 8:16 a.m.
The College of Public and Community Service (CPCS) at UMass Boston recently celebrated its 40th anniversary. (L-R) Assistant Secretary for Access and Opportunity Ronald Marlow, Dean Anna Madison, Dr. Carroy Ferguson and New Democracy Coalition Director Kevin C. Peterson. Nathan J. Cooper

Hundreds of supporters gathered recently at the College of Public and Community Service (CPCS) at UMass Boston to celebrate 40 years of developing community organizers, human service leaders and even a mayor and former congressman.

During its history the CPCS has been at the forefront of urban education in Boston, supplying local communities with graduates who have gone on to make contributions in their neighborhoods and participate in making public policy.

The college is unique among others because it is committed to addressing distinct urban issues and the challenges faced by underserved neighborhoods. For more than four decades, it has churned out accomplished graduates able to move up the rungs of leadership.

“This is a period where we are reflecting on our success and looking forward to a brighter chapter for the college,” said Dean Anna Madison. “We are positioning the college to develop new generations of civic innovators and human service industry leaders. The College of Public and Community Service is proud to continue its 40-year legacy of service to Boston, the Commonwealth and the nation.”

Madison, who is energetically deploying an expanded vision that seeks to connect its academic offerings to current and future community needs, is leading Harbor Point institution as it transitions into an upper division college within the UMass Boston system. With this transition will come more rigorous academic standards that will equip students with the tools to face ever-changing community dynamics.

In the years to come, Madison anticipates adding new bachelor degree majors focusing on community organizing, housing social work and transportation. Her goal will also give the college an international reach with new programming and partnerships. The college has recently stepped up efforts to attract new students by reaching out to community organizations, high schools and community colleges.

Founded in the early 1970s, the college mainly catered to adult learners who used prior work and community experience as a springboard for earning a bachelor’s degree. Today, the CPCS is now a full-fledged division of the UMass Boston system.

The college remains one of the few in the region that focuses on producing grassroots community leaders, human service innovators and a well-educated workforce for Boston’s enormous nonprofit sector.

A number of prominent Bostonians point to their foundation at the CPCS. Former Congressman Joseph Kennedy and past Boston City Councilor Maureen Feeney count themselves as proud graduates. As does Boston Mayor Thomas Menino, who recently proclaimed a special day in Boston recognizing the values of the college.

Assistant Secretary of Access and Opportunity Ronald Marlow represented Governor Deval Patrick at the UMass celebration, calling “CPCS a valuable asset in the Commonwealth.”

For decades the CPCS has produced community leaders who have made a commitment to changing conditions, mainly on behalf of poor or historically discriminated against groups.

Dr. Jose Alicea, a CPCS graduate who later earned his doctorate degree from Harvard University, believes that the college answers the needs of poor and underserved communities.

“It’s clear that the CPCS educates and nurtures practitioners who labor for social justice on behalf of our society’s neediest members,” said Alicea. “The college’s focus on community service helps balance a social process that unfortunately is heavily influenced by individualism and a power elite. CPCS alumni are the knitters and guardians of the safety net.”

Attending the celebration were UMass Boston Chancellor Keith Motley, City Council President Steve Murphy, UMass Provost Winston Langley and Boston City Councillor Charles Yancey.

“We are happy to be with you,” said Yancey. “The city recognizes the important role that the CPCS has played in positively shaping the civic and social fabric of the city.”