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From the President

Metropolitan State remembers Susan Shumer

Posted January 8, 2018

To the Metropolitan State community:

On Nov. 30, I sent a message about the passing of a former University colleague, Susan Spring Shumer, who died on Sunday, Nov. 19. Arrangements for an on-campus memorial gathering are now in place. A remembrance of Susan follows.
Susan Shumer was the founding director of the Center for Community-Based Learning, which became the Institute for Community Engagement and Scholarship prior to her January 2013 retirement as director emerita. 
Susan came to Metropolitan State as its academic internship coordinator in 1992. In 1996, she co-founded CCBL and became its director. Susan’s work was always guided by the convictions that Metropolitan State was built upon having strong relationships with the community, and that we must collaborate internally if we want to have effective collaborations externally. Susan made sure the university’s founding commitment to honoring community-situated knowledge remained central to our work.
Susan’s influence led to many program innovations and national recognitions for Metropolitan State. Thanks to her vision and industry, community engagement as an approach to teaching, learning, and scholarship became “institutionalized”—in the finest sense of that word—at Metropolitan State, anchoring an institutional ethos and reputation as an “engaged campus” into which we continue to live and grow.

The high points of Susan’s accomplishments at Metropolitan State include the following:

  • 1998: Received a HUD “Community Outreach Partnership Centers” grant to work in collaboration with community partners on affordable housing in the East Side;
  • 1999: Began efforts to position Metropolitan State for Campus Compact’s “Engaged Campus” designation;
  • 2001: Launched Project SHINE (Students Helping in the Naturalization of Elders) in collaboration with MCTC;
  • 2002: Received funding from Minnesota Office of Higher Education to fund From Programs to Practice: Building the Engaged Campus;
  • 2003: Established the “American Democracy Project” at Metropolitan State, in partnership with the New York Times and the American Association of State Colleges and Universities;
  • 2003: Metropolitan State and LISC were named finalists for the “Rosalyn and Jimmy Carter Partnership Award for Campus-Community Collaborations;”
  • 2005: Developed the Circle of Engaged Learning, a visual representation of a social change model that connects civic engagement to the mission and vision of the university;
  • 2005: Organized the university’s inaugural observance of Constitution Day - A conversation with members of the Minnesota Supreme Court: The Significance of Supreme Court Nominations in the Constitutional Context, and Freedom of Speech and Academic Freedom;
  • 2006: Established the President’s Circle of Engagement program to recognize faculty members for integration of community engagement into their teaching and scholarship;
  • 2007: Hosted Nobel Laureate Bishop Desmond Tutu during Metropolitan State’s hosting of youthrive’s PeaceJam conference;
  • 2008: Conducted institutional self-study to secure the Carnegie Foundation Elective Community Engagement Classification for Metropolitan State (Susan also contributed to the renewal of this classification in 2015);
  • 2008: Launched Metro State Votes, a series of activities and programs to inform, engage, and involve the university community in civic action during each election season;
  • 2009: Metropolitan State was named to the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll with distinction (the first of two such recognitions of the university by the Obama administration);
  • 2012: Developed and launched the “Community Engagement” course designation process to assist students in identifying community-engaged learning opportunities in the course schedule;
  • 2012: Led the process that resulted in re-naming “CCBL” as “ICES,” broadening its scope and placing it on an enterprise-wide footing within the university.

Susan was asked, in an interview one year before her retirement, about her favorite memory after 20 years at Metropolitan State. She identified the day in 2007 that she spent as host, guide, and general factotum for Archbishop Desmond Tutu, of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa, when he came to join youthrive’s “PeaceJam” youth conference at sites across the Twin Cities, including Metropolitan State.

I am sharing this message broadly because of all of us, whether we worked with Susan or joined the university more recently, are inheritors and therefore stewards of the investments and innovations that she left as her career’s legacy for the benefit of students. We are also fortunate to have an example near to hand of the cumulative impact that a career fashioned through gracious and informed determination can have, on the students and colleagues present at the time, and on those who will follow in the years to come.

Susan Spring Shumer is survived by her husband, Robert Shumer (a member of the university’s community faculty), and their three adult children.

An on-campus memorial service is planned for 2 p.m., Jan. 18, in the Ecolab Community Room (Lib 302). Susan’s obituary appeared in the Star Tribune, published Nov. 25. 

While those of us who knew Susan mourn her passing, we also celebrate the profoundly positive impact she had on Metropolitan State, countless students, and our home communities. 


President Virginia "Ginny" Arthur, JD
Metropolitan State University