Wingspread Conference Series

The Wingspread Conference Series was a series of three annual conferences taking place from 2003 though 2005, hosted by the National Forum on Higher Education for the Public Good and the Johnson Foundation, at the Wingspread Conference Center in Racine, Wisconsin. These two organizations, along with key constituents in higher education, gathered each year with two goals in mind, to:

-Assess the status of efforts and challenges focused on strengthening American higher education’s civic and social responsibility to society.
-Develop focused strategies and commitments among key stakeholders to advance higher education’s civic and social role within the designated conference theme areas.

The Wingspread conference series followed the National Summit on Higher Education for the Public Good which was held at the University of Michigan in the fall of 2002. At the Summit 250 scholars, state legislators, college/university presidents, students, foundation personnel, trustees, K-12 educators, and community-based leaders participated in this Summit that produced A Common Agenda: To Strengthen the Relationship Between Higher Education and Society. Utilizing the discussions that occurred at the National Summit as a backdrop, the Wingspread Conferences built upon these initial discussions on higher education for the public good and the four areas for change that were identified in the Summit’s Common Agenda. These include:

-Strengthening public understanding, public support, and public policy of higher education’s civic mission;
-Cultivating networks and partnerships, both inside and outside the academy, committed to advancing the public good;
-Infusing civic responsibility into the culture of higher learning; and
-Embedding civic engagement and social responsibility in the structure of the higher education system.

The first Wingspread Conference in October 2003 furthered the Common Agenda goals around the idea of “Building Public Understanding, Public Support, and Public Policy.” The second conference in October of 2004 furthered goals around “Cultivating Networks and Partnerships around Civic Engagement.” The third conference in October 2005 took a national perspective on “The Future of Higher Education for the Public Good.”

Each Wingspread conference consisted of 40 participants who are committed to advance strategies and actions to strengthen higher education’s relationship with society. During the time between the each of the Wingspread Conferences and since then, the National Forum and its partners have continued their work on advancing higher education for the public good by collaborating with other key organizations and accumulating resources to disseminate relevant reports and findings.

The following publications were produced following Wingspread conferences:

Wingspread 2005/2006 Monograph:Taking Responsibility: A Call for Higher Education’s Engagement in a Society of Complex Global Challenges (PDF file)

Support for the Wingspread Conference Series was also provided by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.


Theme in Action & Research: Higher Education for the Public Good