Anchor Institutions

In the Fall of 2012, Robert Hollister and Lorlene Hoyt taught a graduate-level collaborative research seminar entitled Anchor Institutions and Community Revitalization in Tufts University’s Department of Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning. It focused attention to the theoretical debates as well as the political, social, and economic impacts and implications of anchor institutions. Anchor institutions are nonprofit institutions that are fixed in place and are investing in the communities where they are located. Examples include: universities, hospitals, sports facilities, museums, public utilities, public schools and faith-based institutions. In metropolitan regions around the world, anchor institutions are directly revitalizing communities by providing jobs and workforce training, incubating the development of new businesses and directing their purchasing power toward local businesses. In addition, they are providing educational and social services, and contributing to the development of public policies. Indirectly, they create a reinvigorated civic sphere that attracts new residents, knowledge-industry workers and tourists.


In its Vision statement, Arizona State University (ASU), with several locations in the Phoenix metropolitan area, lays out its growth plans—including an ambitious enrollment goal of 100,000 online and distance students. These goals reflect ASU’s commitment to educational accessibility across Arizona’s diverse socioeconomic classes, while maintaining excellence in academia and enhancing community engagement. This has extended to its community-oriented redevelopment plan in a neighborhood in downtown Phoenix. In making this move, ASU has intentionally positioned itself to act as a neighborhood anchor, with the  goals of improving the local economy and attracting a “creative class” to Phoenix. ASU, in an explicit effort to create community “embeddedness,” has worked extensively with local government and citizens, forming multiple partnerships on different levels, to ensure a mutually beneficial relationship between the school and the city.

Portland State University, a member of the Oregon State University system, has fostered community engagement through institutional changes. Like ASU, Portland State has focused on accessibility, in this case by creating partnerships with local community colleges and establishing tutoring programs for area high schools.  The tenure and promotion system was changed in the 1990s, with engaged scholarship given more consideration. Several departments require students to work in partnerships with  various  community organizations. At the same time, the University has worked with the city of Portland to meet planning and development needs, including neighborhood revitalization  and  economic development projects. In a city that has faced rapid changes in recent years, Portland State University has been a crucial provider of stability and investment.

Internationally, Universidad Catôlica Silva Henríquez in Santiago, Chile provides a number of community services through government partnerships and community projects. The Universidad works with high-need municipalities in its area, matching students with municipalities through formal partnerships. As part of their academic experiences, students participate in projects to meet local planning and policy needs. Several academic departments offer outreach that provides students with valuable experience while also offering needed services to the community. The Universidad’s Extension and Service Center extends this anchor’s impact far beyond the immediate area, targeting areas around the country in need of university resources.

After Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans in 2005, causing Tulane University to close for a semester, the school became increasingly important in a city whose population and business landscape had been decimated. In response, Tulane founded a new Center for Public Service and instituted a requirement for all students to enroll in service-learning courses and to participate a significant community service project into their graduation requirements. Tulane created another center, the Institute for Public Education Initiatives, to contribute to the rebuilding of New Orleans’s K-12 schools. Through its immense participation in local rebuilding and regeneration, Tulane has established itself as an essential anchor in New Orleans’s development.


More on Anchor Institutions

Anchor Institutions Course Syllabus

Anchor Institutions Annotated Bibliography

Engaged Learning Economies White Paper