Community Building

USD Assistant Provost of Community Engagement Chris Nayve


Chris Nayve is on a roll. He’s thoughtful, articulate and tireless, managing the neat trick of appearing to be in ceaseless movement while emanating good-natured calm. Just now, he’s talking about connection, and specifically USD’s with those in which it has lasting relationships.

“Understanding the university as an anchor institution starts with this: How do you consider and understand what’s happening in the community? How do you then invest both socially and culturally in terms of capital and become a true economic stabilizing force?”

Navye ’98 (BA), ’06 (JD), ’07 (MBA) who has two titles — assistant provost of community engagement and director of the Karen and Tom Mulvaney Center for Community, Awareness and Social Action — is all fired up, even when it comes to something as prosaic as defining the term: “The anchor institution concept means something very specific in regards to how it pertains to the specific place where the university is located.”

He leans back, thinking. “Then you take that anchor investment concept and apply it to other partnerships that the university has. I’ve been calling it the ‘four P’s.’ It’s place-based, it’s partnership-driven, and it’s people and philosophy incorporated.”

The concept is one that’s near and dear to President Jim Harris’ heart. There’s good reason that he invited the University of Pennsylvania’s Ira Harkavy to be his inauguration speaker. Harkavy, who has written and lectured widely on the history and current practice of urban university/community/school partnerships, believes that institutions like universities and medical centers can help stabilize communities by investing in them in ways that include financial commitments as well as hiring people from the community to work on campus.

“But it’s not just economic investment,” Nayve (pictured above) explains. “It’s about how you consider and understand what’s happening in the community before you invest, both socially and culturally.”

As one of the key drivers of the Linda Vista Anchor Institution Advisory Board, Nayve has helped put together a group that includes those involved with local health care, social justice, education and economic development, with the aim of bringing stakeholders together to expand the partnership between USD and other Linda Vista anchors.

“It’s about creating what we call democratic community partnerships,” he says. “And it doesn’t have to be just the community of Linda Vista. We can and have formed this sort of partnership with Barrio Logan, or across the border. We’ve been working in places like New Orleans, Jamaica and South Africa for years.”

The idea of USD as a true anchor is one of the supporting pathways leading the university to a strategic plan that envisions its role well into the future.

“We’re not necessarily looking at a one-time or short-term partnership that USD may have had in the past, because those may come and go. We really want to make a thoughtful inventory of what we’ve been doing that’s most truly anchorlike, and work to strengthen those bonds.”

Nayve is all about sharing the credit. “It’s all connected,” he says. “We’ve been working with the Changemaker Hub, the Center for Inclusion and Diversity and others. We call it our cohesion project.” When people get out in these various communities in an authentic way that builds true relationships, the overwhelming response is that the university is well down the road of bridging the town/gown divide through thoughtful, meaningful engagement.

“Democratic partnership is key. That’s how you invite community members to participate. That’s how you receive a reciprocal invitation by community members so that they say, ‘Actually, USD, we would love to have you involved.’ That has real implications for diversity and inclusion.”

Nayve received the California Campus Compact’s 2016 Richard E. Cone Award earlier this year, which recognizes impact on service-learning and community-campus partnershipsthroughout the San Diego region.

His colleague and friend John Loggins ’95 (BA), ’12 (MA), USD’s director of community-based student leadership and learning, waxed eloquently about Nayve when he received the award:

“He is not an embodiment of all that community engagement offers; he is an example of what it looks like to practice it. It was social artistry watching Chris navigate complex feelings of hope, loss, anger and longing with multiple partnerships in New Orleans. Each partner had different feelings and sentiments about what has happened in the 10 years since Katrina.

“To see Chris hold all of these emotions and thoughts and find balance in the tension for himself and our partners is a testament to his ability and willingness to do exactly what we ask our students to do: To enter into the community with love, be fully present and then be willing to work with what emerges.” — Julene Snyder    

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