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Why community engagement matters

In July 2012, the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference was fortunate to reach an agreement with Sanford Health and the city of Sioux Falls, South Dakota, to host the men’s and women’s conference basketball tournaments at the newly built Sanford Pentagon.

While this decision was a significant change for the conference (it was the first time the tournaments had been held outside the state of Minnesota since 2000), our sights were set on creating an event that was about much more than basketball by fully engaging with a community in the conference footprint.

As a representative of Division II, the tournament provides an opportunity to promote what we as a conference have to offer and what we as a conference believe and value. We are able to showcase what Division II is all about by taking an already popular event and expanding its audience.

We were fortunate to receive a Division II Membership Fund grant to assist with managing expenses during the initial year of the tournament community engagement initiative in 2014. We believed in what we were doing and knew that from this engagement activity a blueprint could be drawn for other institutions and conferences to use in actively engaging with communities in their footprint. With the blueprint complete, and a successful maiden voyage behind us, we are eager to share our experience with the whole of Division II.

The success of this, and any, community engagement activity is not possible without the tireless efforts of community leaders, conference and national office staff and institutional personnel. An event of this magnitude requires teamwork and dedication to achieving the goal of an exemplary event for student-athletes and coaches and immersion into the community.

During the planning stages, we found new partners that were excited to join forces with our conference because a community engagement activity is a win for everyone involved. Institutional personnel volunteered their time and shared their expertise, strengthening an already solid relationship between institutions and their conference.

Our friends at the NCAA national office helped us stage what turned out to be a terrific event, and now they have assembled this guide as a collection of tools to take you from start to finish as you transform your conference tournaments into community events that have a lasting impact. The ideas included are a combination of new and borrowed from already successful engagement activities. This is a collaborative effort designed to have a collective impact for the Division II family.

As you embark on your own community engagement activity, remember that the communities in your conference footprint likely know a lot about your schools, but maybe not as much about you as a conference. Conference postseason tournaments – the star of your calendar of events – provide the opportunity for you and your institutions to shine.

So, let’s get started!

Erin Lind, Commissioner
Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference