UMass Boston

Dictionary definition of partnership and collaboration.
Community Partnerships

In This Section

Welcome to Community Partnerships at UMass Boston

Community Partnerships identifies,  strengthens, and supports the creation of collaborative community partnerships that advance our mission as Boston's public research university.

Students gather round a sample in a net on beach in Nantucket.

Engagement at UMass Boston

Celebrating over 50 years: dedicated to the community. At its founding, UMass Boston was defined as an institution with a particular “urban mission,” whose teaching, research, and service programs would engage thoughtfully with communities. The university remains committed and is better positioned than ever to fulfill its founding mission.

Visit the UMass Boston Engage portal

About Community Partnerships


Since its founding in 1964, UMass Boston has had a rich history of engagement with the public and government sector, nonprofits and philanthropy, community groups, neighborhoods and individuals, and the private sector. As the only public research university in the city, our founders sought to create a university that would “stand with the city” and provide students regardless of their backgrounds or socio-economic status with opportunities “equal to the best.” 

Created in 2011, the Office of Community Partnerships (OCP) builds from this history and special calling by identifying, strengthening, and supporting the creation of collaborative community partnerships that advance our mission as Boston's public research university.


As a public research university situated in a majority People of Color and immigrant region and as a federally designated Asian American, Native American, Pacific Islander Serving Institution (AANAPISI) and as a Carnegie Foundation classified Community Engaged university, it is our responsibility and role to ensure that our community-university engagement centers racial equity and social justice. The office seeks to ensure that communities’ needs and assets are key in our institutional priorities and that they are represented in our university plans and projects by building the capacity for our university to be adaptable, responsible, respectful, responsive, reciprocal, and accountable in our role as part of the greater community ecosystem. By acknowledging our position, power, and physical space, we seek to ensure the university does not perpetuate oppressive practices and policies historically associated with higher education institutions. The office is therefore committed to working with our immediate neighborhood situated upon the traditional, ancestral, and unceded land of the Massachusett Tribe at Ponkapoag, currently known as Dorchester and Boston, to build toward the “beloved community” that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. envisioned.

Mission & Values


The office is a university-wide coordinating unit that facilitates community engagement across divisions, colleges, academic and non-academic units, faculty, staff, and university leadership with the purpose of fulfilling the university’s urban mission to work with and for communities and deliver on the university’s promise to “stand with the city”.


The office is guided by principles of educational equity: collective wisdom, community-building, and people-centered approaches with values of openness, care, humility, and integrity. The office seeks to align community engaged scholarship, leadership, and service efforts across the campus for the highest possible impact and least unintended harm for communities, and promote the recognition of the contributions of community-university engagement to the larger field of higher education and to the public.

Goals & Strategies


The office pursues long-term sustainable, asset-based community development, community identified and driven goals, and community engaged scholarship, situating the university as a contributing partner and anchor institution that works across sectors. The office leverages the institution’s resources and acts as a facilitator of strategic high-impact partnerships and initiatives that involve our faculty, staff, and students through research, teaching, service, leadership, and activism.

Our strategies include:

  1. Gateway for Collaborative Connections – Serving as a connector and front door for campus and community stakeholders to strengthen existing or create new relationships and collaborations; focusing on facilitating long-term, deep, reciprocal, strategic partnerships and collaborative connections that go beyond one-time opportunities.
  2. Harnessing Campus Capacity for Impact – Leveraging the strength of our campus community members by bolstering community-engaged work in the areas of teaching, research, service, and leadership; enhancing community impact by fostering collective approaches that are holistic, constructive, and transformative; convening to encourage coordination; advancing students' lived experiences/community knowledge by making connections to classroom/academic knowledge through community engaged learning and co-creation of knowledge.
  3. Elevating Community-University Projects – Highlighting partnerships and celebrating community-empowered projects that demonstrate relevance and impact, are defined by the core principles of reciprocity and equity, and are making significant contributions at the local level and beyond.
  4. Centering Racial Equity and Social Justice - Elevating racial equity and social justice in community engagement; ensuring that community engagement practices are centered and are informed by the experiences of BIPOC and marginalized communities, and community engaged scholars; connecting and facilitating opportunities for integrating racial equity and social justice with community engaged initiatives.
  5. Facilitating Place-Based Initiatives - Connecting, facilitating, and partnering with local residents, organizations, and leaders; supporting the development of co-created knowledge and shared goals within defined geographical spaces; mobilizing university and community resources toward priorities impacting communities in Greater Boston.
  6. Resource Hub on Partnerships and Community Engaged Scholarship – Gathering, organizing, and analyzing information on UMass Boston partnerships to better understand and help align efforts for long-term and sustainable community-university impacts; creating resources for campus and community members on high quality partnerships; supporting the development of resources and opportunities that strengthen community engaged scholarship.


Community Engaged Faculty Spotlight Series


  • For Faculty Toolkit
  • For Community Partner Toolkit
  • Centering Justice and Care in Community-Engaged Work at UMass Boston (2020)



Annual Brief

  • 2021-2022 Academic Year
  • 2020-2021 Academic Year
  • 2019-2020 Academic Year
  • 2018-2019 Academic Year
  • 2016-2018 Academic Years

More OCP Featured Publications

  • OCP's Practitioner Scholars Program Pilot

    Learnings from the implementation and assessment of the first year of OCP's Practitioner Scholars Program published in JHEOE.

  • Building, Bridging, and Bonding

    Read our 2017 strategic action plan which explores what we have learned and experienced through our engagement work.

  • Local & Global Engagement Advancing Racial Justice

    Read the published archive of community-engaged faculty spotlights collected in the 2020-2021 academic year.

  • Subscribe to our newsletter



Meet the Staff

Cynthia K. Orellana

Director, Office of Community Partnerships

Cynthia K. Orellana

Cynthia K. Orellana’s professional trajectory is reflective of her passion and commitment for inclusive and collaborative practices, bridging the opportunity divide, and driving systems change. 

Orellana joined the University of Massachusetts Boston (UMass Boston) in 2016 as the Director of the Office of Community Partnerships (OCP), which seeks to identify, strengthen, and create collaborative, high impact, reciprocal community partnerships that advance the university’s mission as Boston’s public research university. Created in 2011, OCP serves as an information hub, connector, and strategic coordinator of the university’s engagement. Prior to joining UMass Boston, Orellana served as the Assistant Commissioner for Access and Success Strategies at the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education (DHE). In this role she led strategic policy projects and initiatives to increase college readiness and college going rates of the Commonwealth’s students, particularly first-generation to college, low-income and under-represented students. She oversaw over $3.5 million in federal and state funded grant programs and engaged with multiple sectors on initiatives to increase student college access and participation and closing the achievement gap. She also created 100 Males to College – an initiative that forges local partnerships in cities across the state, and among public community colleges and universities, high schools and community-based organizations to increase college-going and success among low income males and males of color. Orellana also served as Director of the Commonwealth Corps in the Office of Governor Deval Patrick, one of the Governor’s cornerstone civic engagement initiatives, and promoted civic engagement through grassroots governance projects that touched upon an array of issues including immigration, income tax credits, public budgeting processes, and young adults. Orellana’s professional experiences include community organizing and advocacy, community development, voter engagement and campaigns, governance and social policy, cross-organizational partnerships, and the development of startup initiatives.

Orellana has a history of service on boards, and advisory groups, and currently serves on City Year Boston’s Board of Directors. Orellana was recognized by the Commonwealth Seminar with the Civic Engagement Amplifier Award in 2021, the Campus Compact’s Nadinne Cruz Community Engagement Professional Award in 2020, Get Konnected’s 25 Influential Millennial Leaders of Color and Amplify Latinx’s list of 30 Amplifiers for the Latino community in Massachusetts in 2018; and among 100 most influential people in Massachusetts to the Latino community in El Planeta Newspaper’s 2017 Powermeter list.

Orellana is a native and lifelong resident of Cambridge, Massachusetts and the youngest of four children. She is the first generation born in the United States, the daughter of Salvadoran immigrants and first in her family to attend college. She holds a MA in urban and environmental policy and planning from Tufts University and a BS in political science from Northeastern University. She is a PhD candidate in the higher education leadership program at the University of Massachusetts Boston.

Email Cynthia K. Orellana

Shauna Murray

Shauna Murray
Graduate Assistant
PhD Candidate, School for Global Inclusion and Social Development

Shauna Murray joined the OCP in the spring of 2022. Prior to returning to school, Shauna worked in a number of spaces at the intersection of health, environment and education, locally and globally. She received her Bachelors in Sociology with a concentration in International Relations and Masters in Applied Sociology from the University of Massachusetts Boston. She also holds a Masters Certificate in Project Management from American Project Management and a Certificate in Climate Change and Health - Yale School of Public Health.

Sophie Serage

Sophie Serage
Communications and Events Assistant
PACE Apprentice

Sophie joined the OCP in the spring of 2023. She is an English major with a Professional and New Media Writing concentration and looking forward to graduating in May 2023. Sophie has worked as a copywriter for various advertising agencies in Boston and with media for the United States Air Force Academy where she was previously a student. She is excited to work in the Office of Community Partnerships and finish out her time as a Beacon strong.

Community Partnerships
Office of the Provost, Quinn Administration Building, 3rd Floor
Phone: 617.287.4223
Email Community Partnerships