New Directions (ND) is a community leadership and organizing program in the Political Science Department at the University of Colorado Denver that offers weekend courses to develop civic leaders in public, community organizations and labor unions. New Directions is an innovative program that has placed hundreds of student interns in small jurisdictions across the state in partnership with the Colorado Department of Local Affairs (DOLA) over the past 15 years. As part of the internship program, students gain real-world work experience as practitioners in their field while earning a competitive salary and benefits package. As a result of this robust partnership between DOLA and New Directions, hundreds of alumni have kick-started their careers in local government and nonprofit sectors through the Cathy Shipley Best and Brightest internship program, which is offered annually to all of our MA students in the program.
Our program was chosen as the best academic program in the nation helping to meet the needs of local governments by International City Management Association (ICMA) in 1999 and received the Program Excellence Award for Outstanding Partnerships & Intergovernmental Cooperation for Local Governments in 2004.
Building on this successful record of community engagement, we have recently added two other programs, community/labor organizing and Social Economy as of Fall 2018 to build a model of funded scholarships and professional internships for students engaged in community and labor organizing work. The vision is to create a hub for community/labor organizing and solidarity economy education by bringing different social movement actors together to build solidarity and deepen university-community partnerships. We seek to solidify our growing community and labor organizing focus, and to impact the broader ecosystem through scholarship support to build a cohort of labor and community organizers with common academic experiences that will build worker power and leadership skills in the Denver area.
We believe that CU Denver has a competitive advantage in providing a space where different labor and community organizations can share their knowledge and grow together as movement builders. This labor education partnership can foster timely engagement of community challenges, provide a framework to unite the energies of a cohort of labor and community leaders around a common academic program, and provide an infrastructure of engaged faculty and student organizers who are committed to working on social justice issues.