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Elizabeth Jabar, an artist and educator who helped create a public engagement curriculum at Maine College of Art in Portland, has been named director of civic engagement and community partnerships at Colby College. In this new role, Jabar will work with professors, students, and local organizations to integrate projects with Colby’s academic programs.
Civic engagement programming is a central focus of the Bill & Joan Alfond Main Street Commons and the Chace Community Forum, a space that will be used by the City of Waterville and Colby’s partner organizations. All students living in the new building will participate in the civic engagement program.
Dean of the College Karlene Burrell-McRae described Jabar as a dynamic leader who listens carefully, asks challenging questions, and embraces varied perspectives. “Elizabeth’s commitment to civic engagement, inclusive practices, and Maine is astounding,” she said.
At MECA, Jabar developed and launched a new civic engagement curriculum, including seminars and lab courses, and established and managed a public engagement fellows program. “Over many years, she has worked effectively with faculty, students, and community partners to build robust and academically rigorous public engagement and creative entrepreneurship programs at MECA,” said Colby’s Provost and Dean of Faculty Margaret McFadden. “I know that she will bring the same collaborative and creative spirit that made her so successful there to her work with us and with our community partners, and that our civic engagement program will soon be a model to be emulated nationally.”
Jabar has strong family ties in Waterville, where she lived as a child, and many family members—including several Colby alumni—have gone on to become prominent civic leaders at the local and state level. “Being involved in the community and participating in civic life was a value thread that was always present in my family and greatly influenced all of the things I’ve pursued,” she said.
Now Jabar will be able to continue that pursuit in ways that will influence Waterville and also colleges and communities that will learn from Colby’s growing and changing role in the city. “To be able to contribute to Colby playing a leadership role in creating a new model for how civic engagement gets lived out in liberal arts colleges—I just couldn’t think of a more amazing opportunity than to be able to contribute to that.”
In addition to her innovative work in education, Jabar also is an accomplished artist. She graduated from the Massachusetts College of Art and Pratt Institute and has shown her work at galleries and museums nationally and internationally, including the National Gallery of Art, the Colby College Museum of Art, and in Tanzania and Mongolia.
“With all the challenges in the world, we need these young people to be the next leaders,” she said. “As an educator, I can’t think of anything more important than helping shape and educate the next problem solvers in the world.”
Jabar will start in her new position Aug. 27. Her office will be located in Alfond Commons.