top of page
A dozen people paired up and chatting under a large shade tree. Text over photo says CEF State of the Art. Button to email event coordinator asks: Interested in joining Spring 2024? A small letter icon follows the question.

CEF: State-of-the-Art

Toward Systems Convening in your Community

Since 2015, Western Washington University’s Community Engagement Fellows program has brought people together across organizations to expand the learning capacities of our communities. It has created joyful and practical learning for a wide variety of people, and new ways of living and working together.


Community Engagement Fellows recasts higher education as a systems convener – creating possibilities for transformative partnerships that lead to more equitable and just communities. The program is a conscientious departure from traditional modes of community engagement such as service-learning coordination or partnership-brokering. We believe the demands of the present require new approaches that focus on deep listening, relationship-building, equitable and genuine collaboration, and openness to reorientation and transformation. CE Fellows is our ongoing experiment to discover how we can best serve the dynamic and diverse communities that WWU seeks to contribute to positively, including yours.  


Join us in Xwotquem/Bellingham, WA in Spring 2024 for Community Engagement Fellows: State-of-the-Art, an opportunity to learn how you might expand your organization’s role as a systems convener. We’re eager to share what we’ve learned through convening local cohorts, community forumsplace-based retreatsinternational online cohorts, interactive tours, and working with others to establish their own adaptations of the program.  

We welcome participation from those working in higher education as well as other community organizations such as libraries, non-profits, tribal and non-tribal governments, etc. We’re keen to gather people from a variety of places and organizations, to enhance the learning possibilities for all.


Community Engagement Fellows: State-of-the-Art will be an interactive, place-based workshop that demonstrates and allows you to practice the social learning techniques at the core of CE Fellows, and to learn how our practices have evolved as we learn. We plan to use a variety of venues in downtown Xwotquem/Bellingham and on the Western Washington University campus. Refreshments and lunch will be provided each day.

Here is an example schedule for the workshop:

Day 1

9:00-9:10: Informal Gathering/Mingling

~9:10-9:15: Call to Mindfulness

~9:15-10:00: Orienting Round-Robin - Making a Difference in Our Communities

~10:00-10:45: What brings us here?…


~10:45-11:00: Break


~11:00-11:30: CE Fellows - experiments in systems convening

~11:30-12:00: Visualizing the Future We’re Trying to Create

~12:00-1:30: Lunch and (optional) boating


~1:30-2:00: Gallery Perusal of Visuals


~2:00-3:00: Building a System Convening Identity and Leadership Approach


~3:00-3:15: Break


~3:15-4:15: Articulating Value Creation through Convening


4:15-4:30: Wrap-up/Reflection 

4:30-5:30: Clean up/Travel back to Bellingham

5:30-8:00: Place-baced community forum

Day 2

8:30-9:00: Gathering/Mingling/Snacks

9:00-9:20: Opening Sharing 

~9:20-10:20: Crafting Social Learning Spaces

~10:20-10:30: Break

~10:30-11:00: Dominic Savio on CEF: Africa (Example Convening Scenario)

~11:00-12:00: Crafting a Convening Scenario

~12:00-1:30: Travel downtown, lunch and relaxing at Brandywine Kitchen

~1:30-3:10: Design Clinics/Workshop of Local Convening Challenges

~3:10-3:25: Break

~3:25-4:00: “Learning Oases”  - The Challenges of System Convening

~4:00-4:15: Wrap-up/Reflection

~4:15-5:00: Travel to Fairhaven

5:00 pm: Place Matters Social Hour @ Stone’s Throw Brewery

Evening: Self-Organized Dinner

Day 3

8:30-9:00: Informal Gathering/Mingling

9:00-9:20: Opening Sharing

~9:20-10:00 “Learning Oases”  - The Challenges of System Convening

~10:00-10:15 Collecting burning questions/issues

~10:15-10:30 Break

~10:30-12:00 Design Clinics/Workshop of Local Convening Challenges

~12:00-1:00 Lunch and (optional) boating

~1:00-1:40 “Learning Oases”  - The Challenges of System Convening

~1:40-2:15 Addressing burning questions/issues

~2:15-2:45 Self-directed planning for convening action @ home

2:45-3:00 Closing/tearful goodbyes

Dr. Travis Tennessen, originator and lead convener of Community Engagement Fellows, will serve as the primary workshop facilitator.

  • The Bellair Airporter Shuttle provides service multiple times daily between Bellingham and Seattle Tacoma airport, plus many other destinations including eastern Washington.

  • FlixBus offers intercity bus connections to Vancouver BC, Everett, Seattle, SeaTac airport, Tacoma, Olympia, Portland, Eugene and more.

  • Public transit, Greyhound and Amtrak can be used with a transfer to Link Light Rail in Seattle. The Link light rail travels to Sea-Tac airport.





Often those who have attended past workshops have preferred to stay at Four Points by Sheraton, which is a pickup and drop- off location for the Bellair Airporter Shuttle. Other options include; a more unique stay at Heliotrope Hotel or a downtown Bellingham location at Hotel Leo.  


Information, Health, and Safety

Check Bellingham Whatcom County Tourism Travel Advisory page for up-to-date information and links to other handy resources. 

International Requirements

Traveling into Canada or the U.S.? Find the latest information and border crossing requirements for both Canadian and American travelers.

                     Previous Retreats

May 10-12, 2023: State of the Art System Convener (Lakewood Center Bellingham (Xwotqwem), WA)

February 19-21, 2020: State of the Art (Bellingham (Xwotqwem), WA)

Co-hosted with Eastern Washington University, University of Puget Sound, and Whiteswan Environmental

August 1-3, 2018: Community Engagement Fellows Retreat (Bellingham (Xwotqwem), WA)

Co-hosted with Whatcom Community College and Whiteswan Environmental

"CE Fellows completely
re-oriented the way I think about community partnership and introduced me to incredible friends and allies."


bottom of page