Community Engagement Institute (CEI) Turns 35


It goes without saying that the Community Engagement Institute (CEI) has changed pretty dramatically in the last 35 years. When it first began in 1984, it was nothing more than a kitchen table and a woman named Evelyn Middlestadt who was determined to provide support for those who need it most. Known then as the Self-Help Network, it connected people to support groups and was known for its contributions to research, promotion, and best practices for self-help support groups.

Through a partnership with Dr. Greg Miessen, it soon moved into the WSU Psychology Department. From there, it grew rapidly and evolved into something more. They began supporting other state and local projects like the Kansas Community Leadership Initiative, Project ACCESS, and Compassion Kansas.

In an effort to evolve along with this expanded work, the Self-Help Network was renamed the Center for Community Support and Research (CCSR) in the mid 2000s. At this time, they moved off campus to a downtown location. Their work still focused on support groups, but also included leadership, mental health, public health and assistance to nonprofits and community coalitions.

In 2009, Dr. Scott Wituk stepped into the role of Executive Director having worked there since 1993. They continued to grow working on nearly 100 grants and contracts each year. In search of a more supportive structure to meet this growth, CCSR changed its name to the Community Engagement Institute (CEI) and restructured to include six centers with focused attention on various services and supports. With a growing budget and more than 70 staff from across disciplines, more space was also needed. They moved to WSU Old Town at 238 N Mead in 2015 and quickly filled the space.

Today, as we celebrate 35 years, CEI has added four additional initiatives alongside the initial six centers. Our staff has grown to over 90 full-time and part-time staff and students supported by a $6.5 million annual budget. We continue to innovate new solutions and partner with state and community organizations to improve the health and well-being of residents.

We have come so far since 1984, thanks to our many partners and the dedicated staff members who work tirelessly to provide them the best support.

Thank you all for 35 amazing years! If you would like to learn more, visit our website at http://www.communityengagementinstitute.org/.