The Tompkins Institute


Dr. Tom Urbaniak, Director



Founded by Dr. Greg MacLeod in 1973, Cape Breton University’s Tompkins Institute leads applied research demonstration projects and offers continuing education in community leadership and community regeneration.

The Institute is named after Dr. Jimmy Tompkins (1870-1953), one of Cape Breton’s leaders in adult education and community enterprise. An activist-scholar and priest, Dr. Tompkins championed inter-faith social action, giving rise to dozens of co-operatives, housing projects, credit unions, public libraries, and proposals for major changes in public policies. His work and the work of his contemporaries has been studied around the world.


Dr. Greg MacLeod died on May 3, 2017, leaving an impressive legacy of thought and achievement.

His successor as director the Tompkins Institute is Dr. Tom Urbaniak, CBU Professor of Political Science. Dr. Urbaniak is Past Chair of the National Trust for Canada, the current Chair of Faith and the Common Good (national inter-faith charity dedicated to sustainability and the environment), and the author of five books. He has led many non-profit organizations and is an experienced social entrepreneur. He has been active in crime prevention, child welfare, public libraries, neighbourhood regeneration, affordable housing, and as a leader in the Polish Canadian community. He is a columnist and frequent media analyst on public policy, giving interviews in English and French.

Dr. Urbaniak works extensively with community organizations and faith communities. Among other services on behalf of Cape Breton University, he facilitates tailored workshops to help organizations renew themselves, govern themselves effectively, and realize their full potential.

Tom can be reached at or 902-563-1226.


The CBU Tompkins Institute facilitated the sister-city agreement between the Cape Breton Regional Municipality and Wałbrzych, Poland, in 2019. Both municipalities have similar population sizes, economic histories, and innovative approaches to revitalization. The Tompkins Institute is currently facilitating the Sister City Steering Committee, which oversees multiple initiatives, including a student-exchange program, collaboration on a “pocket park” design, and, most recently, helping Wałbrzych to look after more than 4,000 refugees in the city.


During of the pandemic, working with CBC Radio Cape Breton’s Mainstreet program, the CBU Tompkins Institute converted our in-community, continuing-education “People’s Schools” to radio. More than 30 episodes have been broadcast, with suggested readings, informative guests, and discussion questions.

You can find the archived episodes of the “People’s School on Community Leadership” here. Please scroll down to find multiple links that start with the words “People’s School.”


Please check out the recently published e-book by Karla Winham, part of the Tompkins Institute Series: Gardens Built By Love: Faith-Based Community Gardens.

Forthcoming in 2022: Public Square: A Citizen’s Reader. A collection of practical essays and discussion questions on community development and public policy. By Dr. Tom Urbaniak. Part of the Tompkins Institute series.




Tompkins Institute Initiatives, 2018-2019

In 2018 and 2019, the Tompkins Institute offered the following special topics courses, which welcomed members of the community (cross-listed with Political Science):

– Leading Community Organizations

– University Governance

– Partner Cities: Municipalities as Global Actors

The Tompkins Institute facilitated a new sister-city agreement between the Cape Breton Regional Municipality and Wałbrzych, Poland, which has included active student participation and the start-up of innovative joint projects – including inter-university collaborations and a park-design initiative. An inter-university student exchange agreement has been drafted, and the Tompkins Institute arranged an intensive study visit for a delegation from Walbrzych in June 2019.



The Tompkins Institute recently facilitated planning workshops on the future of the Lyceum Heritage Building, on Red Brick Row in Sydney Mines, including a mural project involving Sydney Mines Middle School, and recently worked with the Cape Breton Regional Municipality to facilitate a workshop on the municipal role in economic development.

This work is in collaboration with the Affordable Housing Renovation Partnership and the Sydney Architectural Conservation Society.

This included the 2018-2019 Renovation and Repair Pilot Project, to create a volunteer and social enterprise infrastructure to assist low-income homeowners in deteriorating dwellings to remain in their homes.

Recent visitors have included Pilar Hogan Closkey, executive director of the St. Joseph Carpenter Society in Camden, New Jersey; Dr. Jon Davey, Faculty of Architecture, Southern Illinois University; and Dr. Joanna Pylat of the Polish University Abroad. They have lent their expertise pro bono to community development initiatives.

These are held regularly in communities of the Cape Breton Regional Municipality and are open to the public.