Tompkins Institute


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

The Institute is named after Dr. Jimmy Tompkins (1870-1953), one of Cape Breton’s leaders in adult education and community enterprise. An activist priest and scholar, 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. 

Current Director

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 and the author of five books. He has led many non-profit organizations. 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 frequent media analyst on public policy.

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

Tom can be reached at tom_urbaniak@cbu.caor 902-563-1226.

Ongoing Tompkins Institute Initiatives  

PUBLICATIONS: In February 2018, Tom Urbaniak’s book Dignity, Democracy, Development: A Citizen’s Reader was released. It is the first book in the Tompkins Institute series, in collaboration with Breton Books. It can be ordered on-line through the major on-line booksellers.

A second book in the Tompkins Institute series, The Polish Cape Bretoners: A Community Development Colouring Book (with illustrations by Jeff Wilson and text by Tom Urbaniak) was released on May 3, 2019. Copies are $10 each and can be ordered by sending an e-mail to . Proceeds will support a student community service learning project to design a small park.

CONTINUING-EDUCATION COURSES: The next course, “Sister Cities: Municipalities as Global Actors,” cross-listed as Political Science 3701, will be offered on Tuesdays and Thursdays (mornings) in June 2019. A limited number of seats are available. Please contact the director

COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT WALKS: These are regularly organized, free of charge, to discuss options and opportunities for communities in Cape Breton. In 2018, carefully planned walks and workshops were organized in Whitney Pier, New Aberdeen, and downtown Glace Bay. 

PARTNER CITY INITIATIVE: The Tompkins Institute helped to facilitate the establishment of a partner-city agreement with Walbrzych, Poland, which was signed in January 2019. Walbrzych. A partner-city conference is planned for June 18, 2019. As part of this initiative, Cape Breton University has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with its counterpart university in Walbrzych, Panstwowa Wyzsza Szkola Zawodowa im. Angelusa Silesiusa w Walbrzychu.

REGENERATING PLACES OF FAITH: The Tompkins Institute leads community-development workshops for faith communities upon request, recognizing their role as local anchors. We are also collaborating with the national organization Faith and the Common Good to sponsor detailed “green audits” (cost-saving and sustainability recommendations) for faith communities in collaboration with the national organization Faith and the Common Good. 

FACILITATED PLANNING EXERCISES: The Tompkins Institute recently facilitated planning workshops on the future of the Lyceum Heritage Building, the start-up of the Whitney Pier Community Kitchen Project, on Red Brick Row in Sydney Mines, including a mural project involving Sydney Mines Middle School, and worked with the Cape Breton Regional Municipality to facilitate workshops on the municipal role in economic development. 

APPLIED RESEARCH PROJECT ON INVESTMENT AND SOCIAL ENTERPRISE IN AFFORDABLE HOUSING – in collaboration with the Affordable Housing Renovation Partnership and the Sydney Architectural Conservation Society (ongoing)