The field of community engagement in higher education has experienced tremendous growth since the early 1980s, and this work is as important as it has ever been on campuses. There are a number of resources and groups that we’d like to highlight as we think about our current moment in the field of community engagement in higher education.
A 2016 book from Stylus Publishers entitled Publicly Engaged Scholars: Next Generation Engagement and the Future of Higher Education has a couple of great chapters (2 & 3) on the history of CE in higher ed., focusing on a number of milestone moments and meetings in the field as well some of the continuing challenges.
The authors cite Ernest L. Boyer’s call to reclaim the ‘civic mandate’ of higher education in 1990 as among many milestone moments. Boyer wrote a thin book that ended up being a major contribution to the field. In Scholarship Reconsidered, Boyer articulated a number of path setting directions in the field, among them the idea of a multi way flow of knowledge between scholars, community partners, and students:
Boyer’s book is worth reading for anyone interested in rethinking the boundaries between the traditional categories of service, teaching, and research in higher education.
Boyer’s call to consider the two way flow of knowledge between communities and the academy preceded a landmark report from the American Association of Colleges and Universities (AACU) on the civic health of the nation, and the role of Colleges and Universities in improving our civic health.
In their national call to action report entitled “A Crucible Moment: College Learning & Democracy’s Future,” the authors cited David Mathews of the Kettering Foundation in warning that the United States was on the bring of becoming “a citizenless democracy.” The warning echoed a 1998 report from the National Commission on Civic Renewal, which suggested that “in a time that cries out for civic action, we are in danger of becoming a nation of spectators.” The report boldly called “for investing on a massive scale in higher education’s capacity to renew this nation’s social, intellectual, and civic capital,” arguing that “as a democracy, the United States depends on a knowledgeable, public-spirited, and engaged population. Education plays a fundamental role in building civic vitality, and in the twenty-first century, higher education has a distinctive role to play in the renewal of US democracy.”
Two national organizations have played important roles in advancing this civic purpose of higher education on campuses across the nation. In their own words, “Campus Compact is a national coalition of 1,000+ colleges and universities committed to the public purposes of higher education. We build democracy through civic education and community development.” Founded in 1985 by a coalition of college and university presidents, Campus Compact has 25 regional offices across the nation to support faculty, staff, students and administrators in fulfilling the public purpose of higher education.
Founded in 1989, the Bonner Foundation, based in Princeton, New Jersey, works through “sustained partnerships with colleges and congregations…to improve the lives of individuals and communities by helping meet the basic needs of nutrition and educational opportunity.”
The Bonner Model of student development through civic engagement has become a popular and effective program on campuses across the nation. With more than 70 campuses in their network, the Bonner program offers a four year developmental experience for students committed to growing their community leadership to work towards justice. Their website provides extensive resources for students, faculty, staff and administrators, and their national meetings have become prime spaces for the growth and development of students and professionals in the field of civic engagement in higher education.
This is just a sampling of the many exciting frontiers in the field of CE in higher education – stay tuned for future posts about horizons in the field!
The Office of Community Engagement (OCE) in the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement (DCE) has developed a great team over the past year to focus on elevating the work of community engagement across the university, celebrating these important efforts and developing the institutional infrastructure required to sustain excellence in community engagement for decades to come.
Dr. M. Cade Smith was hired as Assistant Vice Chancellor of Community Engagement in September of 2018. Cade joined UM after spending 24 years at Mississippi State University in Starkville where he Directed their Leadership Programs, established and directed the Maroon Volunteer Center Programs (MVC), and Served as Director of the Center for Community-Engaged Learning. Cade brings a wealth of experience and vision to the University of Mississippi, where he leads our efforts to support the extensive community engagement efforts in colleges, schools, departments and units across the University.
Erin Payseur-Oeth came to UM in March of 2019 to serve as the Project Manager in Community Engagement. Erin came to UM from Baylor University where she was the Associate Director of Civic Learning Initiatives. Erin is a national leader in deliberative dialogue facilitation, working with colleagues across the nation through National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA) as well as the Kettering Foundation to foster critical thinking, reflection, and action on relevant social issues. Before Baylor, Erin worked at Columbia College in South Carolina as a Graduate Assistant in Leadership Studies and a Program Coordinator in the Center for Engaged Learning. At UM, Erin has developed a number of signature campus events, including the Longest Table and the MLK Dinner and Day of Service, and has taken the lead in building strong partnerships between the OCE and nonprofit agencies in the Lafayette Oxford University Community (LOU).
Carissa Pauley serves as the OCE’s Graduate Assistant in Community Engagement, supporting our communications efforts and assisting with partnership development. Carissa graduated from UM in May of 2019 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology and a minor in Education. Carissa is currently working on her Master’s of Education in Counselor Education with a focus on Clinical Mental Health, and has extensive experience working with college students through personal, spiritual, and academic challenges. Carissa contributes to nearly every aspect of our work in the OCE.
Dr. Anthony C. Siracusa is the newest member of our team, joining UM as the inaugural Director of Community Engagement on March 23 amidst the Covid-19 global health pandemic. Anthony grew up in Memphis, Tennessee and attended Rhodes College as a first generation student where he was also a Bonner Scholar. Anthony was a Thomas J. Watson Fellow in 2009 and 2010 studying bicycle cultures across the world, traveling to 8 countries over 12 months. He was the Community Service Coordinator in the Bonner Center for Service at Rhodes College before earning his M.A. and Ph.D. in History at Vanderbilt University. Most recently, Anthony served as the Assistant Director in the Collaborative for Community Engagement (CCE) at Colorado College. Anthony is responsible for developing four key areas of campus infrastructure, needs that surfaced in the Carnegie self-study: a comprehensive volunteer center, social change leadership development programs for students, a faculty fellows program that supports community engaged teaching and research, and a place based institute.
Next week, we will detail our team’s progress on building out these initiatives, and we are hopeful to grow our team in the years ahead. In the meantime, let’s celebrate these wonderful staff members who are working diligently to support community engagement efforts at UM.
Building and sustaining well-held partnerships between the University and local organizations is central to the work of community engagement at the University of Mississippi.
Yesterday, we shared some of the partnerships held by colleges, school, departments, and programs on campus with groups across the state. Today, we want to share some of the work that the Office of Community Engagement (OCE) has done this year to deepen existing partnerships, and to build new ones in the LOU community.
In the Fall of this past year, Community Engagement Project Manager Erin Payseur Oeth collaborated with Graduate Assistant Carissa Pauley to interview staff at 20 organizations in the Lafayette-Oxford University (LOU) community. They produced a report entitled “Voices and Insights from Community Partners: Community Engagement at UM” that was based on interviews with partners in the following areas:
Food + Clothing
Health (physical and mental)
Shelter + Utilities
Tax + Legal Services
Partners shared a variety of needs and dreams, including developing a free education program for students in foster care who are also living below the poverty line. Some envisioned a credentialing program for nonprofit management, while others hoped to build a one stop shop for direct client needs ranging from GED to transportation. Some of our partners aspired to build a local food community center with kitchen space for entrepreneurs, while others wanted to see small grants for folks that work in the creative arts.
The report was part of a larger effort to listen closely to the needs and visions of organizations in the LOU community. This Fall 2019 report was also the first step in a longer process of building relationships grounded in reciprocity and co-created projects.
When the Covid 19 health emergency interrupted normal operations for groups and agencies across the LOU region, the OCE began hosting University-Collaborative Calls with community partners, including the Oxford-Lafayette Chamber of Commerce, the Oxford-Lafayette United Way, Visit Oxford, the Volunteer Mississippi North East Regional Hub, representatives from the U.S. Census, and other colleagues from across the UM Campus. These University-Collaborative Calls have allowed us to stay connected to umbrella groups and their affiliates across the region, and have provided a much needed sense of community in a time of social distancing.
Amidst the Covid health emergency, the OCE also launched Community Chats in partnership with our colleagues at Lafayette Oxford Foundation for Tomorrow (LOFT), a twice weekly conversation series with nonprofit leaders in the LOU community intended to elevate the voices and needs of these essential organizations. To date, we have interviewed staff at the following agencies:
Interfaith Compassion Ministries
Oxford Community Market
The Oxford Film Festival
Doors of Hope Transition Ministries
The U.S. Census
The Gordon Cultural and Community Center
The North Mississippi Regional Center (NMRC)
Coming up, we will have interviews with the following agencies:
Strawberry Plains Audubon Center
Second Chance Mississippi
United Way of Oxford Lafayette
The Yoknapatwpha Arts Council
Finally, just this week the OCE received a grant from the Disaster Resilience Constellation at UM to support a project entitled “Assessing the Civic Capacity for Disaster Resilience and Recovery in Oxford-Lafayette County.”
The grant will allow the OCE to survey the needs of nonprofit organizations in the Lafayette Oxford University (LOU) as they seek to recover from the Covid-19 global health crisis. The data gathered will aid the OCE in co-creating a recovery and resilience building plan in partnership with our nonprofit partners and our local and statewide community collaborators, including Volunteer Mississippi and the Mississippi Alliance for Nonprofits and Philanthropy.
Today, we sent surveys to more than 60 nonprofit organizations in the LOU community with the goal of making it as easy as possible for groups to respond. Local groups can respond to the survey on-line, by phone, or on paper forms that include self addressed and stamped envelopes.
The data we gather will prove invaluable in informing the University’s contribution to the civic capacity of our region to recover from the current public health emergency and build resilience for future disasters. Our goal is align capacity and resources at UM with the needs of groups in the LOU community, ensuring that our community engagement plan for the 2020 – 2021 Academic Year is attenuated to these local needs.
Partnerships are at the heart of strong University-Community collaborations. The OCE is so grateful to our local partners, and we look forward to continuing to build and deepen these relationships with organizations across the LOU region.
A Year of Growth for Community Engagement at the University of Mississippi
2019 – 2020 was a year of tremendous growth and development for the Office of Community Engagement at the University of Mississippi. UM earned the Carnegie Classification for Community Engagement as a Public Research 1 University, hosted a number of signature events, celebrated a host of campus wide initiatives and programs, hired new staff, and built new relationships – or strengthened existing relationships – with community partners in the Lafayette Oxford University (LOU) community.
Over the course of this coming week, we want to share the highlights of the past year by covering a different theme each day on the CE blog.
Today, we will focus on highlights from around campus this past year with a special focus on the Carnegie Classification.
On Tuesday, we will talk about our existing and emerging community partnerships.
On Wednesday, we will discuss how the Office of Community Engagement has grown over the past year.
And on Thursday, we will talk about the field of community engagement in higher education, looking at some of the core ideas and practices in our work and gesturing towards the future of this work in the months and years ahead.
Friday will be a digest with all of these updates in a single place.
Without further ado….
The Carnegie Classification for Community Engagement
In January, the University of Mississippi was bestowed the prestigious Carnegie Classification for Community Engagement, which the hosting institution Brown University describes as “an evidence-based documentation of institutional practice to be used in a process of self-assessment and quality improvement.”
As University of Mississippi news reported, UM become one of “243 institutions of higher education nationwide given the Elective Carnegie Community Engagement Classification. The distinction, which is valid until 2026, honors recipients for proven commitment and activity in finding ways to engage with community partners, building on community assets and addressing a wide array of community challenges.”
Assistant Vice-Chancellor for Community Engagement Cade Smith captured the years long process the led up to the classification. “UM’s commitment to community engagement has continuously developed over the past four decades,” he said. “The application involved extensive data collection and documentation of important aspects of institutional mission, identity and commitments to community engagement.”
The team that worked on the classification included:
Cade Smith, assistant vice-chancellor for community engagement
Lindsey Abernathy, associate director of the Office of Sustainability
Laura Antonow, director of college programs and instructional assistant professor of higher education
Katie Busby, director of the Office of Institutional Research, Effectiveness and Planning and instructional assistant professor of higher education
Tammy Dempsey, assistant dean of students and assistant professor in the School of Nursing and director of community engagement and service learning at the UM Medical Center
Erin Holmes, associate professor of pharmacy administration and research associate professor
Laura Martin, associate director of the McLean Institute for Public Service and Community Engagement
Albert Nylander, professor of sociology and director of the McLean Institute
Erin Payseur Oeth, project manager for community engagement
Cristiane Surbeck, associate professor of civil engineering
This graphic below illustrates UM’s approach to community engagement, as presented in the Carnegie Application process.
Community engagement is taking place across the campus, with significant projects happening in colleges, schools, and departments university-wide. The projects below, while not an exhaustive list, were all critical to the success of the Carnegie application:
Community Partners: Murrah High School, Jim Hill High School
Institutional Partners: Rob Rockhold, Deputy Chief Academic Officer; UMMC Microbiology, Medicine
Purpose: To improve high school STEM education and matriculation of under-served minorities into college programs using mentoring, laboratory experimentation and community engaged teaching, learning and scholarship.
Community Partners: Preserve Marshall County and Holly Springs, Inc., The Hugh Craft House, Holly Springs Historic Preservation Commission, Gracing the Table, Rust College Division of Humanities, LOCAL
Purpose: Pilgrimage tours throughout the South immerse visitors in re-creations of the antebellum era, focusing largely on historic homes. In the city of Holly Springs, Mississippi, historic preservation advocates have created the Behind the Big House program, collaborating with academic researchers to ensure that these re-creations of local history move beyond the city’s large mansions to explore the town’s many extant slave dwellings, and work to interpret the experiences of the enslaved people who inhabited them.
Community Partners: William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation, Lynching Memorialization Steering Committee
Institutional Partners: Hans Sinha, School of Law, Sociology & Southern Studies, Theatre Arts, Music, Horizons, Journalism, Intensive English Program
Purpose: The Lynching Memorialization in Lafayette County Project is a broad-based coalition of University and Community members. The purpose of our Project is two-fold: (1) We are seeking a remedy for the wrongs committed against seven citizens of our community who were victims of racially motivated murders in Lafayette County between 1877 and 1950. None of these seven people were afforded due process by their government — their murders were never prosecuted and their names have not been publicly remembered as victims of crimes; and (2), through doing so, we are seeking to engage the community in and foster a discussion about race and reconciliation in our community.
Institutional Partners: Anne Cafer, Kimberly Kaiser, Georgianna Mann; Community Based Research Collaborative, Center for Population Studies, Legal Studies, Nutrition and Hospitality Management
Purpose: The Marks Project is a community-university collaboration that seeks to identify local stakeholders in Marks and Quitman County to address deficits in the community that require immediate attention. They assist on a short term basis with solutions that may include immediate funding, positioning with local partners, and matching outside resources to the community of Marks.
Community Partners: Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute
Institutional Partners: Meagen Rosenthal, Erin Holmes; School of Pharmacy
Purpose: Community engaged scholarship to develop patient-centered research questions around Type 2 Diabetes self-management and design of pharmacist-led weight management programs in Oxford, Charleston, and Saltillo, Mississippi.
Purpose: The Jackson Free Clinic was founded in 2000 to offer high quality medical care to those without health insurance. It is the state’s only student-run medical clinic and operates as an independent 501(c)(3) organization. The clinic’s mission is to provide health care to Jackson’s community while also helping students and volunteers to learn and grow as future doctors, dentists, occupational and physical therapists, and humanitarians. The clinic addresses health disparities through community engaged teaching and learning, as well as community engaged service.
Community Partners: Mississippi Special Supplemental Nutritional Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC); Mississippi State University Extension Service, Delta Region
Institutional Partners: Abigail Gamble, PhD; Bettina Beech, DrPH; John D. Bower School of Population Health, Mississippi Center for Obesity Research, Mississippi Center for Clinical and Translational Research, UMMC
Purpose: This community-based research investigation seeks to identify psychosocial, cultural, and environmental determinants of exercise among pregnant/postpartum adolescents enrolled in the Supplemental Nutritional Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). UMMC is partnering with WIC to inform and engage adolescent WIC clients in the study, and to gain the perspectives of WIC providers whom provide counseling to clients in the MS Delta. This entire line of research is designed to promote the adoption and maintenance of exercise behavior among pregnant and postpartum WIC clients during critical periods of fetal, infant, and maternal growth and development, with the goal to improve maternal and fetal health outcomes among a vulnerable and high-risk population.
Community Partners: Eastmoor Estates Neighborhood Association, Hope Enterprise Corporation
Institutional Partners: Desiree Hensley, Robert C. Khayat School of Law, Housing Clinic, Transactional Clinic
Purpose: In 2010, the UM Low Income Housing Clinic (LIHC) filed suit in federal district court in Mississippi on behalf of its class of clients, a group of African-American residents living in a low income neighborhood in Eastmoor, Mississippi. The suit alleged a host of claims, all related to the
failed management of the neighborhood development. The merits of the lawsuit were hotly contested, as was the LIHC’s fundamental philosophy that its clients, citizens of a state and an area with a history of marginalizing low-income people of color, not only deserved better, but deserved better in the very homes and community that many of them had spent their lives trying to build. The case ultimately settled on terms favorable to the plaintiffs. The most tangible and immediate result was that not only would the homeowners no longer had to live in a neighborhood with sub-standard government services – streets in disrepair, a malfunctioning water system, dilapidated sewer systems – but that they also would acquire the most important prize of all: deeds to their houses.
Purpose: The connection between north Mississippi and Togo reaches back to 2004, when local community members traveled to Togo during the summer for medical mission trips. These encounters planted a seed that would later take root as a longstanding partnership between the School of Engineering and the rural Togolese communities in the Vogan region of Togo. In 2009, a chapter of Engineers Without Borders-USA was founded at UM. EWB-USA partners with communities in developing countries to improve their quality of life by implementing sustainable and economical engineering projects. Through these partnerships, EWB-USA promotes social responsibility among its network of student and professional engineers.
Community Partners: New Albany Main Street Association
Institutional Partners: Albert Nylander, Laura Martin; McLean Institute for Public Service
Purpose: M Partner was designed after a national model, the Educational Partnerships for Innovation in Communities Network (EPIC-N), with a purpose to support the Healthy and Vibrant Communities pillar in the Flagship Forward strategic plan. M Partner is led by staff at the McLean Institute. This initiative offers a framework through which community and university representatives can cultivate mutually beneficial partnerships that will lead to the co-creation of knowledge and ideas to enhance community wellbeing. The University and the partner communities have committed to a pilot phase of 18 to 24 months in the partner communities of Charleston, Lexington, and New Albany.
Institutional Partners: Albert Nylander, Laura Martin; McLean Institute for Public Service
Purpose: The North Mississippi VISTA Project, which is housed at the McLean Institute, seeks to fight poverty through education by upholding the VISTA principles of poverty alleviation, capacity building, sustainable solutions, and community empowerment. NMVP works in a 28 county area in North Mississippi and currently hosts 1 VISTA Leader and 19 yearlong VISTA members. Each summer, NMVP hosts between 10 and 25 Summer Associates.
This week, we have been profiling individuals who have been champions for the Census in our local community. Today, we are featuring Ruth Ball. Ms. Ball works for the US Census as a recruiter for this area and has been tirelessly promoting Census jobs and rallying others to the importance of being counted. For our MLK Day of Service, Ms. Ball passed out water bottles for volunteers and shared with students about how the Census impacts our community.
To learn more about Ms. Ball’s work, join us tomorrow on Facebook Live for our Community Chat series. We’ll be interviewing her live as our featured guest. Join in at Noon to meet her and learn more about the Census!
You’re never too young to get involved and support the Census! Meet Madeline and Elise Holland, daughters of Jody Holland, Executive Director of Lafayette Oxford Foundation for Tomorrow (LOFT). To help get the word out about the Census in their neighborhood, they passed out fliers, over 500 fliers this week! Wow! Thank you so much, girls, for spreading the word. Your efforts make a difference!
Did you know…
As of 4/27/20, less than half (41.0%) of households in Lafayette County have completed their Census forms. Have you completed yours? (Complete it here.)
In response to individual efforts like Madeline & Elise’s and Janice Carr‘s, that number has since jumped 4.5%, to 45.5%! Way to go, team!
For every child not counted in the Census, Mississippi stands to lose an average of $2780! That adds up to a lot of money for our community.
This week, through our blog, we are highlighting local Census efforts. Have you completed your US Census yet?
Today, we are featuring Janice Carr, Executive Director of the Gordon Community and Cultural Center, GCCC, in Abbeville, MS. After hearing that response rates in Lafayette County were lagging behind other counties and the state average, Janice jumped into action. She recruited help from three of her students and did a drive-by campaign through local neighborhoods, passing out Census water bottles in front yards with reminders and info on the Census. Her team canvassed over 200 households.
As many of us find ourselves spending more time in our neighborhoods, it is a great opportunity to talk with our neighbors about the Census and remind them to take time to complete it. Spread the word within your community, and help us support our Lafayette-Oxford-University community with accurate counts and representation.
This year, the Office of Community Engagement convened interested students and campus partners around voting engagement. This group’s collective nonpartisan work has focused on boosting voter registration, voter education, and voter turnout to ensure that students have access to participation in the civic practice of voting. These efforts led to the university’s acceptance into the Voter Friendly Campus Designation program with hopes of receiving the designation in 2021. Learn more on our voting website – vote.olemiss.edu.
Thank you to all of our student leaders, faculty, and staff partners who have been a part of moving this work forward and fulfilling our public mission!
The Council on Community Engagement (CoCE) has broad responsibility for advancing community-engaged research, learning, and service and engaged scholarship for the University of Mississippi (UM) on all its campuses and the University of Mississippi Medical Center. CoCE fulfills its purpose by recommending improvements in systems, structures, and support for community engagement and engaged scholarship, including: recognizing and rewarding the community-engaged activities of University faculty, staff, students, and collaborative partners; supporting the development of sustained collaborative partnerships between University scholars and the public and private sectors; developing systems to track and assess community engagement and engaged scholarship; and ensuring that community-engaged research, learning, and service and engaged scholarship are recognized and aligned with the University’s vision, mission, and strategic priorities. Members of CoCE represent different Colleges and Schools, departments, and other institutions on campus. UM’s mission is to transform lives, communities, and the world by providing opportunities for the people of Mississippi and beyond through excellence in learning, discovery, healthcare, and engagement.