In Attendance: Jackie Brodsky, Megan Carlton, Dee Cook, Thometta Cozart, George Daniels, Amy Dillon, Paige Ferguson, Elizabeth Hartley, Peter Hlebowitsh, Candace Johnson, CeeCee Johnson, Diane Kennedy-Jackson, Billy Kirkpatrick, Amanda Lightsey, James E. McLean, Jasmine Merritt, Holly Morgan, Jane Newman, Nicole Prewitt, Samory T. Pruitt, Whitney Sewell, Chas Shipman, Chris Spencer, Daniela Susnara, Matthew Wisla
Dr. Peter Hlebowitsh, CCBP executive council chair, welcomed everyone to the meeting and called the meeting to order. He proceeded with an update on the Promise Neighborhood Grant, sharing that the concept behind this grant is to provide update and renewal opportunities to areas of the country that need it. Recognizing that this initiative would benefit the Black Belt region of Alabama, Dr. Hlebowitsh and Dr. Nicole Prewitt, director of programs and partnerships for community engagement at the Center for Community-Based Partnerships (CCBP), designed a prototype to begin to put together a proposal. West Tuscaloosa was added to the proposal, which targets concerns in the areas of health and nutrition, crime and safety and other important issues. Hlebowitsh and Prewitt have also identified community partners and are framing the proposal. They will update the Council as they move forward.
Amanda Lightsey, executive director of Tuscaloosa’s One Place and chair of the Council’s Community Partner Support Committee, shared an overview of the Prison Re-entry into Society Program. Lightsey, Prewitt and the Chamber of Commerce of West Alabama are looking at a model curriculum program that would help prisoners prepare to re-enter the community as workforce-ready individuals able to maintain stable employment.
Lightsey and Prewitt shared that there are thousands of jobs in the area, particularly in manufacturing, that need to be filled. Several companies realized they would have to adjust some of their employment practices in order to fill these vacant positions. Accordingly, they have been looking at a model used to help replicate the Prison Re-entry into Society Program throughout the state. Additionally, 8–10 percent of prisoners in Alabama are veterans, so the group is also looking at subsections within the prison population to be certain that the curriculum they develop meets the needs of all prisoners. This would be the first program of its kind in Alabama.
Companies included in the discussion are Mercedes, Phifer Wire and a host of related service providers, as well as state representatives from the Department of Corrections. Those interested in getting involved with this program or who have questions should contact Donny Jones at the Chamber at 205-391-0552 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dr. George Daniels, chair of the Excellence in Community Engagement Recognition Committee, gave an update on the Council’s upcoming Excellence Awards Program, sharing that the committee members are excited about the annual awards luncheon and ceremony scheduled for Wednesday, April 18, at the Bryant Conference Center.
Daniels spoke of the importance of recognizing partnership development in community engagement. He reported that there had been open calls for submissions in the areas of partnerships initiated in the community, by students and by faculty. The awards program also provides an opportunity to recognize those who receive travel awards and to showcase seed fund projects and research work shared via poster presentations. Again this year, posters will be presented in conjunction with the SCOPE student presentations and will be on display both before and immediately following the luncheon.
Daniels also said that this awards luncheon is one of the highlights of the year and that we hope to see as many Council members as are available in attendance. Those planning to attend should RSVP by Wednesday, April 11, via the email invitation already distributed.
CeeCee Johnson, chair of the Student Involvement and Support Committee, gave an overview of what to expect at the SCOPE Student Showcase, which will take place the morning of Wednesday, April 18, also at the Bryant Conference Center. SCOPE (Scholars for Community Outreach, Partnership, and Engagement) is a student organization that seeks to involve undergraduate and graduate students in community engagement work.
Johnson reported that submissions to present at the SCOPE Showcase will be open through Friday, March 23. Presentations will begin the morning of April 18 with a panel of SCOPE students who will be sharing their experiences in the organization throughout the past year, as well as their experiences in community engagement. They will also discuss what brought them to SCOPE and what they got out of their involvement. Student paper presentations will follow, and then finally the poster session, which will be combined with the Excellence Awards Luncheon poster session. Johnson also indicated that SCOPE students would welcome and appreciate feedback from faculty members in attendance who work in the area of community engagement.
Dr. Karl Hamner, director of the Office of Evaluation, College of Education, spoke to the Council about Operation Deep Dive, aptly named because it takes a deep dive into the problem of veteran suicide in the community.
Hamner shared that 20 veterans kill themselves each day, which equates to more than 7,000 veterans a year. The question he and his team are trying to answer is, “What role does community engagement play in reducing or isolating suicide?”
Utilizing a grant from Bristol Myers-Squibb, Hamner and his team have developed a proposal with six other communities across the nation and will conduct a retrospect of every veteran suicide that they can. For this study, they are using Veterans Affairs (VA) data and service history and are looking at all veterans rather than just those who qualify for VA services. This will include those who were dishonorably discharged.
The researchers will be partnering with medical examiners and coroners, as well as with the community, on this project. They know that white males are two times more likely to kill themselves than other ethnicities, but even with this knowledge have been unable to impact suicide rates nationally. They attribute this statistic to a loss of purpose, loss of belonging and social isolation that affects many veterans. Accordingly, they are referring to this part of the project as a “social-cultural autopsy.” There will be a community engagement board representing the medical and veteran communities in every participating community. Site visits will begin during summer 2018.
In addition to the VA, the Department of Defense is also sharing its data with the project. Other agencies, including the Centers for Disease Control, are also coming to the table and taking an interest in the project.
Whitney Sewell, Community Affairs program coordinator, discussed the upcoming New Faculty Community Engagement Tour, which seeks to connect new faculty members at UA to existing community outreach endeavors in a way that helps them visualize how their research might fit into an existing partnership or even form a new one.
The tour will take place Wednesday through Friday, May 9 through 11, from approximately 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. daily, and will include three site visits with panel discussions each day. Participants can sign up for one, two, or all three days. There is no fee to attend. Sign-up will begin during the first week of April and is open to faculty, staff and graduate students.
In its second year, the tour through Alabama’s Black Belt region provides participants with an opportunity to see new parts of the state that they call home but might not normally get to see, and also to meet people that they might not normally have the opportunity to meet.
Shifting gears, Prewitt discussed the Saving Lives Academy, a pilot to train church health advocates in areas of physical activity, nutrition, and health education and promotion. The pilot program was launched this week and Prewitt’s team has already received feedback. They hope to use that feedback to establish the inaugural academy in September, and are enthusiastic about contributing to the public health infrastructure by providing church advocates information for their congregants. They have also partnered with the VA and with Shelton State Community College for future sessions.
Dr. Holly Morgan, director of community engagement at the CCBP, discussed both Swim to the Top and the STEM Entrepreneurship Academy, two summer program offerings. Planning is underway for both programs.
Swim to the TOP is a partnership with the Benjamin Barnes YMCA, First Tee of Tuscaloosa, both Tuscaloosa City and County, and the UA College of Education. The Swim to the Top program is housed at the Benjamin Barnes Branch YMCA. Their instructors provide swimming instruction, physical fitness instruction and academic enrichment to the students who participate. At the end of the month-long program, a final showcase to include parents will be presented. Morgan and her team want to be certain there are measurable assessments across the board to use in the future and to help measure growth across the program. Swim to the Top will take place during the month of June.
The STEM Entrepreneurship Academy is a week-long residential camp that is hosted on the UA campus, in partnership with multiple entities on campus. For the camp, 40 rising 10th and 11th graders from the Black Belt region of Alabama will be recruited. The camp’s focus is on the STEM fields and the area of entrepreneurship. Partners include the UA College of Arts & Sciences, UA Student Life, the UA College of Engineering and the UA College of Business. In addition, the program receives contributions from The Edge and The Tuscaloosa Gateway program. This opportunity also operates through the Google classroom platform to provide outreach to schools when students and teachers are not on campus.
Dr. James E. McLean, executive director of CCBP, updated the Council on ongoing grant-writing workshops, noting that we are currently in the second round of the program. Teams from the first round were successful in finding funding for a number of community initiatives, including textbook, veterans’, HIV, and Head Start programs. A conservative estimate is that the 10 teams participating in round one have raised more than $30 million. It is too early to have estimates on projects from the second round, as those teams will complete the program in June.
McLean announced that a third round of workshops has been funded for 2018–2019, and that the call for participation will be coming out in about two weeks. The third round will begin in mid-August and will conclude in early June, 2019. There will be up to eight UA/community teams, as well as individual slots for participation. Teams must have a minimum of two people — one from UA and one from the community — and be willing to work toward improving the quality of life in some way for the community. Workshops will again be led by David G. Bauer, who will also conduct the individual grant- coaching programs for the teams.
McLean shared that he has never heard anyone express to him that it was not worth the time or effort teams put into the grant-writing workshops. If you know of a team that might be interested in participating, you are encouraged to make them aware that the call is coming out. The tentative deadline for applications for round three is May 19.
Dr. Samory T. Pruitt, vice president for Community Affairs, concluded the meeting with a brief update on the 2018 Engagement Scholarship Consortium (ESC) Conference, scheduled for Sunday, Sept. 30 through Wednesday, Oct. 3, in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He reported that this conference will be significantly different from previous ESC conferences, as it will be the first one under the new ESC 20/20 strategic plan.
For the first time, there will be an awards program during the conference, the categories of which will be similar to the Excellence Awards program here on campus. There will also be a panel of tenured faculty members who will be part of a workshop on best practices and literature on the subject of leadership in community engagement. UA faculty members and students are encouraged to attend the conference.
The meeting was adjourned at 12:50 p.m.
The Council exists to connect faculty, staff, students and community partners in research-based projects designed to solve critical problems identified collaboratively by community members and the University. All academic disciplines, as well as a number of students and community members, are represented on the Council. The Council conducts an awards program, oversees project funding, proposes methods to integrate teaching and research and seeks outside funding, all with the goal of fulfilling the Division of Community Affairs’ motto: “Engaging Communities and Changing Lives.”
The Division of Community Affairs was created in 2004 and is recognized nationally and internationally for its leadership in community engagement. The division provided the leadership for the recent reaffirmation of the University’s Carnegie curricular and community engagement classification. The division publishes the Journal of Community Engagement and Scholarship, one of the leading refereed journals in the field.