Center for Social Policy Celebrates Anniversary Honoring Leaders for Economic and Social Justice
October 23, 2012
Moriah Roache and Barbara Graceffa, McCormack Graduate School
On October 17, the Center for Social Policy celebrated its 20th anniversary and honored five leaders who have advanced social and economic justice: Representative Barney Frank, senior scholar Chuck Collins, local businessman John Connors, and center associates Julia Tripp and Elaine Werby.
Donna Haig Friedman, director of the center since 1998, was the first to address the more than 200 honored guests and supporters of the center, who had come together for the evening. After expressing gratitude for the center's founding directors Mary Grant and Murray Frank, who set the stage for the center’s vision to reshape poverty policy, she emphasized the celebration of past achievements and its power to energize and inspire those working in and with the center.
Chancellor J. Keith Motley praised the center for its urban mission. “Since its founding, the University of Massachusetts Boston has chosen to actively engage with and serve our community. Over the years, as our academic enterprise has evolved, we have developed a growing reputation for innovative research addressing complex urban issues. Our highly regarded research centers have become known for applying their intellectual resources to understand pressing social and economic problems, and partnering with the community to develop solutions. Amongst our many think tanks, the Center for Social Policy is one of the university’s finest.”
While working at MassHealth, the event's fundraising co-chair Maureen Pompeo recognized the extensive external data support that the center provided. “CSP provides clear thinking and helps inform on the street as well as it does in the Governor’s Office and we should pay more attention to their work,” said Pompeo.
Among those whose contributions to social and economic justice were honored was Congressman Barney Frank, who spoke of the need to minimize inequality and make society fairer. He highlighted the shrinking budget allocations to support public education and how, inversely, inequality can be diminished through education. “Yes, we must reduce the deficit,” he said, “yet it is an immoral failure to go after the poorest who are barely surviving.” Though he is entering into retirement, Congressman Frank says he is proud to have worked towards achieving a more just society and plans to continue with advocacy work.
Frank also received the Chancellor's Medal for Exemplary Leadership at the anniversary event.
Honored guest Chuck Collins spoke of the extremes of wealth and inequality and how it undermines every aspect of life; he defined it as a “core issue of our time”. In acknowledging the significance of the Center for Social Policy, Collins stated, “CSP’s research is connected, grounded, and rooted in the community– that’s what makes it powerful.”
John Connors, another honoree, discussed how social policy cannot be solely informed “from an ivory tower”, but must instead assume the point of view held by the people with lived experience in poverty. “There is no other center that touches the perspective from the street,” Connors said of CSP.
Connors' marketing team at Boathouse Communications penned the script for the new Center for Social Policy video titled “We the People” which debuted at the anniversary celebration. The video script and testimonials from funders, partners, and constituent advisors highlight the people-centered research methodology that the center espouses.
The center honored their own constituent advisor and research assistant Julia Tripp, not only to recognize her contributions but to represent the next generation of social policy analysts. Tripp spoke of her own childhood and the direct effects poverty had on her life. “Many mistakes in my life came from poverty,” she said. Providing support for Congressman Frank’s earlier argument, education, she claims, is what changed her trajectory. As leader of the constituent advisory group that informs the center’s policy recommendations, Julia shares first-hand knowledge and sheds light on issues of poverty and exclusion. Of those who find themselves in similar circumstances, Tripp said, “They try to pull themselves up by their bootstraps, but systems of care inadvertently cut their laces.” Her past experiences were valuable ones and allow her to interpret data and propose policy solutions with a lens that is different from the norm. Read her speech.
The last to be recognized was 91 year-old Elaine Werby, a senior fellow at the center and “retired” faculty member at UMass Boston. Werby’s untiring commitment to students is the inspiration for the new Elaine Werby Public Service Internship Program. “Her lasting touch is everywhere at the center” where she has served as a “direct, dynamic, and insightful mentor.” said Donna Haig Friedman. “Student learning means more to her than anything else.” Thanks to successful fundraising and generous contributions, the internship in her name will be supported over the next five years by $50,000 raised in conjunction with the center's 20th anniversary event.
"Over the past twenty years, staff at the Center for Social Policy have contributed to solving poverty through multiple strategies, at times bearing witness to the humiliation of exclusion or policies that fail to incentivize paid work and the unpaid work of caring for families," said Friedman in her opening remarks. "We have served as research and evaluation partners to foundations, public agencies and nonprofits invested in community change efforts."
In the next twenty years, the center is committed to deepen its support to mentor UMass Boston students, to share and build knowledge with its constituent advisors and International Fourth World Movement partners, and to advance learning to make a difference in the world. And, as Friedman noted in her speech, “There is no better place to carry out the center’s mission than UMass Boston. I come to work each day inspired by the treasure trove of dedicated people on this campus and I’m very pleased to be part of the McCormack Graduate School and UMass Boston communities.”