Community Partnerships Forged, Strengthened at Annual UMass Boston Symposium

April 22, 2013

Colleen Locke

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Susan Moir missed the Office of Community Partnerships’s first Community-Engaged Partnerships Symposium, but she was sure to take part in this year’s symposium, a chance to learn about, add, and deepen partnerships in the areas of teaching, research, and service.

Moir, one of the co-conveners of the Policy Group on Tradeswomen’s Issues (PGTI), was among the 90 UMass Boston partnerships represented at the symposium’s afternoon poster session. That’s 15 more than last year. You can view all of the posters online

“I’ve met all kinds of people on this campus who I never knew did this [social justice] work,” Moir said.

Amy Cook, a lecturer in counseling and school psychology, had a poster representing a new partnership that started this fall between UMass Boston’s School Counseling Program and the Dever-McCormack K-8 School. They’ve been working on reading skills and involving parents.

“I think schools in urban settings, they have a need for more resources [and partnerships] are excellent ways to bring resources into those schools. Also, at the Dever-McCormack, they have a very large Spanish-speaking population and they need more services from individuals who speak Spanish. We’ve been able to get a Latina dancer to teach the girls Latin dance. Having that connection through a partnership is a way to achieve some of the needs that they have at the school,” Cook said.

She says she is hoping to get additional funding to offer more services to the students.

Cedric Woods, director of the Institute for New England Native American Studies, had two posters, one for the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association 2012 annual conference and the second for a partnership with the North American Indian Center of Boston to provide resources for grandparents raising grandchildren, a phenomenon that is twice as high in Native American communities.

“The first year [of the symposium], I was uncertain as to what I would get out of it. But after my first year’s participation, I was very enthusiastic, and so enthusiastic that I brought my community partners here as well because it’s connecting them with resources and outreach opportunities here at the university,” Woods said.

Andrea Roche, the domestic workers organizer in the Brazilian Immigrant Center, is a community partner who came to the symposium for the first time. The UMass Boston Brazilian Immigrant Center Partnership is a collaboration focused on the rights of workers and immigrants. Roche says there is an exchange happening of personnel, ideas, and activities.

“I think we can create a lot of opportunity both for the academic [partner] and the community [partner],” Roche said.

Breakout sessions preceded and followed the poster session. Three hundred people attended at least some portion of the day, up from 250 in 2012. 

At one of the afternoon breakout sections, the first cohort involved in the Civic Engagement Scholars Initiative (CESI), talked about how they are using a performance incentive fund grant to engage undergraduate students in service-learning and community-based research learning. Staff members from Southern New Hampshire University and the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester attended the session to gather information and see if they can incorporate what UMass Boston is doing at their own schools.

There will eventually be three cohorts who will each be involved for three semesters. During the first semester, UMass Boston faculty and community partners develop and refashion course content. In the second semester, they will implement the changes, and in the third semester, they will write and reflect on the changes. As new faculty and community members will be added each semester, the idea is that the new cohort will learn from older cohorts. Proposals to be part of the next cohort are due May 24.

About UMass Boston
With a growing reputation for innovative research addressing complex issues, the University of Massachusetts Boston, metropolitan Boston’s only public university, offers its diverse student population both an intimate learning environment and the rich experience of a great American city. UMass Boston’s nine colleges and graduate schools serve nearly 16,000 students while engaging local, national, and international constituents through academic programs, research centers, and public service activities. To learn more about UMass Boston, visit www.umb.edu.