UMass Boston Faculty and Staff Collaborate on Community Partnerships

Colleen Locke | April 13, 2012

Before the April 5 Community-Engaged Partnerships Symposium, Upward Bound Director Erica Pernell didn’t know that the Amesbury Early College Program had a partnership with UMass Boston. Assistant Professor of Leadership in Education Jack Leonard documented the implementation of the program, which gives students in high school college credit for completing courses.

“I had no idea about this program, which is very similar to my program, [a year-round program for low-income, first-generation college bound high school students]. It’s been good to learn more about [the Amesbury Early College Program,]” Pernell said.

The Amesbury Early College Program and Upward Bound were just two of the groups that created posters for the Office of Community Partnerships’ first Community-Engaged Partnerships Symposium. The day-long event also included workshops and a plenary session on how community-engaged partnerships involving research, scholarship, teaching, and service fit at UMass Boston.

Staff members from the Urban Harbors Institute took part in the symposium in part to recruit community partners for COASTSWEEP, the annual Massachusetts coastal clean-up that is part of an international effort coordinated by the Nature Conservancy. This year marks the 25th anniversary of the program, which takes place in September and October.

“We engage volunteers who are willing to serve as our coastal coordinators. The [Nature Conservatory takes] the data from Massachusetts and the data all around the world and they analyze it for trends and they use the information to help advance things like plastic bag bans,” said Research Associate Kristin Uiterwyk.

Uiterwyk says the goal this year is to have cleanups in all 78 coastal communities in the state; every year is different, but usually between 40 to 60 communities are involved.

“It’s a matter of outreach and that’s what we’re working on now – the outreach,” Uiterwyk said.

Claire Gold, a lecturer in anthropology, came to the symposium hoping to bring about awareness and funding for the UMass Boston Anthropology Outreach Science Enrichment Program. Before funding ran out, Gold visited 13 Boston public schools, bringing with her skulls of humans, chimpanzees, and “Lucy,” who is believed to be a cross between chimps and humans.

“[This] brings the researchers out, so you can meet some people that you’ve heard about but haven’t had the chance to talk to yet, so it’s quite useful,” Urban Harbors Institute Director Jack Wiggin said.

Assistant Professor of Leadership in Education Tricia Kress was a panelist for the plenary session on the role community partnerships play at UMass Boston. She said she never heard the term “community-engaged scholar” until she came to UMass Boston five years ago.

“In my second year, I heard colleagues speaking about community-engaged research and made the connection that that’s what I do,” Kress, who does research on urban education, said. “If we don’t prepare researchers to do research in schools, they we can’t fulfill our urban mission.”

Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Winston Langley said universities in general can become detached from the communities in which they serve.

“The life of a university going forward is quite different. It is not whether or not it is involved with the community, it is how much and in what way; otherwise, the university will not survive at all. [UMass Boston is] redefining the university, we are redefining research, we are redefining community, and I hope it will be a rich and productive journey,” Langley said.

The UMass Boston Community-Engaged Partnerships Symposium: Teaching, Research, Service is a collaborative effort by the Office of the Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and the Division of Government Relations and Public Affairs.

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