September 22, 2011
Community Engagement: Leveraging our Assets, Making a Difference
Chancellor Donald J. Reaves
Over the past several months, we have shared information about our Strategic Plan, we have talked about the economic impact that the University has throughout the community, and I held a town-hall meeting that covered a wide range of topics, focusing heavily on the budget and its impact on both the campus and the surrounding community.
This morning I want to talk about another aspect of our strategic Plan that also impacts the Triad — and that is our community involvement or what we call community engagement.
These activities come right out of our plan and can be found as Goal #3 — right behind Academic Excellence and Student Success is Community Engagement.
At WSSU we have defined community engagement broadly and in a manner that is consistent with the underlying philosophy of the UNC Tomorrow Report that was completed under Erskine Bowles. The commitment to community engagement is driven by the singular question that is raised in the UNC Tomorrow Report, which is, how can the UNC system better serve the citizens of North Carolina?
With that question in mind we have developed a Commitment to greater collaborations with the community and we seek constantly to develop new services and programs to address community needs. So strong is this commitment that we have included service in the recently revised tenure and promotion policy, making service mandatory by recognizing it as one of the three criteria for tenure and promotion, along-side teaching and research.
And we see this as a win-win situation in that many of these activities also provide a more enriching learning experience for our students, they provide teaching and research opportunities for our faculty, and they enrich the lives of our staff while also serving to make our communities better places to live, to learn and to work.
So where does this commitment come from? As noted it is a big part of the UNC Tomorrow Report commitment, and it is encouraged up the line at GA. The UNC System also encourages campuses to be more actively engaged. Let me give you some examples of our efforts.
Take distance learning for example — throughout the Triad our distance learning sites have provided higher education opportunities in the surrounding counties. And, throughout the county, but especially in the rural areas, we have trained well over 1,000 nurses – nurses who have graduated from the RN to Bachelor of Science in nursing program.
Nursing students learn operational prep procedures.
We are now the third largest producer of nurses in the State of NC, and if we had the space we could expand the program even more. And these are the front-line people; these are the nurses who are caring for us, for members of our families, for our employees and for our neighbors. It’s really important work and we enjoy doing it.
In addition to the nursing program we run a number of centers that serve the community. For example, the Biomedical Research Infrastructure Center contributes to discovery of new knowledge in science and technology and also develops student research capabilities in the areas of biomedical and behavioral sciences. The Center is located in the Piedmont Research Park and includes collaborations with faculty members from the Wake Forest University School of Medicine.
Then there is the Center for Community Safety , which provides statistical data using a Geographic Information System (GIS) that not only analyzes information, but also displays it geographically. Our ability to provide information in this way has enabled us to work with local law enforcement and has created a powerful prevention and investigation tool for mapping and analyzing crime patterns.
There is also the Center of Excellence for the Elimination of Health Disparities, which provides research, input into policy decisions, and has held nationally-recognized conferences and other activities to raise awareness of the problems created in all communities by health care disparities.
Then, there is the S. G. Atkins Community Development Corporation, a university affiliate organization that has become a major player in the redevelopment efforts along the Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive corridor. Carol Davis who heads the CDC has led the CDC’s work from developing a plan for enhancing this area of the community, to creating an anchor for those plans with its own Enterprise Center. With the opening of the Enterprise Center, Winston-Salem now has a business incubator again. Not only is the CDC providing space for new businesses, but also taking advantage of the university’s Center for Entrepreneurship and collaborating with other local support organizations to provide needed resources for new enterprises – and you should know that they have a special emphasis on “green” businesses.
For us, it’s always been about meeting community needs in a way that creates win-win situations – the community receives needed services and programs, our students have the opportunity to enhance their education through hands-on experience, the faculty can engage in research, and the university is able to demonstrate its commitment to the community
Mobile Clinic crew prepare to work in area public hoising complex.
Another example in the School of Health Sciences is the Mobile Health Clinic – known as Rams Know H.O.W. which provides screenings, educational services and referrals to citizens in underserved areas – it is estimated that more than $250,000 in free services will be provided in the first year of operation.
And while we are counting, students working with professors at the Community Care Clinic have provided more than $300,000 in physical therapy care.
Earlier I mentioned the national recognition that some of these programs have received — that’s the case with our physical therapy program and the services that it provides to the underserved. As a result of their effort two of our students have been named Albert Schweitzer Fellows for their projects, one of the most prestigious forms of recognition that one can receive. Clinton Serafino and Timothy Serrano, students in our doctoral program are two of the three physical therapy students in North Carolina to win Albert Schweitzer Fellowships for 2011-2012.
Student measures a child's blood pressure.
These are just a few of our efforts to provide local citizens with much-needed healthcare services while ensuring that our students have the experiential learning opportunities that will prepare them for their profession. And I remind you that most of our students are from North Carolina so they tend to stay in the state when they graduate, and many remain here in Winston-Salem.
Then there are examples of programs and efforts that address the longer-term needs of the community, such as those that require a high level of technological skills – usually what we call the STEM areas of science, technology, engineering and math. We have programs that reach out to younger students in an effort to prepare them to enter the educational pipeline for these areas.
One such program is the North Carolina Mathematics and Science Education Pre-College Program at WSSU which includes a Saturday Academy, tutoring, mathematics and science competitions, field trips, a Parent Involvement for Excellence (PIE) Club, a leadership development initiative, and a Summer Scholars Program designed to provide math and science enrichment to rising sixth through twelfth graders.
YEHS campers learn examination pointers during summer camp.
We also have Camp YEHS! – Youth Exploring Health Sciences the provides a summer enrichment program to educate, prepare and enhance academic qualifications for health sciences careers for rising ninth grade students from the Forsyth and surrounding counties.
Then there is the TEAM-UP Program (Teens Engaged in Aspiring Mentorships: an Uplifting Partnership) that has been recognized by the state Association of Directors of Social Services as a “Best Practice” in community collaborations. The program, spearheaded by our Center for Entrepreneurship in partnership with the Departments of Social Services from Forsyth, Guilford and Durham Counties, provides a variety of real-world educational opportunities for young people in foster care in an effort to help them be more productive citizens.
These are just a few of the ways that we work to enhance and enrich the community. There are other ways.
Our faculty and staff share their time, their talents and their experiences by serving on an array of boards – ranging from the Chamber of Commerce and the Arts Council to Habitat for Humanity and the Enrichment Center. The Women’s Fund is a prime example of the influence our employees can have. Our own Michelle Cook is one of the founding members of this organization that has put more than $1 million into the community since its inception
We also bring in nationally-known speakers and performers through a variety of programs such as the Gray Lecture Series and the Lyceum Series.
One of many works at Diggs Gallery.
And The Diggs Gallery is well known for being home to one of the South’s leading showcases dedicated to African and African-American art. And in addition to being of interest to visitors, the gallery had nearly 7,000 visitors walk through its doors last year.
When I began thinking about what I would say this morning, I knew there was no way I could tell you all of the things our students, faculty and staff are doing in the community to impact everything from economic development to improved healthcare. I struggled a bit with how to get you to understand the importance of our community engagement efforts – not just for the university, but for people who live and work in Winston-Salem.
Then I remembered a few weeks ago when some of the staff members brought me a sampling of fresh produce that came from the Simon’s Green Acre community Garden. What a simple story that illustrates the return on investment we seek for our community engagement projects.
The Atkins CDC provided space behind the Enterprise Center for a community garden. Some of our students, faculty and staff came together with others in the community to provide hands-on learning about sustainable horticulture, therapeutic gardening, organic food and eating healthier using fresh produce.
Student volunteers take a break from work at Simon's Green Arce Community Garden.
From planting to weeding, watering and harvesting, the garden became a symbol of our involvement in the community surrounding the campus. With an open house, more people were able to see what was happening on this plot of land – as well as learn how good grilled vegetables taste.
This one garden has had a tremendous impact and has been extremely successful at engaging different people from the campus in working together and creating interaction with community residents.
Nearly 2,000 pounds of have food have come out of the Community Garden. Fall crops are being planted now.
But, here is the rest of the story. At a time when Second Harvest Food Bank was dealing with empty shelves and we are reading that hunger is on the rise in our community – Simon’s Green Acre has provided nearly 2,000 pounds of food to organizations such as Samaritan Ministries and AIDS Care Service as part of meeting a community need.
This one simple story of a community project sums up what we are trying to do with all of our efforts — educate, bring people together, meet community needs, and produce results. That’s what community engagement should be about — leveraging our assets to make a difference.
Thank you very much!