As part of its strategic plan, the Office of Community Engagement and Outreach is working to strengthen “town and gown” partnerships—those that exist between members of a community near a university and the facutly, staff, and students of the university itself.
A UT leadership team composed of Javiette Samuel, director of community engagement and outreach, Kelly Ellenburg, director of service learning, Laura Ketola, coordinator in the Center for Leadership and Service,and Mary Beth Browder, assistant director of internship development in the Center for Career Development, will work with community leaders to identify resources and make them publicly available, share best practices and innovative solutions, and offer professional development opportunities for the local and campus communities.
On April 11, the UT team met with representatives of the Knox Area After School Alliance to discuss resources available and potential ways for nonprofits to partner with faculty, staff and students at UT. More than 50 nonprofit executives participated in a similar event on April 19. These sessions opened discussions regarding collaborative solutions to local, regional and statewide issues and how to increase community access to the university while minimizing barriers. Marie Alcorn, vice president of community engagement and mobilizationat United Wayhosted the meetings.
The UT team will hold listen and learn sessions centered around how university and community partners can address complex issues, emerging concerns, and explore opportunities between UT and the surrounding community. Topics will focus on mutually beneficial partnerships, reciprocity, how to include the community voice in grants and participatory research projects, and curricular and co-curricular engagement opportunities.
In addition to community conversations, this initiative will involve inviting nonprofits to showcase engagement projects, providing an opportunity for faculty, staff and students to interact with these groups.