On October 8-9, the Office of Community Engagement and Outreach within the Office of Research and Engagement and University-Assisted Community Schools in the College of Education, Health, and Human Sciences convened more than 150 faculty, staff, administrators, and community organizations to discuss collaborations between higher education institutions and local communities. All of UT’s eleven academic colleges participated along with faculty and staff from the UT Institute of Agriculture/Extension, faculty and staff from Pellissippi State Community College and the University of North Carolina, Asheville.
The theme was Building University-Community Relationships: More Than One and Done. The conference was meant to foster collaboration between UT and its community partners, with speakers highlighting potential issues institutions face when engaging communities and sharing successful examples of national solutions and partnerships.A variety of community partners were in attendance, including Leadership Knoxville, Connect Knox, United Way of Greater Knoxville, University Assisted Community Schools, Alliance for Better Nonprofits, Great Schools Partnerships, City of Knoxville, Knox County Mayor’s Office, Girls Scouts, Big Brothers Big Sisters, One Knox Legacy Coalition, Centro Hispano, Knox County Libraries, YMCA, and faith based communities. Representatives of UT’s 11 academic colleges were in attendance as well, including Haslam Office of Diversity & Community Relations, Center for Career Development, Teaching and Learning Innovation, UT libraries, and the Educational Advancement Program.
“We have a lot of scholars on campus who incorporate community engagement into their research and scholarly efforts, which is why it is important to have a mechanism for them to discuss these types of projects,” said Javiette Samuel, UT’s director of community engagement and outreach.
The first day of the conference began at the Howard H. Baker Jr. Center for Public Policy with an opening keynote from Darlene Kamine. It was followed by a session on collaboration readiness. Luncheon speaker Samory Pruitt, VP for Community Affairs at the University of Alabama and Engagement Scholarship Consortium president, discussed a national perspective on engaged scholarship.
A panel of community leaders discussed the hurdles of community engagement and what can be done to reach underrepresented communities. The panel discussion was comprised of Evetty Satterfield, Knox County School Board, Calvin Skinner, co-founder of the One Knox Legacy Coalition, Bob Kronick, professor of educational psychology and counseling and director of University-Assisted Community Schools, and Sylvia Turner, associate director of UT’s Haslam Scholars Program. Attendees participated in roundtable discussions around topics such as the role of higher education in society, mentoring in community-based participatory research, access to UT, and an engaged education for graduate and undergraduate students. Office of Engagement and Outreach mini-grant recipients, which consisted of faculty, staff, and county extension agents, presented poster sessions as well.
The second session of the conference was held at United Way on October 9. Marie Alcorn, vice president at United Way presented a session on “greatest impacts” to a group mostly comprised of community agencies in attendance that day. Faculty interested in building collaborations and exploring potential projects also participated. Missy Massie, executive director of student support services for Knox County Schools spoke, even providing her cell phone number to the audience in hopes of later collaboration. Samuel wanted to be intentional with the conference, making sure the second day session was held in a space within the community.
“I think the time is now, and the place is Knoxville,” said Samuel. “UT, in partnership with the community partners, conducts mutually beneficial research that is at the very heart of community engaged scholarship. I’m excited to see the impact we can make going forward.”