In September, APLU named the University of Georgia, the University of Texas at San Antonio, the University of Vermont, and the University of Wisconsin-Madison as finalists for the C. Peter Magrath Community Engagement Scholarship Award for their extraordinary community engagement initiatives. One of the finalists will be named the 2022 C. Peter Magrath Award winner during the APLU Annual Meeting. Read more about their efforts below.
University of Georgia
The Archway Partnership is a University of Georgia (UGA) public service and outreach unit through which faculty members are based in communities to help stakeholders address locally-identified critical issues. The faculty member, called an Archway Professional (AP), facilitates meetings where community members agree on and prioritize their needs. The AP then reaches out to UGA schools and colleges for expertise the communities need. Often UGA faculty and students work with select communities to address their challenges.
Eight communities are active at any one time over a period of years. These partnerships have led to the involvement of over 200 university faculty in Archway communities since the program began in 2005 and over $20 million in community and research grants since 2009, including a USDA grant of nearly $1 million to improve management of chronic health conditions in rural Georgia through telemedicine. The partnership has helped tackle community challenges such as high rates of diabetes and hypertension, increasing access to mental health care, and small business development in rural areas..
The University of Texas at San Antonio
The University of Texas at San Antonio’s (UTSA) Westside Community Partnership is an effort aimed at improving the lives of residents on the Westside of San Antonio, a community that was redlined, faces economic, health, educational and housing disparities, and is now the target for displacement and gentrification.
The partnership connects UTSA faculty with Westside nonprofits, schools, and small businesses to jointly work to improve the wellbeing of residents. Working with community stakeholders on community-identified challenges, the Westside Community Partnership has spearheaded efforts to preserve affordable housing availability, bridge the digital divide with small and microbusinesses, and uncover unmet estate planning needs of residents and help fill those needs.
Faculty have worked to create models for rehabilitating affordable housing in a cost-effective way, helped bridge the digital divide facing businesses as they applied for urgently needed pandemic-relief funds, and provided research data to the community to inform policymaking in the areas they’re facing. UTSA also created the Westside Scholarship, a scholarship program exclusively for students from the Westside, to boost student success.
University of Vermont
The University of Vermont’s Agroecology and Livelihoods Collaborative (ALC) is a community of practice working to help transform current food systems with ecologically sound and socially just practices. The ALC engages with small- to medium-sized diversified, organic farmers and nonprofits in Vermont, smallholder coffee farmers in Mexico, and others around the world, through in-depth participatory action research.
This approach has been used to support farmers and their organizations to engage with transformative agroecological research in projects across Latin America, Africa, and the United States. The ALC has worked collaboratively with a network of Vermont farmers, food producers, and non-profit organizations, conducting critical research on ecologically viable farming practices and just food systems. Through a transdisciplinary approach, the ALC has integrated science and scholarship from a wide range of disciplines—ecology, sociology, agronomy, entomology, soil health, economics, and others – to advance ecologically sound and socially just practices.
University of Wisconsin-Madison
The University of Wisconsin-Madison’s UniverCity Year program partners with communities across Wisconsin to tackle community-identified challenges with expertise and resources from the university. The UniverCity Year program is a three-year partnership, starting with the community identifying challenges they want to work on and priorities to move forward, followed by university-based experts designing research-to-practice approaches for addressing community needs. Because problems are community-identified, projects span a wide array of challenges including transportation, housing, health, agriculture, childcare, economic development, and the arts.
Green County, for example, asked UW-Madison to help address a host of challenges in areas such as enhancing government operations, community and economic development, health, and environmental sustainability over a three-year period in cities, villages, and towns across the county.
Thanks to its partnership with the university, the county developed a dashboard for tracking opioid use, launched a navigator to improve residents’ access to mental health resources and care, helped start a business development center, and drastically improved energy efficiency in the area’s schools. Over the last six years, the UniverCity Year effort has engaged 20 communities across Wisconsin and completed over 200 projects with more than 1,500 students and 80 faculty.