This page features stories and events involving our faculty, staff, students, and community partners.
- Title of the proposed RtM conference theme
- Abstract (up to 250 words) explaining the theme, including how the theme highlights community-engaged research
- Background/context section (up to 250 words), identifying what local/regional problems the conference theme intersects with, how the conference would involve community stakeholders, and who the audience and/or interest groups would be.
- List of proposed conference committee members who are willing to help organize and present at the conference, including their departments/affiliations and areas of expertise
- List of potential community partners
- Suggested keynote topic and potential keynote speakers
- a Fulbright United States Scholar Grant for 2015-2016;
- a research grant from the American Sociological Association Fund for the Advancement of the Discipline;
- the Ruth Landes Memorial Fund grant;
- the 2015 USF Women in Leadership and Philanthropy Junior Faculty Research award;
- the Humanities Institute Award;
- and the 2015 Diversity Faculty Award.
- Department of Anthropology, College of Arts & Sciences
- Methods in Cultural Research
- Community partner: Refugee Agricultural Partnership Program of the St. Mary’s Ethiopian Orthodox Church
"Go Public!" How to Get Your Research Off the Shelf and Into the Public Domain - Check Out the Video Highlights
For those who were unable to join us for the fall semester "Go Public!" event, we have a short video of highlights from the lively discussion we had with Dr. Elizabeth Hordge-Freeman and Dr. Daniel Lende, two media savvy faculty members who shared their experiences making their research available for regular public consumption.
Recently, Dr. Phillip Levy, President of Faculty Senate, during the Provost's Address spoke eloquently to the issues surrounding public dissemination of university research that is a part of our ongoing dialogue at OCEP in our regular "Go Public!" sessions each semester.
Levy stated: "On the one hand, academic values of dispassionate inquiry, intellectual exchange, openness to new ideas, and the privileging of best evidence have rarely been more challenged by our popular culture...At the same time though, the opening of global networks—be they digital, commercial, or physical—has brought people together as never before and created innumerable new possibilities for education. New streams of information and the limitless data at our fingertips cry out for trained, engaged, and critical minds to weigh, evaluate, and prioritize..."
Check out the video below, which gives you a snapshot into the discussion which we will continue to have. We welcome your feedback!Read more
Wednesday, October 21st NOON – 4 PM
Participants will learn about new funding opportunities available from the Office of Community Engagement and Partnerships. During concurrent sessions, participants will learn about the many ways to partner with the university, engage in a service-learning roundtable, and get inspired by the examples of innovative partnerships faculty and community members have created and brainstorm new partnership possibilities.
And there will be plenty of time to meet faculty, staff, and community members who are interested in forming partnerships for developing community engaged research, experiential learning, service, and creative activities.
When? Wednesday, October 21st from 12:00 noon – 4:15 pm.
Where? MOSI, 4801 East Fowler Avenue, Tampa, FL 33617
Hosted by? Office of Community Engagement and Partnerships, USF and MOSI
RSVP: Click here.Read more
Research that Matters grant recipient Dr. Elizabeth Miller studies breastfeeding support among African-American new moms
By Bonnie Silvestri, Director of Strategic Communications
Mothers, practitioners, researchers, doctors, and doulas extol the virtues of breastfeeding. It is considered the “perfect” food for a newborn with its own moniker “breast if best.” Yet baby formula is an over $10 billion dollar a year industry, and there are many obstacles to breastfeeding, including moms heading back to work and social pressures to keep this natural form of nurturing newborns hidden behind closed doors.
Dr. Elizabeth Miller, who received a Research that Matters grant from the Office of Community Engagement and Partnerships to do a study of barriers to breastfeeding among African-American mothers of newborns, said “We have done a great job of destroying the breastfeeding culture” in the United States.
Miller said, “Medical anthropology is a new step for me. The field emerged from cultural anthropology as a critique of the culture of medical systems globally.” She continued, “Breastfeeding, within the system of medical childbirth, is an issue which has long been ignored.”
“Often you hear women say they became interested in breastfeeding because they have children,” said Miller, “Well, I don’t have any children and have not breastfed! When I was in graduate school, I became interested in research, which suggested strong links between immune processes in the gut and general immune functioning. At the time, most research on these questions happened in US populations. As an anthropologist, I wanted to expand our knowledge of immune system development to populations outside of the United States, who experience a much different hygienic and disease environment. So, I did research on breast milk in rural Kenya.”
Miller said she joined the Hillsborough County Breastfeeding Taskforce about two and a half years ago when she began working at USF, because the department strongly encourages community engaged research. In fact, all four recipients of OCEP’s 2015 Research that Matters grants were USF anthropologists.
Miller is working in collaboration with Dr. Adetola Louis-Jacques, a fellow in Maternal Fetal Medicine at University of South Florida. Louis-Jacques works at Genesis Women’s Center of Tampa General Hospital, which specializes in providing services to mothers with lower incomes or who are at higher risk for complications at pregnancy, and the Hillsborough County Breastfeeding Taskforce. The research team also includes Ivonne Hernandez, a lactation consultant, and Dr. Tara Deubal, an Assistant Professor in Anthropology.
Louis-Jacques stated, “Ethnic disparity for breastfeeding is really present in our midst, and we wanted to address that.” In fact, after examining a CDC report in August of 2014, which discussed the ethnic disparity in lactation, Louis-Jacques and Hernandez compared numbers among the populations at Tampa General, at Genesis, and then more specifically among African American women at Genesis. During that month, at Tampa General, 84% of mothers initiated breastfeeding and 46% were exclusively breastfeeding upon discharge from the hospital; among mothers at Genesis 75% initiated breastfeeding and 20% were breastfeeding exclusively at discharge and finally, and as Louis-Jacques said among African American mothers, 69% initiated breastfeeding and only 7% breastfed exclusively at discharge.
Miller attributes many of the difficulties mothers face in trying to breastfeed to the “culture of pregnancy, birth, and lactation that got taken over by doctors, indeed, taken over by people who prefer interventions, which are sometimes done without being empirically tested.”
Miller continued, “As much as I am an advocate for breastfeeding, women are under real constraints in this society that make breastfeeding more difficult,” and the team wanted to look more closely at these barriers to determine how to alleviate them.
“African-American women have been hit particularly hard by the destruction of the breastfeeding culture,” said Miller.
“There is a socio-economic aspect of this, because women have to go back to work” in the United States (one of only three countries that provides no financial support to new mothers); and this impacts mothers’ ability to breastfeed.
Miller tells mothers participating in her study, “I’m not a physician so you can tell me about it.” Her quiet and kind demeanor allows mothers to feel comfortable sharing some of the most intimate details of their lives with her – their birth experiences and their subsequent efforts to breastfeed their babies.
Although she has not analyzed the data yet, Miller has been very encouraged by the interviews she has conducted. She believes that with the help of the mothers she interviewed, the team will be able to “better support moms in the way moms find appropriate,” she said.
Deubel stated, “It is critical to understand how women are receiving information and making choices about feeding their babies in order to provide better services and increase awareness about the numerous health benefits of breastfeeding for mothers and babies. Working with an interdisciplinary team bridging anthropology and health sciences, Miller is helping to bring key community partners together to improve breastfeeding education and support for women throughout the area.”
She continued, “Miller’s expertise is a great asset to the Tampa community in promoting the health and nutritional status of infants, children, and mothers."
The team will share their findings at a local conference called “The Culture of Breastfeeding.” Among the recommendations is sure to be that mothers need time in the first few months to rest and bond with their babies. Miller said that for moms in Kenya, the first few months are considered sacred time, and they are required not to work while caring for their newborns.
Dr. David Himmelgreen, the Chair of the Department of Anthropology, also a recipient of an OCEP Research that Matters grant, said, “Elizabeth Miller is a rising star in biological anthropology, and we are fortunate to have her here at USF. Her research represents the best of what anthropology has to offer in addressing issues related to infant feeding and maternal and child health.”
When asked if she found the Research that Matters funding useful, Miller declared “Absolutely! I couldn’t have done this study without it.” Louis-Jacques concurred, “I really appreciate the grant. We were so excited. It’s helping us start this crucial work.
Funding such as the OCEP Research that Matters grants can be vital in getting university-community partnership research studies off the ground; and OCEP is proud to help nurture these partnerships that strengthen our communities.Read more
By Bonnie Silvestri, Director of Strategic Communications
Elizabeth Dunn is a ray of sunshine in the world of global disaster management and humanitarian relief at the USF College of Public Health (COPH), where she serves as an adjunct faculty member. With her dynamic personality and generous spirit, she touches the lives of her students who want to follow in her footsteps. Together they work on a wide variety of public health related projects while sharing a passion for helping others.
Dunn received an Office of Community Engagement and Partnerships (OCEP) high-impact practice service-learning mini grant for her course Community Participation in Homeland Security and Preparedness offered through the Community Engaged Homeland Security and Emergency Management undergraduate minor in the Department of Global Health. In addition to her teaching duties, she also serves as the Assistant to the Director of the Global Disaster Management, Humanitarian Relief and Homeland Security online master’s program. She is responsible for marketing the program - the only fully accredited Master of Public Health (MPH) of its kind in the nation - to students from around the world.
In her life and her work, Dunn is a model community-engaged scholar. She is involved in everything from advising the Disaster and Humanitarian Relief (DAHR) Student Collaborative to serving with the Tampa Bay Refugee Task Force, Community Emergency Response Teams (CERTs), the American Red Cross, and the Hillsborough County Local Mitigation Strategy working group. She is also a frequent participant in all of OCEP’s programming, and she can be counted on to invite faculty and community partners to events to share what she has learned about best practices in community engagement.
Even on vacation, Dunn thrusts herself into any opportunity to help. Recently, on a trip to Iceland, she and her boyfriend were among the first on scene after a near-fatal car accident that occurred along a desolate road on their route. She put her skills in emergency response into action assisting the victims until rescuers could make their way to the rural, remote area where the accident occurred.
Dunn has her own role model: her mother, a single parent, who earned her college degree in nursing while caring for Dunn and her brother, Michael. She recalls attending classes with her mom at eight years old thinking, “I cannot wait to go to college.”
With a strong desire for lifelong learning, she said of her eleven years of higher education at USF, where she received undergraduate degrees in Economics and International Studies, as well as a Master of Public Health (MPH), “I can’t get enough of it.” In fact, Dunn and her mom, whom she called her “cornerstone,” worked on their graduate degrees at the same time. She said they were competitive about their grades but earning their degrees together “strengthened their relationship.”
Dunn said of her mom, “she’s an inspiration. She didn’t complete high school as a teenager, yet was at the top of her class in nursing school and throughout her [USF] graduate program.” Her mom now works in home healthcare as a regional vice president of operations, and Dunn inherited her mother’s desire to help others when they need it the most.
Dunn became interested in global disaster recovery and economic development when she joined the United Nations Association (UNA) Tampa Bay Chapter as an undergraduate. After graduation, she traveled to Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam where she served as a youth delegate for the UNA-USA focusing on grassroots advocacy to support UN initiatives and the Millennium Development Goals. She was then extended an offer to participate in a human rights delegation with Global Youth Connect in Bosnia-Herzegovina, where she interned with the Center for Peacebuilding. Following her graduate studies, after Super Storm Sandy, the American Red Cross deployed her to Manhattan to serve as a shelter manager, and then she coordinated the operations of all client and staff shelters in New York City.
She said, “I’m usually fearless.” When she sees the impact of a disaster and knows she is needed, she thinks, “Let’s go. Let’s do this. I’m never going to have any regrets in life. I’m just going to do it, and hopefully I can inspire others to do the work I am not capable of doing on my own.”
She passes along that willingness to do what is necessary to help others to her very enthusiastic students. Jordan Moberg, who took Dunn’s two-week summer course Community Engagement in Public Health Preparedness, now serves as a leader in the DAHR Student Collaborative. Moberg said, “It is because of professors like Ms. Dunn who take a proactive role in their student’s education and the community that more connections are able to be made. This teaching style and community engagement will ultimately lead to innovation through creativity and strategy in the field of public health.”
During the summer course, she exposed her students to various governmental and non-governmental organizations throughout the Tampa Bay area that engage in public health, including the American Red Cross, the Tampa Bay Port Authority, the county and the city emergency operations centers, and many more. She developed the partnerships, which formed the basis of the service-learning course for which she received the OCEP grant.
Dunn’s students were involved in projects ranging from surveying and mapping mental health resources for refugees to adding a public health component to the Hillsborough County Local Mitigation Strategy, which until she and her students got involved, was noticeably absent from the original plan. In all, thirty-two students were involved with eleven community-impact projects in the Tampa Bay area.
Of her involvement with OCEP through the grant, consultations, and workshops, she said, “[The grant] really helped with [purchasing] the tools to survey potential shelters to determine whether they would be safe after a disaster; the background checks and tuberculosis tests for students so that they would be permitted to work in a clinical setting, as well as emergency preparedness training tools.”
She continued, “I thought it was nice to be able to talk to OCEP staff to have the support in designing these courses and to explore new ideas. I was kind of surprised at how the students embraced this opportunity to serve their community.” Although juggling eleven community-based projects was challenging, Dunn and her students continued working on them long after the semester ended, including presenting the results of their research at the USF Undergraduate Research Colloquium in the spring to serving on the Disaster Action Team (DAT) of the American Red Cross responding to recent flooding in Tampa.
Now that she has one service-learning class under her belt, she has launched into this semester with fresh ideas and a clearer sense of what can be accomplished. “I’m more involved and have built stronger bonds with some remarkable community partners. I dug myself in deeper, where before I was hanging out on the surface.”
In a year of record rainfalls and rising floodwaters, Dunn and her students stand by ready to help. In fact, it seems there is no storm Dunn and her team of students, many of whom have graduated and gone on to work with a variety of emergency management programs, cannot weather.Read more
OCEP Conversation Series: Professor Ulisses F. Araujo on Experiential Learning at University of Sao Paolo
Here is another installment in our OCEP Conversation series, an interview with visiting scholar Ulisses Araujo, who recently visited USF Sarasota-Manatee. Professor Araujo is a leading expert on experiential learning, and he has an innovative approach to involving entering freshman at the University of Sao Paulo in interdisciplinary teams to solve community-based problems drawing upon their respective disciplines. He is also part of an international study of service-learning with Dr. Jenni Mariano of USFSM.
Dr. David Himmelgreen's Research that Matters grant will study the impact of school back packs on childhood hunger
by Bonnie Silvestri, OCEP Director of Strategic Communications
One in four children locally are hungry. Half of local children receive a free lunch at school but may not have enough food at night, on the weekends, and during the long summers, according to Feeding America Tampa Bay. In fact, 16 million children nationwide are “food insecure,” which means they have “inadequate access to sufficient, nutritious and safe food.” What have become known as “school backpack programs,” referring to subsidized food supplements given to young people to put into their backpacks and eat at home, have been sprouting up around the country in an attempt to respond to the growing problem of childhood hunger.Read more
Recently, Tiffany Gandolfo, a doctoral candidate in Applied Anthropology, and great friend of the Office of Community Engagement and Partnerships, together with Bonnie Silvestri, OCEP’s Director of Strategic Communications, collaborated to launch OCEP’s Conversation Series, which you can watch here.
Gandolfo serves as President of the Graduate Student Applied Research Network, an organization started three years ago with advisory support from OCEP for graduate students who conduct applied research to connect across disciplines around topics related to community-engaged research. GSARN has co-sponsored numerous events with OCEP over the past few years; and Gandolfo is an enthusiastic and willing participant in OCEP’s programming.
Thus far, Gandolfo filmed and produced Silvestri’s interviews of Dr. Paul Gorski, visiting scholar and expert in equity literacy; Dr. David Himmelgreen, Chair of the Anthropology Department and recipient of an OCEP Research that Matters grant; Dr. Elizabeth Hordge-Freeman, Outstanding Engaged Teaching Award and OCEP service-learning grant recipient; Dr. Sara Dykins Callahan, another service-learning grant recipient; and Julia Poholek, former OCEP intern, writer of Peer to Peer Conversations, and student in Callahan’s class.Read more
Office of Community Engagement and Partnerships Director of Strategic Communications Bonnie Silvestri interviewed former OCEP intern Julia Poholek about her experience in the service-learning course, Ethics of Food Production. This is the third in a series of OCEP Conversations at the USF Botanical Gardens to discuss the course for which Dr. Sara Dykins Callahan received an OCEP High Impact Service-Learning grant. Julia calls service-learning "a hands-on experience which transcended just what you learn in the classroom...and really opened my eyes to a new level of learning." To hear Julia's passionate remarks about the power of service-learning, click below.
OCEP Conversation Series: High Impact Service-Learning grant recipient Dr. Sara Dykins Callahan (part 2)
In part 2 of the Office of Community Engagement and Partnerships Conversation Series with High Impact Service-Learning grant recipient Dr. Sara Dykins Callahan, OCEP's Bonnie Silvestri talks to Callahan in greater detail about the content of her service-learning course. Her partnership with the USF Botanical Gardens was crucial to enable students to understand the complexity of food production by giving them the opportunity to grow their own food. Click below to learn more.
OCEP Conversation Series: High Impact Service-Learning grant recipient Dr. Sara Dykins Callahan (part 1)
USF Office of Community Engagement and Partnerships Director of Strategic Communications Bonnie Silvestri interviewed High Impact Service-learning grant recipient Dr. Sara Dykins Callahan about the importance of the grant she received in making her course Ethics of Food Production sustainable. Starting in the fall, the course will be called Introduction to Food Production and will be offered to many more students. She has partnered with the USF Botanical Gardens for five years, and her students have been able to assist with the garden's fundraising festivals and development of public service announcements. To learn more, click on the link below.
OCEP Conversation Series: Dr. Elizabeth Hordge-Freeman discusses the importance of community-engaged public scholarship in impacting public policy
In the fourth of the four part OCEP Conversation series with Outstanding Engaged Teaching recipient Dr. Elizabeth Hordge-Freeman, she talks about the importance of community-engaged public scholarship in impacting public policy. Hordge-Freeman's research and her book, The Color of Love, in particular, looks at how mothers prepare their children to survive in a society that, as she says, "devalues blackness." This is a very significant topic as we continue to grapple with systemic racial injustices globally and here in the United States. Click below to hear more.
OCEP Conversation Series: Dr. Elizabeth Hordge-Freeman discusses how service-learning leads to a lifelong commitment to engagement and involvement
In part 3, of the four part OCEP Conversation Series with Outstanding Engaged Teaching recipient Dr. Elizabeth Hordge-Freeman, she said, "Service-learning is not the end, but it really is the beginning of what we hope is a lifelong commitment to engagement and involvement. So in many ways taking one course opens up a world of possibilities to them," said Hordge-Freeman in the following video. OCEP's Bonnie Silvestri and Hordge-Freeman discussed how service-learning helps students find their life purpose during their undergraduate career and enables students ultimately take on leadership roles in the community. To learn more, click below.
OCEP Conversation Series: Dr. Elizabeth Hordge-Freeman gives the 4 Cs for creating meaningful global service-learning projects and avoiding "voluntourism"
In part 2, of the four parts of OCEP Conversations with Outstanding Engaged Teaching recipient Dr. Elizabeth Hordge-Freeman, she shared her insights about how to avoid some of the pitfalls of "voluntourism" by ensuring that global service-learning projects are carefully planned and developed and meet the following criteria. These are what she calls, the four C's: 1) community centered; 2) collaborative; 3) criticality; and 4) continuity. Click below to learn more...
OCEP Conversation Series: Outstanding Engaged Teaching Recipient Dr. Elizabeth Hordge-Freeman discusses the significance of global service-learning in achieving student success
USF Office of Community Engagement & Partnerships' Bonnie Silvestri interviewed Dr. Elizabeth Hordge-Freeman, who received an OCEP service-learning mini-grant, about how this grant helped fund her study abroad course in Brazil. They discuss the significance of global service-learning in achieving student success, and how OCEP has been fundamental in helping her develop this reciprocal program with USF and Afr0-Brazillian students. Both agree service-learning is the key to the future of education. She said, "OCEP has been just tremendous as a supporter and ally." Click below to learn more
OCEP Conversation Series: Dr. David Himmelgreen discusses how global issues of sustainable food and food insecurity can help us better understand structural poverty
OCEP Director of Strategic Communications Bonnie Silvestri sat down with Dr. David Himmelgreen, one of OCEP's Research that Matters grant recipients to discuss why addressing the global issues of sustainable food and food insecurity can be an important way to help people understand the deeper structural aspects of poverty affecting our community.
OCEP Conversation Series: Dr. David Himmelgreen discusses why it was crucial to his work to receive an OCEP Research that Matters grant
In Part 2, Himmelgreen discusses why it is so important for donors to provide funding to study the evaluation of community based programs. The OCEP Research that Matters grant is crucial for USF researchers to help ensure that community organizations are providing targeted and effective programs for those in need, and as Himmelgreen explains donors often wish to fund direct service. If you wish to help donate to Research that Matters or other OCEP programming, click here. To learn more, check out the video below.
OCEP Conversation Series: Research that Matters Recipient Dr. David Himmelgreen talks about his study of Feeding America Tampa Bay's school back pack program
As part of the OCEP Conversation Series, OCEP's Director of Strategic Communications Bonnie Silvestri sat down with OCEP Research that Matters recipient Dr. David Himmelgreen to talk about his research grant called "An Evaluation of the Effectiveness of the School Back Pack Program: A Partnership between USF and Feeding America Tampa Bay."
In Part 1, you will learn about the school back pack program provided through Feeding America Tampa Bay and why it is so important for USF to study the effectiveness of community-based programs. Himmelgreen's team will be studying the back pack program in Dover, Florida where there are a large number of children of migrant laborers. Click below to hear more.
I was honored to spend three days at the biennial National Association of Community & Restorative Justice (NACRJ) conference with 500 socially-conscious educators, lawyers, social workers, and students who are dedicated to working toward, as the NACRJ Executive Director Michael Gilbert said, “a more just, equitable, and fair society.” Gilbert noted that those who are focused on restorative justice often feel there is “not a lot of support” for what he called a “pro-social vision of a different society,” but that the NACRJ was formed to provide that “support system.”
Gilbert began the three-day long conference stating: “These are your people, welcome home.” He said the large contingency, which had increased significantly since the previous conference, “represents our collective capacity for safe and peaceful relationships.” Mara Schiff, NACRJ Conference host, said we are witnessing a time when issues of disparities in racial justice, such as the recent spate of deaths of unarmed African American men at the hands of police officers, have become an important part of the national conversation. She asked, “Did it get worse or just more visible?” She talked about how we are in a time of an unprecedented explosion in social media that allows us to “establish movements and conversations that we did not have before.”
Perhaps the huge uptick in those interested in restorative justice can be attributed to a collective feeling that the American ideals of equity and justice are slipping away. Discussion of white privilege and the vast racial inequities in day-to-day police interactions, school disciplinary programs, and the justice and correctional systems are now more common, and our society seems to have started to wake up from a collective hangover of denial
There is no question that, as Schiff said, since the last conference was held, it has become readily apparent that we can harness the power of social media to draw attention to institutional failure in our democratic system. Indeed, those of us who use social media seem to be “all a-twitter” in social consciousness these days. The term “hashtag activism” was coined during the Occupy movement, raised its profile with #KONY2012, and reached a new level of notoriety when even First Lady Michelle Obama was photographed last May with #BringBackOurGirls after 250 Nigerian girls were kidnapped. Through the omnipresence of social media, learning that a long-lost college friend shares your politics can be a relief, but learning of other friends’ deeply held beliefs that may contradict your own in such a public way can be a shock.
Where once an activist like Daniel Ellsberg had to spend his nights hunched over a Xerox machine copying the now infamous Pentagon Papers by hand, the new generation of “whistle blowers,” Edward Snowden, Chelsea Manning, Julian Assange and others, can share secret government documents quickly and with relative ease. Yet they all have paid a very high price for these efforts, and the consequences of such “truth telling” can be devastating. Technology has also enabled and empowered everyone to bear witness to illegal and unethical activity. And yet, as in the case of Eric Garner, where a video shows clearly that his last breaths were taken in police custody, the police officers were not indicted.
Now that we have the ability to access the world with one click, the word “community” itself has, in some ways, both expanded and collapsed. Facebook has rendered people around the world our “friends,” and we can share messages of hope and freedom as well as stories of the vast inequities in our current system. Yet, simultaneously, with constant updates and news feeds, we seem to have lost the joys of learning about one another’s lives over a cup of coffee in community spaces. Not to mention that our privacy, a hard-fought civil liberty, is somewhere in the clouds, much like a tiny balloon slipping through the fingers of a young child.
Gilbert and Schiff set the intention for the conference to explore shared values and learn from one another how to harness what seems to be a collective longing that a major paradigm shift in our understanding of justice is long overdue. A significant theme of the conference was about uncovering and finding the truth so that we can move forward toward a truly fair and equitable system without forgetting the errors of our past. Another important aspect of the conference was defining and understanding what it means to forgive, and it was clear throughout the week, that forgiving absolutely doesn’t mean forgetting. A key component of forgiveness is ensuring that stories can be told, previously under-represented voices can be heard, and that a deeper level of understanding should result.
I couldn’t help but think about my own life as someone very focused on “doing the right thing” as a young person and then during my legal training in what I believed was a fair, but flawed, system. We have been taught that the goal of our courts is to discover “the truth” through an adversarial system, built on a presumption that when each side is given the opportunity to present their case, the crux of what happened will invariably come to light. However, there is a growing awareness, evidenced by the large contingency of people who came to the conference, that this system in many ways subverts the truth. In fact, those of us who have worked in, studied, or even casually observed the legal system are well aware that a miscarriage of justice can occur for any number of reasons, not least of which are the ruthless self-interest rewarded by the process, the imperfections of memory, and the vagaries of the human mind and spirit.
Witnesses take an oath to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth; however, in many ways, it is not in one’s best interest to do so. Rarely will someone who has been accused of wrongdoing testify, and we all know (and those who do not know are reminded through their so-called “Miranda rights”) that the wisest course is to stay silent when involved with law enforcement.
The first plenary speaker of the conference was the truly inspiring Dominic Barter, who shared his experiences twenty years ago in Brazil that prompted him to start developing restorative circles. He spoke eloquently of arriving in Rio De Janeiro expecting to find the images from post cards, only to discover that next to the stunning beaches were shanty towns with young kids wielding machine guns that in many cases were nearly as big as they were. He found himself drawn to the young people he met, because he believes it is far more dangerous to avoid conflict than to walk into it and try to discover the truth at the root of the unrest. He found that as he talked to the kids about things they were enthusiastic about, he could get them to open up and talk about the things that were troubling them as well. He began to ask himself: “How do you sit with people in their pain without producing solutions for them?”
His growing realization that the source of conflict was largely the result of an unmet human need to be heard, led him to form circles, which were designed as a “conversation among equals whose ending is unknown.” He said that when you begin to take the time to listen to those whom we traditionally consider “offenders” and “victims,” the lines can be blurred and the truth of the occurrence can begin to reveal itself. He recounted seeing a couple fighting in Amsterdam who began yelling at one another, and he realized they were raising their voices because there was a “distance in understanding” not a geographical distance that made them unable to truly hear one another. He said similarly, violence represents “the volume being raised on a message that was not being heard.”
He set up meeting spaces where it would be, as he said, “safe to dialogue,” and he found that just the act of “sitting down together has extraordinary power.” The circles ensure that no one person’s voice receives greater validation, and in contrast to an adversarial system, the previously missing third party, the “community,” which is also heavily impacted by violence, can also be heard. He said when you “watch the flow of conversation, you are able to track people making meaning” of what they are hearing. He said that the circles are set up to “make people comfortable to speak uncomfortable truths.”
Throughout the conference, we were able to, as Barter says, “track people making meaning” as it became clear that when people are given the opportunity to speak without fear of consequence we are indeed able to reach toward the truth.
For more information about Dominic Barter's work go to http://www.restorativecircles.org/
Stay tuned for additional reflections from this conference.
To submit a proposal, please send an email to CommunityEngagement@usf.edu with the required information. Please send us your proposal by Friday, August 21. We will respond to proposals by August 31. The conference itself will be held in the Spring 2016 semester; proposers should be able to commit to committee work during Fall 2015 and Spring 2016.
OCEP invites USF researchers, interdisciplinary working groups, committees, and other interested university stakeholders to propose a theme and participate in the organizing process for the 2016 Research that Matters conference.
OCEP’s Research that Matters (RtM) annual conferences series brings together USF academics and community leaders to share their experiences with research and practice, exchange ideas about how to solve social problems, and form partnerships. RtM conferences support and spotlight academically rigorous community-engaged [i] research that addresses the causes and consequences of real world problems, seeks solutions to these problems, and is carried out in mutually beneficial partnership with community stakeholders. Prior years’ themes have included Understanding the New Poverty: Local Impacts of the Current Recession in 2012, Social Enterprise, Social Entrepreneurship, and the Economic Impacts of University–Community Engagement in 2013, and Sustainable Food Conference: People, Policy and Practice in 2015.
OCEP welcomes conference theme proposals from researchers and practitioners in all academic disciplines and from a range of professional backgrounds. Proposals should discuss pressing regional concerns and focus on how research can support practice.
Proposals must include:
We would be happy to discuss your ideas for conference themes with you. Please contact Dr. Harold Keller at CommunityEngagement@usf.edu.
[i] Community engagement describes collaboration between institutions of higher education and their larger communities (local, regional/state, national, global) for the mutually beneficial exchange of knowledge and resources in a context of partnership and reciprocity. The purpose of community engagement is the partnership of college and university knowledge and resources with those of the public and private sectors to enrich scholarship, research, and creative activity; enhance curriculum, teaching and learning; prepare educated, engaged citizens; strengthen democratic values and civic responsibility; address critical societal issues; and contribute to the public good.Read more
Dr. Robert Kerstein, author of Politics and Growth in Twentieth-Century Tampa, gave a rousing lecture for the inaugural Office of Community Engagement and Partnerships’ Public Lecture and Networking Series on May 22, 2015.
Interim Director of the Office of Community Engagement and Partnerships (OCEP) Dr. Harold Keller introduced the talk by explaining that part of OCEP’s mission is to bring top academics to the campus and the community to address topics related to service-learning, community engaged research, and public scholarship. Among our speakers this academic year, Dr. Ann Abbott spoke about best practices in service-learning courses; Lauren Schweder Biel, Executive Director of DC Greens, gave the keynote address for the annual Research that Matters conference, this year focusing on Sustainable Food, where she emphasized the importance of research in making meaningful policy changes at the local and federal level; and Dr. Paul Gorski, from George Mason University, who participated in a two-day community dialogue focused on reaching and teaching young people who are living on low incomes, including the importance of equity literacy to make the educational system fair and just for all.
OCEP has also been focused on educating the public about the recently released ALICE (Asset Limited Income Constrained) report, which shows that 48% of Floridians and 48% of people in Hillsborough County are struggling to cover their basic living expenses.
Kerstein provided the historical basis that the Tampa Bay region has long been affected by low wages and a strong hold on the power structures by the political elites, perhaps best exemplified by the City’s annual Gasparilla Festival. As Keller stated in his introduction, “Kerstein will discuss the structural barriers that impede change for all or which privilege only certain groups.”
Kerstein stated that in 1880, Tampa was very isolated and had only 720 people living in the City, but in 1884, Henry Plant brought the railroad to the area. Importantly, Kerstein noted, Plant received “nearly 14,000 acres of public land for each mile of track completed. It was a real mix of public and private.”
This little-known fact about the assistance Plant received when building his railroad empire is clearly reminiscent of the comments of Senator Elizabeth Warren and President Obama’s famous words, a few years ago, “If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help….Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you've got a business, you didn't build that. Somebody else made that happen.” Therefore, even those who proclaim they are “self-made” entrepreneurs, such as Plant, rely heavily on government assistance and subsidies to be able to achieve their business successes—an important thing to remember in a climate where so much blame is placed on those who need public assistance, a major theme of OCEP’s programming this year.
Kerstein noted that Tampa began to flourish after the railroad extended to New York City, and the Tampa Port took off, with phosphate for fertilizer becoming a major export, Additionally, Vicente Martinez-Ybor’s decision to bring the cigar industry to Tampa had major significance in the development of the city as well. The combination of the humidity, the railroad, and the steamboat, as well as the labor unrest in Key West, where Ybor had moved his cigar business from Cuba, led Ybor to settle his business interests in Tampa. Again, Ybor was subsidized, according to Kerstein, by the Tampa Board of Trade, which helped sway him to come to Tampa.
In the early twentieth century, Tampa’s population exploded, particularly as a result of the development of the cigar industry and of the port and harbor area. In order to create a distinctive event to celebrate Tampa’s growth, the city’s “movers and shakers,” as Kerstein called them, came together to create the Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla for a storming of the “pirates”—Tampa’s version of New Orleans Mardi Gras. This exclusive event, as Kerstein said, “symbolized the elite in Tampa.”
Kerstein said that some suggest that Southern cities exhibited a “traditionalist culture” where governance by members of the social class that comprised Gasparilla would be accepted as legitimate by the population of the city. “This picture, however, does not fit Tampa.”
In fact, Kerstein stated that a Socialist candidate garnered almost 30% of the votes in the 1912 Mayoral election, and he emphasized that Tampa was, in fact, a “strong labor town.” More than 5,000 workers marched in the Labor Day parade in 1907. “It was not just a question of pay, the people wanted more control of the workplace,” He said. The elites even went so far as to engage in illegal vigilante actions, such as kidnappings of union leaders, to “quell unrest.” He said, “It was not just a nice cordial mix.”
Institutional racism in Tampa, he said, was in part “a Southern phenomenon,” but also a nationwide problem. In 1910, the local Democratic Party became the White Municipal Party, effectively disenfranchising African American for nearly forty years because they could not vote in the primary elections of the party, whose victor virtually always won in the general election. After Reconstruction, one African American man was elected to office in the late 19th century, and then it took until 1983—nearly a century—until another African American was elected to the City Council. Although Kerstein notes that there have been more recent political gains for people of color and women, he said in his book, “the process toward inclusion has by no means been as certain as the mainstream perspective on Sunbelt urban politics suggests.”
Additionally, Kerstein emphasized the prevalence of corruption in the election process in Tampa. He said, “There were few honest elections in Tampa for several decades during the first half of the twentieth century. Those who controlled the ballot boxes were the ones who won.” Also problematic was the airtight relationships between the gamblers and the politicians. This culminated in 1935, when Tampa received nationwide publicity, he said, for “blatant corruption.” People began to “mobilize for cleaner elections and to weaken the connection between gamblers and politicians.” Basically, he said, although the corruption continued in some form, the elites “wanted a city and county that had a better reputation.”
Another problem Kerstein notes has been the prevalence of low paying jobs in Tampa’s economic expansion following World War II. Actually, that fact was used as a draw to bring businesses to Tampa so that employers could save money by hiring cheap labor. Furthermore, in 1943, Florida became a “right to work state,” which further cemented the “low paying non-union jobs.” Also, the Chamber of Commerce opposed the Fair Labor Standards Act, which, Kerstein said, further demonstrated the “tone of Tampa’s governing coalition.”
In 1953, Tampa adopted non-partisan elections, and in 1954, the Committee of 100 was developed “to recruit businesses to move to Tampa to mobilize for economic growth.”
Another mid-century decision was to locate USF, not in the center of town, but rather to place it “out beyond the City.” Kerstein said that “it was an odd choice to put USF outside the City limits,” because Tampa’s business leaders were stressing the importance of downtown development.
Furthermore, when I-75 and I-4 were built, this resulted in major displacement of low-income communities, including large numbers of African-American family homes and other businesses, which were knocked down. Kerstein said approximately 650 largely African American families were displaced by the riverfront urban renewal project, located on both sides of the Hillsborough River. Much of the land on the west side of the Hillsborough was sold to the University of Tampa, which he said did not do much with it. He continued, “redevelopment was not spurred other than the Straz and a hotel and office building.”
Additionally, more than 600 homes were demolished in Ybor City through the City’s “grand plans to redevelop Ybor City.” The intention, he said, was to have it “emerge as the beautiful butterfly it should be.” But again, he said, that did not come to pass.
He did laud the development of the Tampa International Airport in 1971, which he called “something Tampa did right.” Also significant was the Tampa football stadium, which enabled the NFL franchise. Other significant projects included the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center, the Tampa Convention Center, and The Florida Aquarium.
After World War II, Tampa and Hillsborough County were experiencing “de-industrialization and de-centralization, and downtown stagnated.” Additionally, Tampa made “little effort to develop mass transit,” which resulted in its ranking 93rd out of 100 in the country’s bigger cities for the “key convenience of mass transit.” The lack of adequate mass transit together with low wage work, leads inevitably to “issues of inequity and lack of mobility,” Kerstein said.
Kerstein concluded his remarks by stating that we “need to develop the civic capacity to spread prosperity around.” He noted two potentially positive developments - the Safe and Sound Committee and the Tampa Innovation Alliance near USF.
The USF Office of Community Engagement and Partnerships is another key player in bridging and even eliminating any potential barriers between academia and the community. We believe that by building strong university–community partnerships, we can improve our communities and the civic life of the city, which is crucial to the future success of the Tampa Bay area.
Stay tuned for future lectures offered by OCEP. If you have suggestions for speakers you would like to see, please let us know at CommunityEngagement@usf.edu.
Experiential Learning is a Key to Student Success - Attendees at a Recent Seminar Learned about Best Practices
The Office of Community Engagement and Partnerships recently sponsored, in collaboration with Career Services and the Center for Leadership & Civic Engagement, an event called “Experiential Learning: Risk/Liability Issues, Best Practices, and Institution-Wide Supports.”
This well-attended event was aimed at university administrators and faculty who regularly guide students in experiential learning opportunities ranging from service-learning classes to community engaged research and internships. As OCEP Interim Director Dr. Harold Keller stated, “This is clearly a great representation. The event planners were from Student Affairs and Academic Affairs.” In fact, this event reflects a greater emphasis over the past few years on collaborations among the Center for Leadership and Civic Engagement, Career Services, and OCEP.Read more
Please take a look at the Spring 2015 edition of USF Magazine for a feature story about how Dr. Roberta Baer's work with the Tampa Bay Gardens has inspired Honor's College graduating senior Chloe Sweetman (the two are pictured below) to begin a career devoted to community engaged research in applied anthropology. Click here to read Community Collaboration in USF Magazine to learn more about how the Office of Community Engagement and Partnerships supports this kind of work and be sure to share it widely.
OCEP Conversation Series: USF Theatre Faculty Member Fanni Green's Community Engaged Creative Activities - "Gidion's Knot"
As part of the OCEP Conversation Series Bonnie Silvestri, Director of Strategic Communications, interviewed Fanni Green, USF faculty and director of Gidion’s Knot and Selena Frey, one of the student actresses starring in the show. Gidion’s Knot resonates with the Office of Community Engagement and Partnerships’s work, especially programming related to equity literacy, the relationships between parents and teachers, school discipline, and the importance of the living wage.
The USF Theatre Department places an emphasis on incorporating community engagement into the programming surrounding the productions. To that end, students from Learning Gate Middle School teacher Jasmine Jones’s class wrote poems responding to the themes of bullying and suicide in “Gidion’s Knot,” and two of the actors read the 47 poems during all eight performances. Additionally, USF Theatre partnered with Heard Em Say Teen Poetry, Wilson Middle School, Hills County Resource Office, and USF faculty, including Dr. Keith Berry whose research is on youth identity and bullying.
In Gidion’s Knot, the single mother of a middle-school child kills himself after he is suspended, based on the content of his writing assignment. Green and Frey talk about how a stronger bond between the mother and the teacher may well have made an important difference in saving the child’s life. But how does a single mother working long hours balance the need to be present in her young child’s life?
Click on the video above to watch the interview.
Johanna Phelps-Hillen, University of South Florida
Johanna Phelps-Hillen, a 2nd year PhD student at the University of South Florida, works to integrate community engaged pedagogies into the technical writing classroom. As part of her research for her concurrent PhD in Rhetoric and Composition and Master of Public Administration, she examines traditions in service-learning to better understand the ways faculty and nonprofit/community representatives can best build democratic, reciprocal, and impactful curricula to enhance student learning outcomes and meet community determined needs. The purpose of such work is to better facilitate partnered curricula development so that community voices are heard by faculty and implemented in the classroom. This in turn maximizes the efforts of students, nonprofit and government organizations, and faculty to best benefit community members.
-Judy Genshaft, President
While serving as an advocate for rape survivors during my undergraduate career, I knew I wanted to make a commitment to serve my community(ies) throughout my life. After earning my BA, I served for two years as an AmeriCorps VISTA working to build more reciprocal relationships between the Ogden, Utah community and their university campus, Weber State University. During these years of intensive, full-time service I realized that serving could be my career. Subsequently, I took a position managing an AmeriCorps program to further support the integration of service programs and higher education. I soon realized that my knowledge and skills would best serve my community(ies) if I went back to school for my PhD and MPA. I view my PhD as providing the theoretical underpinnings and research tools to examine how campuses and communities can build sustainable, strong programs together. My MPA provides the practical insight for analyzing and changing policy to improve communities. Supported by USF’s Office of Community Engagement, I work to address root causes of systemic social issues by crafting and supporting best practices for healthy and productive partnerships between communities and their campuses.
by Bonnie Silvestri, Director of Strategic Communications
Dr. Elizabeth Hordge-Freeman's star continues to rise. During the 2014-2015 academic year, she was named the inaugural recipient of the Outstanding Community Engaged Teaching Award (a new, annual award created by the Office of Community Engagement and Partnerships and awarded by the Provost’s Office to honor community engaged teaching) and the Outstanding Undergraduate Teaching Award.
Also, during this academic year, she received:
These grants will enable her to expand her book project “Second-Class Daughters: Informal Adoption as Neo-Slavery in Brazil,” on labor exploitation in Brazilian families.Read more
A Tale of Two Cities: how theater helps us delve into the current worldwide prevalence of income inequality
by Bonnie Silvestri, Director of Strategic Communications
Recently, Eduard Lewis visited our campus as this year's guest artist for the British International Theatre (BRIT) program for the University of South Florida Department of Theatre, staging the world-famous classic, A Tale of Two Cities. I sat down with him to talk about the themes of poverty and injustice that run throughout the play. These themes are very relevant to our work at the Office of Community Engagement and Partnerships.
Even as our economy rebounds, the gap between the wealthiest and the least well off seems an insurmountable gulf. In what Harvard philosophy professor Michael Sandel calls “the skyboxification of American life,” the wealthiest are increasingly isolating themselves from those less fortunate.
The recent controversy over what was described as a Dickensian (referring to Charles Dickens, the author of A Tale of Two Cities), “poor door” was approved at a luxury condominium on the Upper West Side. It was an alternate entrance for the affordable housing residents, part of the seemingly less apt name, Inclusionary Housing Program, to be able to build larger luxury residences by providing some low-income housing. Those residents also would not have access to the amenities, including the pool and gym.
Sandel continued, “People of influence and people of modest means lead increasingly separate lives. It’s not good for democracy, nor is it a satisfying way to live.”
A shared theatrical experience can be one of the best ways to engage in much needed dialogue. By looking back at history through the Tale of Two Cities, we can consider the injustices at the root of the gaping wound of income inequality.
Stay tuned for more video interviews in the coming weeks.Read more
Over 230 participants piled into the Patel Center for Global Sustainability on January 30, 2015 to attend the Sustainable Food Conference: People, Policy and Practice. This “sold out” free event had the highest attendance of any of the Office of Community Engagement and Partnerships’ Research that Matters conferences, and left the campus abuzz in anticipation for follow up to this synergistic event.
OCEP has hosted three Research that Matters conferences on a range of topics, but this year’s topic, sustainable food, truly struck a chord in the community. Lauren Schweder Biel (click here for in depth interview with Biel) kicked off the event with a rousing speech that set the tone.
“The energy in this space is palpable. This is an exciting event! Our job is to start the revolution. We are ready for changes. We are ready for this revolution to happen," declared the exuberant Biel, who was thrilled to help carry the momentum in the community forward. She remarked that it is crucial to change what is clearly a broken food system in this country, where one in eight families cannot afford fresh fruits and vegetables.
Biel continued, “This is a conversation that needs to be happening. You [all] care about furthering this conversation.”
Biel made the case for going beyond raw data, which she found only took her so far when she went to Capitol Hill to propose policy changes. She was asked, “Do you have peer-reviewed research?” to which she reluctantly could only respond “No” before she was shown the door.
As a result, she has become a passionate advocate for the importance of academic research in leading the charge in what she says in nothing short of a food revolution that needs to take place in our country. She extolled the audience, “We need you!”
“Not all research can move the needle and move this revolution forward. Research ‘on the run’ [won’t help].” Rather, Biel said the kind of research that was going to be presented at the conference was exactly what would ultimately carry the day in facilitating important policy changes at both the local and national level.
Throughout USF and the local community, research projects are being developed, nurtured, and designed to meet community needs. OCEP works to provide financial and logistical support to faculty, students, and community partners working on developing collaborative projects. Several of the conference presenters, including Dr. Roberta Baer and Dr. David Himmelgreen, have received OCEP funding to support their work.
Biel believes that the organic nature of the projects germinating throughout the campus and the local community—projects developed through a collaborative process based on community identified needs and concerns—is what will make this work useful and successful. “It may be that you don’t know what it means yet; but that is the sign that you are doing research that matters, because it is informed by the actual context. Context matters,” she implored.
She said the key is to “come to the field, [do] the research and make it work. Make it matter…. There is only one way to know if it works, and that is [through] research!”
Throughout the day, researchers presented on a variety of topics ranging from “USF Students’ Service Learning Contributions to a Community Garden for Refugees” to “Crafting a Revolution: Beer and the Unintended Outcomes of Social Movements within Markets” to “The Social Dynamics of Food in Local, Ethnically Diverse Families.” The presentations will be available at http://scholarcommons.usf.edu/research_matters/. Stay tuned for details.
By Bonnie Silvestri, Director of Strategic Communications
According to a new report on Asset Limited Income Constrained Employed (“ALICE”) households in Florida, almost 50% of all Florida households do not earn enough to meet a “survival and stability budget.” This figure includes households already living in poverty as well as those whose income is not sufficient to support their basic needs, such as housing, transportation, and childcare, which make up the bulk of their expenses. On January 23, 2015, the Office of Community Engagement and Partnerships, the United Way, and the League of Women Voters co-sponsored an event releasing the ALICE report to the public held at the Children's Board
United Ways throughout the state of Florida commissioned a team at Rutgers University to do a study of households who make more than the poverty level established by the federal government, but who “are one financial crisis, car issue, or medical emergency to go from ‘just making it’ to poverty,” said Ellen Stoffer, the Director of Financial Stability Initiatives for the United Way of Tampa Bay during the discussion of the report. “They live in a world of fear—one incident happens, and they don’t know what to do,” Stoffer added.
Stoffer explained that especially those who are “newly ALICE … don’t know how to get help, and they don’t want to.” She said a key implication of the report is “taking the stigma [of financial hardship] away.” Perhaps the sheer enormity of the study’s findings—one in every two households in Florida are ALICE households—will help people understand that this is a state-wide issue that cannot be faced alone. Seventy percent of jobs in Florida pay less than $20 per hour.
Deanna Willsey, United Way Senior Vice President for Marketing and Communications, said that “the last thing we need in life is another acronym, but ALICE is a person; ALICE is a family; ALICE makes it feel human.”
As she was leaving one audience member stated that she just lost her job as a security guard and is facing the issues this awareness-raising event was designed to highlight. “I’m ALICE. Thank you for having this event.”
But we don’t want the conversation to end with an acknowledgement of a problem and another acronym. We want to continue the dialogue and determine how USF and our community partners can work together to address the systemic problems that have resulted in such high numbers of Floridians falling into this previously unnamed category.
This year’s Research that Matters conference on Sustainable Food touched on issues related to the high cost of healthy food, food accessibility, the widespread presence of food insecurity and obesity, and food justice. With over 200 participants “hungry” to continue the conversation, our office plans to take a leadership role in this dialogue in the months to come. Stay tuned.
by Bonnie Silvestri, Director of Strategic CommunicationsRead more
Meet Lauren Shweder Biel, Director of DC Greens, keynote presenter at the USF Sustainable Food Conference
By Bonnie Silvestri, OCEP Director of Strategic Communications
“Collaboration is where it’s at – that’s how we are going to make this happen; we need to carry out a collaborative will for amplified impact,” said Lauren Shweder Biel, Executive Director of DC Greens, the keynote speaker for this year’s Research that Matters conference called Sustainable Food: People, Policy and Practice. The conference took place on January 30, 2015 from 8:30am-4pm at the Patel College of Global Sustainability at the University of South Florida.
A small group of researchers and local community group members, known collectively as the USF Community Gardening Collaborative, have been coalescing around the topic of sustainable food and organic gardening for the past few years. And, this year’s Research that Matters conference was an opportunity to galvanize these forces to have a greater impact on local food and gardening in the Tampa Bay region.
Faculty, students, and community members presented on topics ranging from service-learning contributions to a community garden for refugees; the role of craft beer in social movements; a discussion of food banks, food deserts, and food security; and even the connection between meat consumption and climate change.
Biel said she viewed her role at the conference to be “putting up the bat call to anyone in the region who wants to come out and share” the work that they are doing to move the needle on sustainable food at the local level.Read more
On January 30th, 2015, the USF Patel College of Global Sustainability (PCGS) hosted and participated in the wildly successful USF Research that Matters: Sustainable Food Conference.
With over 230 people in attendance, the Sustainable Food Conference holds the record for the most popular USF Research that Matters Conference to date. Focused on “People, Policy, and Practice,” the conference showcased diverse paper and poster research presentations from USF professors, students, and community stakeholders on topics ranging from sustainable small-scale agriculture to the cultural context of food and beverage consumption and community gardening.
Coordinated by the Community Garden Research Collaborative, an interdisciplinary group comprised of 45 faculty, staff, students, and community members from 18 different departments and organizations, the conference was a great collaborative accomplishment that included sponsorship from 9 USF departments including PCGS, the Center for Urban Transportation Research, Research-One, and the Office of Community Engagement and Partnerships.
Local businesses and organizations such as Sweetwater Farms, Keep Tampa Bay Beautiful, Sustainable Urban Agriculture in St. Petersburg (SUAC), Grace’s Hydroponics, Taste of Pine Ave Gardens, and Parks Matter joined in the conference to exhibit their products, services, and volunteer opportunities. Three student organizations – the Student Environmental Association (SEA), Food Activist Revolutionizing Meals (FARM), and Students Protecting the Environment and Animals with Knowledge (SPEAK) – also contributed time, energy, and resources to making the conference a success.
“It is a great honor for the Patel College to host the Sustainable Food Conference,” said Dr. Kebreab Ghebremichael, Director of the USF Office of Sustainability in his welcome speech. “We are privileged to serve as the epicenter for discussion on this very important topic.”
Lauren Shweder Biel, Executive Director and co-found of DC Greens, a nonprofit that connects communities to healthy food in the nation’s capital, delivered the keynote address. Biel serves on the D.C. Mayor’s Commission for Healthy Youth in Schools and was named a 2014 Toyota “Mother of Invention” at Tina Brown’s Women in the World Summit.
“Throughout history, revolutions have been started by hungry people,” said Lauren Biel. “In this country, we have figured out a way to keep people full – but not nourished. This means the revolution is not coming. Instead, it is all of our jobs to start this revolution.”
“Today, you all are here because you are ready for change, ready to jumpstart a healthy food revolution,” continued Biel. “USF has put up a Batcall with this conference. Who in this community cares about these issues? Who is working on these issues? This is why we are here today – to work together to tackle these issues. This revolution depends on us and it depends on days like this.”
PCGS students, faculty, and researchers participated in the conference as both presenters and exhibitors.
PCGS professor Dr. Joseph Dorsey’s presentation, entitled “The Importance of Hydroponic Technology in the Urban Agricultural System” explored Urban Agriculture as a growing interdisciplinary field of study and an application of sustainability principles for food security and ecological resilience in cities across the nation and around the world. In the future, climate change may create environmental conditions that cause risks and uncertainty in food supplies and overpopulation may put a strain on resources and degrade ecosystems services. Growing crops in urban areas using Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA), such as hydroponics, would provide fresh and abundant fruits and vegetable all year round, reduce transportation costs and greenhouse gas emissions, and spur community economic development through new business ventures.
Eric Weaver, a PCGS researcher and doctoral candidate, presented a paper presentation on “Urban Agriculture as One Sustainable Solution” that he co-authored in collaboration with PCGS’s founding dean Dr. Kala Vairamoorthy, and USF professors Dr. Michael Fountain, Dr. Mahood Nachabe, and Dr. John Jermier. His paper compared Urban Agriculture (UA) with the stormwater Best Management Practices (BMP) at the Florida Aquarium demonstration site. The Florida Aquarium has a stormwater BMP demonstration case study, which was constructed in 1995. This proposed data analysis will give community planners confidence in the BMP technologies to allow greater community support of Urban Agriculture.
PCGS student Adit Patel co-authored a paper presentation on “The Unspoken Truth: Animal Agriculture and Climate Change” with USF alumnus Ryan Kelly. Their paper, which compared the water, land, and energy requirements of animal agriculture in comparison to vegetables and fruit production, concluded that animal agriculture demands significantly more resources.
Another PCGS student, Catalina Zafra presented a paper on “Local and Global Implications of Food Security: An Issue of Sustainability.” Her paper proposes food sovereignty as a method to adapt or resist to the changes imposed by hegemonic neoliberal agendas that have not fully managed to contribute to food security and explores ideas that entail collaboration, diversity and self-determination for sustainable livelihoods.
Among the exhibitors, PCGS student Asaf Baruh served as a representative of Sustainable Urban Agriculture in St. Petersburg (SUAC). SUAC is a nonprofit organization with a mission to promote urban agriculture in the city of St. Petersburg and eventually the entire Tampa Bay region.
“I’ve been volunteering with SUAC for the past 2 years,” said Asaf. “Before I started volunteering, I knew nothing. My backyard garden was a failure. Now I grow 5 different types of greens, some radishes, baby banana trees. Little by little, my garden is growing.”
The conference ended at 2:30PM with an optional tour of the Temple Terrace Community Gardens.Read more
Small seed grants from OCEP lead to over $235,000 in grant proposals written by USF students for local non-profits
by Bonnie Silvestri, Director of Strategic Communications
As the proliferation of not-for-profits makes the process of seeking funding as challenging as maintaining strong programming, one USF instructor is doing her part to teach students how to write strong and persuasive grant proposals for local organizations.
Johanna Phelps-Hillen is one the Office of Community Engagement and Partnership’s (OCEP) rising stars. Her dedication to elevating the quality of community engaged learning has already earned her two (“OCEP”) service-learning grants herself, one for course development (a graduate student research fellowship) and one for incidental costs enabling her to facilitate the service-learning aspects of the course.
OCEP supports faculty in the development of community engaged learning—an approach that address community identified concerns and requires the participation of community partners in the design and execution of a service-learning course so that the students’ work provides meaningful benefits to the community partners. Johanna chose to develop her new course with Ashley Powe, Director of Operations for Embracing Legacy. Embracing Legacy is a youth empowerment organization founded by Pastor Greg Powe after a sixteen-year-old boy shot and killed a police officer; Pastor Powe wanted to address the cycles of violence that too often plague our cities. Embracing Legacy’s stated guiding philosophy is: “If we can put a trumpet in a child’s hand before someone puts a gun in it, we can save a family.”Read more
Service-Learning High-Impact Practice Grants are designed to provide funding for courses incorporating service-learning. Service-learning is considered a “high-impact practice” (HIP), or “an investment of time and energy over an extended period that has unusually positive effects on student engagement in educationally purposeful behavior” (Kuh 2010: vi). A HIP is effective with students because it allows them to interact with faculty and peers about substantive matters; increases the likelihood that students will experience diversity; provides frequent feedback about their performance; offers opportunities for students to see how what they are learning works in different settings, on and off campus; and brings students’ values and beliefs into awareness, helping them to better understand themselves in relation to others and the larger world (Kuh 2008: 14-17).
Roberta Baer, Ph.D.
This project will involve students enrolled in Methods of Cultural Research, in the Refugee Agricultural Partnership Program of the St. Mary's Ethiopian Orthodox Church. The church is implementing a “Tampa Garden” to provide gardening opportunities to 35 newly-arrived refugees, primarily from the Burmese community. The garden consists of agricultural land, an area for chicken raising, and ponds suitable for aquaculture. A pilot garden was implemented over the last several years, with approximately 10 families. This phase of the program is a scaling up of the project to include more refugee families. The goals are to promote greater food security and financial security among the refugees, and to accelerate self-sufficiency and integration into the larger community. This class project will include collaboration with the Tampa Bay Garden and the Tampa Bay Burmese Council. The students in this class will do a follow-up project based on the last service-learning class I taught, Anthropology of Food, which focused on weekend food consumption. This project will focus specifically on elementary and high school aged youth, and what they eat during the week. We will also collect data on heights and weights of the youth, and conduct focus groups to learn about their attitudes to food, ideas of body image, etc.Read more
by Bonnie Beth Silvestri, JD, Director of Strategic Communications
When USF senior Joy Pedrow signed up for Tasha Rennels’ Communications, Culture, and Community service-learning class last spring, she had no idea that she would unlock a part of herself about which she had previously had difficulty communicating. For the first assignment, Tasha asks her CCC students to reflect about their passions. Joy wrote about her interest in ministry and her involvement with Campus Crusade for Christ (Cru); but she also wrote about her desire to help women.
Based on their journals about their passions, Tasha presciently suggested to Joy and another student Brianna Palumbo, that they complete their service hours with NITE (Network Improve Transform Empower), the USF campus organization focused on consciousness-raising about student safety. NITE organizes two major events on campus each year, Walk a Mile in Her Shoes, where men don high heels and march to stop rape, sexual assault, and gender violence, and Take Back the Night, a march followed by a “Speak Out” to combat the prevalence of sexual violence on campus and in the local community.Read more
“For me, it is such an important part of the class—going out into the community and creating community in the classroom,” reflected Tasha Rennels, a doctoral candidate in the Department of Communication, on her Communication, Culture, and Community class. “Community is both in the service and the learning,” she continued.
Late this summer, Rennels completed the second iteration of her service-learning course (click to read Life is Better Together for Service Learning Students, about the spring 2014 version of the course).
Rennels was new to the service-learning pedagogy when she embarked on teaching her course earlier this year; and she is now a true believer in its benefits. As a tribute to her efforts, she was recently honored with the 2013-2014 Provost Award for Outstanding Teaching by a Graduate Teaching Assistant for her engaging teaching style, her creativity in developing service-learning opportunities for her students, and her ability to help her students reflect on that service in unique ways.
When she taught the CCC course over the summer, she looked at what worked and what could be refined, and she scaled some parts of the course back to fit the curriculum into the tighter six-week summer schedule proving that service-learning is a flexible and adaptable educational model.Read more
by Bonnie Silvestri, Director of Strategic Communications
“I’ve been doing these kinds of classes for years, even before it was called service-learning,” said Anthropology Professor Roberta Baer, who seamlessly weaves service-learning pedagogy and community-based research into her ongoing work with Burmese refugees.
Baer, who has been with University of South Florida since 1984, said the campus was relatively barren in the early years—devoid of trees and lacking in community-based activities. She slowly and methodically built up connections with the larger community. All the while, she raised two children, who are now teenagers, and managed to continuously find new ways to improve the community through her research.
Of late, she has added to her list of community-based accomplishments working on the development of a community garden, where Burmese and other refugees can supplement their income and their diets with traditional herbs and vegetables.
She began by working with a small group of Burmese refugees who were seeking “an indication of the condition of the community and [its] needs” in order to develop an ethnic-based community organization that would meet federal guidelines. Prior to her association with the burgeoning group, she had worked in Mexico and with local migrant farm workers, but had no connection to Burmese refugees. “It was fortuitous,” she added.Read more
We are delighted to announce the publication of the OCEP magazine, which is designed to help readers better understand the work we do through stories of our faculty and community partners. You will read about service-learning opportunities and the wide-ranging research and projects in community engagement.
Click here to download a pdf of the magazine. We are happy to furnish you with copies of the magazine to share with constituents, colleagues, and co-workers who want to know more about the work of OCEP.
USF Professor David Himmelgreen (Anthropology) was recently featured on Channel 8 News with Feeding America Tampa Bay (FATB), which redistributes food to those in need throughout a 10-county span of west Central Florida . The story discussed the prevalence and severity of hunger and food insecurity in the Tampa Bay region. Himmelgreen, a national research expert on these topics, was interviewed on site at FATB'S main warehouse along with Thomas Mantz, director of FATB. Click here to view Channel 8's report.
By Bonnie Beth Silvestri, JD, Director of Strategic Communications
“I am still trying to negotiate and work out the experience and how it has affected me,” said Elizabeth Plakidas, a Graduate Community Scholars Fellowship recipient regarding her summer project funded through the Office of Community Engagement and Partnerships. The culmination of Plakidas’s summer collaboration was an exhibition entitled No Filter at the William and Nancy Oliver Gallery in the USF Fine Arts Building.
Plakidas, a graduate student in the Master’s of Fine Arts program, spent the summer working twice a week onsite at Pyramid, Inc., a community-based arts center for people with severe disabilities. The Tampa-based Pyramid is one of six throughout Florida focused on working with adults to create art in all forms.
Following a visit to a Pyramid show, Shane Hoffman, Visual Arts Coordinator at Pyramid, said, Plakidas became “enthralled by the work,” because the artists work like she wish she worked—free of critique and painting for pleasure. Plakidas left the event with a work of art by one of the Pyramid artists, Marquis L. in tow.
“Nothing holds them back, they make what they want and seem to have no self censor. Whatever comes out comes out. Masterpieces are produced on a daily basis,” said Hoffman, who is also an alumnus of the USF MFA program.Read more
by Bonnie Beth Silvestri, JD, Director of Strategic Communications
Pepin Academy and the USF College of Education have a unique partnership that is both a model for a reciprocal educational relationship and a boon for our local community. Three USF College of Education faculty, Dr. Stacy Hahn, Dr. David Allsopp, and Dr. David Hoppey have worked with Pepin to build up a strong year-round connection culminating in a free, four-week summer institute for interested Pepin students.
The summer institute program allows special education pre-service teachers from the USF College of Education the unique opportunity to develop and implement, with the guidance of their professors, an academic summer school curriculum. As Allsopp emphasizes, “It’s not a camp, it’s school.”Read more
Dr. Harold Keller has been involved with the Office of Community Engagement and Partnerships since it was merely a gleam in the eye of the founders, and now he has joined OCEP as the first Faculty on Assignment for the next two years.
Keller was co-chair of the Provost’s Task Force on Community Engagement, when USF decided it was time to determine, as he said, “how the university could be committed to really doing this.”Read more
by Bonnie Beth Silvestri, JD, Director of Strategic Communications
Upon entering the Bangla Saheb Sikh temple in Delhi, India, Dr. Iraida Carrion, watched as people from all walks of life sat together on the floor sharing a meal, which is provided daily for free to anyone who wishes to join. “I felt a pang in my stomach—I need to add a service component to this course,” Carrion, Associate Professor of Social Work, said of her study abroad course, which she co-taught earlier this summer with Dr. Manisha Joshi, Assistant Professor of Social Work.
Following this epiphany, Carrion and Joshi with RIWATCH and other community partners in Arunachal Pradesh coordinated a day of tree planting at a local school and cleaned the maternity ward at a local hospital alongside members of Enjalu Menda Women’s Empowerment Forum.
Joshi, a native of India, whose two-month old daughter accompanied the fifteen students on the trip (and, as the students joked, earned her six credits), said that the partners in India found the chance to host the visiting students to be remarkable for them as well. Joshi said of her and Carrion’s study abroad class, “Oh my God, it was a big deal!”Read more
By Bonnie Beth Silvestri, JD, Director of Strategic Communications
“I am still trying to negotiate and work out the experience and how it has affected me,” said Elizabeth Plakidas, a Graduate Community Scholars Fellowship recipient regarding her summer project funded through the Office of Community Engagement and Partnerships. The culmination of Plakidas’s summer collaboration is an exhibition opening this Friday, August 1st at the William and Nancy Oliver Gallery in the USF Fine Arts Building.
Plakidas, a graduate student in the Master’s of Fine Arts program, spent the summer working twice a week onsite at Pyramid, Inc., a community-based arts center for people with severe disabilities. The Tampa-based Pyramid is one of six throughout Florida focused on working with adults to create art in all forms.Read more
by Bonnie Beth Silvestri, Director of Strategic Communications
We all love having a place to call home that feels special and reflects our identity; but as we age, our homes may someday become a hazard. A second floor may become inaccessible or a seemingly innocuous lower cabinet may become a threat to our health and safety. Nonetheless, the vast majority of adults approaching late-life wish to remain in their homes for as long as possible.
Dr. Brianne Stanback, Instructor and Internship Director in the School of Aging Studies, has taken the next step by creating a service-learning course called Aging in Space and Place in partnership with Florida Presbyterian Homes, a continuing care retirement community that offers a variety of choices for independent living and assisted living. She received a mini-grant from the Office of Community Engagement and Partnerships to support the implementation of the course.Read more
By Bonnie Beth Silvestri, Director of Strategic Communications
When asked about her lifetime of work enhancing the communities in which she lives, Dr. Sarina Ergas, Professor and Director of Graduate Studies in the USF Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering said with a lilt in her tone, “Liz says I’m the poster child for community engagement,” referring to the Office of Community Engagement and Partnerships Director Dr. Elizabeth Strom.
Ergas’s capstone engineering design course, which she teaches every spring, is a hallmark of community engagement, because the students are involved in local projects that have a lasting impact on various aspects of the Tampa Bay region’s environment. She co-teaches the course with Tom Cross, a local professional engineer with McKim & Creed, who she said is “plugged into a lot of the different projects in the local community” related to environmental and water resources engineering.
Each year, the capstone design class has a different local partner agency; past partners have included the City of Tampa, the City of Clearwater, Hillsborough County, and the City of St. Petersburg, each of which is that semester’s “client” for the project. Senior level and graduate civil engineering students begin the course by meeting the client and taking a tour of the facility. They then sketch out a plan and develop a scope of work, which Ergas said is essentially a “bid” for the project.
In the past, students have worked on resolving issues such as “beaches that are closed down because of fecal bacteria,” an excess of “algal blooms in storm water,” as well as methods to improve wastewater and drinking water treatment processes. Ergas described these as “interactive” projects. “It’s not just a small part of the class, it is the class.”Read more
by Bonnie Beth Silvestri, JD, Director of Strategic Communications
Dr. Elizabeth Aranda, Associate Professor and Department Chair of Sociology, and her research assistant, Isabel Sousa-Rodriguez, are deeply involved in community-based research about the lives of immigrants and undocumented young people. Aranda regularly shares her research findings to help guide the political discussion of immigration reform.
Most recently, during the week the Florida Senate was debating legislation that would permit undocumented young people, commonly referred to as “dreamers,” who attended high school in Florida, to access in-state tuition rates for their college education, Aranda published an informative and forceful opinion piece, one of several she has written on the topic.
She said, “You don’t know what impact it [the op-ed] has” on public opinion and lawmakers. She shared her research on the devastating effect that denying young people access to in-state tuition has on them, their families, and the country as a whole because of what she referred to as “wasted talent,” (also the title of her opinion piece). She said her editorial is “not just an opinion that I have, [it’s] rooted in my research. Research that can benefit the community.”Read more
By Bonnie Beth Silvestri, JD, Director of Strategic Communications
“Just call Louis.”
Louis Gray is the Office of Community Engagement and Partnerships “go-to” person in USF Registrar’s Office, helping OCEP fulfill its mission to support the service-learning curriculum on campus. Gray, the Registrar’s Office’s Academic Services Administrator, has been working behind the scenes, under the leadership of his supervisor Tony Embry and USF Registrar Angela Debose, coding each service-learning class offered on campus in Banner, the university’s administrative information system.
Once the courses are coded, students are able to easily find service-learning offerings in OASIS; and OCEP can calculate the number of service-learning course sections and students enrolled. During the last academic school year, there were 188 sections of service-learning courses coded in the system, and over 4,000 students enrolled in these courses, which is a significant increase thanks to outreach efforts by OCEP and the Registrar’s Office.
And, it is no surprise that OCEP can count on Gray to help with these efforts, because he “gets it,” and he lives it. A natural connector, Gray said, “I’m the type to bring the community together.”Read more
By Bonnie Silvestri, JD, Director of Strategic Communications
Dr. Kelly Page Werder, Associate Professor of Mass Communications, has fully integrated service-learning into her coursework. She firmly believes it is crucial for students in her courses to gain real-world experience and to feel a sense of civic responsibility for the Tampa Bay community. Over the past several years, her students have developed strategic communications plans for over eighty local and campus organizations.
Werder realized early on in her teaching career that her field, an applied discipline, which prepares students to become public relations and advertising professionals, is ideally suited to the service-learning pedagogy. Rather than assigning students hypothetical case studies of organizations, she gets them involved in examining real, current issues faced by local organizations in our community.Read more
Featured Student: LaDonna Gleason on Field Experiences, Service-Learning, and Undergraduate Research
by Julia Poholek, Humanities Internship Program
In the grand scope of experiential learning, it seems that most courses are tailored to intrigue the student and teach them valuable lessons through on-site projects and interactions. However, the results of such courses prove to be all the more profound when they end up shaping the student’s entire field of study. Such is the case with LaDonna Gleason, a recent graduate with a bachelor’s degree in psychology. LaDonna participated in the 2014 USF Undergraduate Research and Arts Colloquium, where I sat down with her to hear her thoughts on experiential learning courses and their potential impacts on students.
“I didn’t set out as an undergrad saying I really wanted to research suicide, mental illness, and the problems inherent in those subjects. I realized, ‘Hey, I really love psychology. Let me learn more about that,’” LaDonna recalls fondly. “I met a TA who said they needed a research assistant for their lab. Within six months, I was hooked.” Through this new, unexpected interest, she encountered a hands-on opportunity to delve deeper into the practice of helping those in need.Read more
by Bonnie Silvestri, JD, Director of Strategic Communications
The USF Institute for Research in Art is an umbrella entity on campus that includes the Contemporary Art Museum (“USFCAM”), Graphicstudio, and the Public Art program, each of which engages in important work connecting USF with the community, which we will be highlighting in an ongoing Art and Society series.
USFCAM recently collaborated with the Tampa Museum of Art to form a unique partnership to exhibit the outstanding work that has come out of this very special, research-based atelier located right on USF campus. The partnership for the exhibition entitled “Uncommon Practice: Graphicstudio at USF” was unprecedented, and was an important acknowledgement of the significance of the work of Graphicstudio, taking place right here in Tampa Bay.
Graphicstudio began in 1968 as the brainchild of Donald Saff, who developed what Peter Foe, Curator of the Collection of the USF Contemporary Art Museum, calls the “premiere house for experimentation in printmaking.” Because it is located on the campus, Graphicstudio offers artists easy access to interdisciplinary research facilities throughout the campus as well as some of the finest facilities and master printmakers in the world.Read more
Opportunities to intern in the nation's capital, the state's capital, or here at home are easily accessible and available to USF students
Dr. Joan Pynes, Professor in the School of Public Affairs, is the faculty liaison to three major internship programs. She strongly believes every student should seriously consider applying for at least one during his or her time at USF.
The Washington Center Internship Program
The Washington Center is a marquee program enabling college students to live and work in the nation’s capital during the fall, spring, or summer semester. Pynes emphasizes that The Washington Center is a wrap-around program, giving students an opportunity to take unique classes with Center faculty, live onsite, develop a self-selected civic engagement project, and work in a professional internship in any one of 1,000 sites in the DC area.Read more