Emory Report

February 7, 2000

 Volume 52, No. 20

Partnerships office opens at Emory West

By Michael Terrazas

Emory has established an Office of University-Community Partnerships, which opened officially on Feb. 1 with offices, research space and meeting rooms at the Emory West campus. Directed by Michael Rich, associate professor of political science, the office's mission will be to "strengthen and coordinate teaching, research and service in relation to the greater Atlanta community."

The new effort, undertaken at the direction of President Bill Chace and led by Provost Rebecca Chopp, represents a significant step toward fulfilling a goal first articulated in 1994's Choices and Responsibility, which called for the University to evaluate its partnerships with the communities surrounding it.

"If we define Emory as where faculty and students research and learn, then Emory exists well beyond the walls of this campus and spreads across many communities throughout the Atlanta metropolitan area," Chopp said. "This office seeks to build upon the many relationships Emory faculty and students have with these varied metro communities."

The project's roots go back to 1997, when Rich and political science colleague Micheal Giles circulated a proposal for a center that would integrate teaching, research and community service activities linking Emory and the Atlanta region. Later that year, Chace and Chopp convened a working conference on University-community partnerships, organized by law Professor Frank Alexander, featuring presentations from exemplary programs around the country. Alexander then summarized the input in a report and made recommendations for the creation of the new office.

Last spring's Sam Nunn/NationsBank Policy Forum at Emory continued the dialogue. "These conversations continued to sharpen in focus during the summer when participants in the Faculty Ethics Seminar began envisioning what form an office of University-community partnerships might take," Rich said.

Alexander said creation of the office "represents a door opening to tremendous relationships with the community which can benefit both the community and the life of the University."

Administratively the Office of University-Community Partnerships will be related to the Center for Ethics in Public Policy and the professions, which is directed by James Fowler. The new office's mission will include:

  • providing meeting space and facilitation for joint research projects with the greater Atlanta community.
  • providing technical assistance and other support to faculty and graduate student researchers whose work focuses on the metropolitan area.
  • working cooperatively with Volunteer Emory, Theory-Practice Learning and the Ethics and Servant Leadership programs to jointly develop orientation and training activities for initiatives in urban study and service partnerships.

"One of the office's distinctive attributes is the integration of teaching, research and service," said Rich. While university-community partnerships are not new, those with close integration of the three components are having a greater impact, he added, with programs at Stanford and the universities of Pennsylvania and Michigan among the most notable examples.

For his own inspiration, Rich cited his recent work on welfare reform, which started as an innovative classroom teaching project and developed into a research project funded by the Ford and Rockefeller foundations. Currently Rich is sharing the project findings with public, private and nonprofit agencies to help better inform what they're doing to meet the welfare to work challenge.

"The kind of effort in which teaching, research and service feed off each other is what we're hoping to encourage," Rich said. "I want to help faculty and students find the resources to make it easier for them to make those connections."

Immediately prior to coming to Emory, Rich served for two years as the executive director of The Providence Plan, a comprehensive community initiative similar in scope and focus to The Atlanta Project.

His agency worked closely with state and city governments, the private sector, nonprofits, community-based organizations and a consortium of seven area colleges and universities. Several initiatives in housing and community development, public safety, education and health and human services resulted from those efforts, he said.

Rich plans to hire a program assistant and research administrator by summer, and the office will send out notices soon on a new fellowship program for fourth- or fifth-year graduate students, along with a seed grant program to support faculty teaching and research activities with a link to the Atlanta region.

The University will fund the office's basic operations from central sources, but Fowler and Rich said they already are investigating possibilities for grants and other forms of external support in the future.

"If we do it right, we'll be better teachers and researchers and turn out students who think their time at Emory was well spent," Rich said. "We want students to remember Emory as a place where they were able to make a valuable contribution to the world, a place that shaped their lives and helped them find a purpose."

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