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October 7, 2002

First summer for Kenneth Cole fellows

By Stephanie Sonnenfeld

There’s more to Kenneth Cole than just shoes—and 19 Emory students let Atlanta know that last summer.

As members of the inaugural class of the Kenneth Cole Fellowship in Community Building and Social Change, teams of fellows worked with community agencies on one of five collaborative projects:

Assessing the Livable Centers Initiatives (LCI): Launched by the Atlanta Regional Commission in 2000, LCI encourages communities to link transportation and land-use planning to improve quality of life.

East Central Atlanta Neighborhood Collaborative: Six intown neighbohoods—including the Reynolds-town and East Atlanta Revitalization Corporations—work to ensure long-term well being within each community.

Community Health and Wellness Initiative of the East Lake Community: Neighborhoods, schools and community partners join to promote wellness in the Villages of East Lake, a mixed-income community in DeKalb Co.

HIV/AIDS Initiative for Women of Color: The AIDS Research Consortium of Atlanta, SisterLove, AID Atlanta, Aniz and Morehouse School of Medicine work to design a comprehensive outreach program for African American women in metro Atlanta.

Preserving Affordable Housing in the City of Atlanta: A collaboration with the Community Design Center of Atlanta and the Mayor’s office to encourage rehabilitation and preservation of small, multi-family affordable housing.

Armed with PowerPoint presentations, statistics and undaunted enthusiasm, the fellows presented their summer work to other fellows and fellowship administrators on Thursday, Sept. 26, at a dinner program at the Emory Conference Center.

“I can’t think of a group I’ve felt prouder to have watched grow over the last few months,” said Sam Marie Engle, director of the fellowship. “When we started, everybody looked a little worried and concerned, unsure of what was going to happen, excited but more nervous. But the faces I see today are faces full of confidence, a lot of pride—pride in their work.”

From June to August, students worked 32 hours a week at agency offices and in the community. A graduate fellow from the Office of University and Community Partnerships (OUCP) worked at each project site, serving as the team’s mentor and project coordinator, and an agency staff member provided day-to-day onsite supervision and project direction.

Once a week, the fellows gathered for dinner presentations and discussion by community builders, including WSB-TV political reporter Bill Nigut, Georgia Justice Project Executive Director Doug Ammar and state Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver.

For senior Christopher Richardson, who worked with the Community Design Center and plans to attend law school to study poverty law, the summer projects allowed him to put classroom knowledge imparted in the fellowship’s initial spring course to practical use.

“In classes, you learn on an intellectual and academic basis,” Richardson said. “Working in the field really gives you the real- world experience on how to solve issues that affect urban America.”

Students are enrolled in their final fellowship class this semester, ending the yearlong program that kicked off with a class during spring semester.

Inspired by her work with the HIV/AIDS project and with the fellowship, senior Jacinta Williams, a sociology and psychology major, said she plans to pursue a graduate degree in public health, concentrating in HIV and AIDS education.

“It is a sad topic, but I felt like I was a piece of the puzzle that may save somebody’s life one day,” Williams said. “It just touched my heart that so many people are dying [from AIDS] and that it can be prevented.”

Launched in January, the fellowship is a partnership between Emory and the Kenneth Cole Foundation. Cole, a 1976 Emory College graduate, is a fashion designer, business executive and founder of Kenneth Cole Productions Inc., and he has long incorporated social consciousness in his product marketing.

Through coursework, the summer practicum, an annual conference and field experience, the fellowship shows the critical role collaboration plays in the day-to-day activities of the greater community.

Fellows have the opportunity to explore the types of skills and career paths needed to launch and implement effective, complex initiatives that strengthen communities.

The search for the 2003–04 fellowship class is under way, and applications are due by Friday, Oct. 25. For more information, contact Engle at 404-712-9692 or send e-mail to Information also is available at