Emory Report
October 24, 2005
Volume 58, Number 8


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October 24 , 2005
Community-building program to expand in 2006

Sam Marie Engle is director of the Kenneth Cole Fellowship in Community Building and Social Change.

After four years of contributions to metro Atlanta, Emory’s Kenneth Cole Fellowship Program in Community Building and Social Change will enter a planning phase during the 2005–06 academic year in order to expand the program’s offerings in 2006–07.

The restructuring plan includes enabling increased participation in the popular program by opening its introductory course to more students, re-sequencing coursework to prepare students for more advanced community-building methods, and extending the time period for students selected as fellows to work with metro Atlanta community partners.

Beginning next fall, the fellowship program will follow an academic calendar, running fall, spring and summer semesters, rather than the calendar year as it has in the past. In order to introduce more students to the community-building paradigm, the introductory course offered during fall semester will be open to any sophomore, junior or senior. Only students enrolled in this course will be eligible to apply for the full Community Building Fellowship Program, which includes the spring and summer courses and the summer practicum, during which fellows complete collaborative community-building projects in metro Atlanta.

“Many more students apply for the program than we can accept,” said Michael Rich, associate professor of political science and director of the Office of University-Community Partnerships. “We’ve had students who aren’t selected as fellows beg us to let them take one of our courses because they want to understand how cross-sector collaboration can address important public issues like affordable housing, public school quality and community health.

“Opening up the introductory course to all sophomores, juniors and seniors allows us to meet that demand while still reserving the full fellowship for those students who demonstrate exceptional skill and passion,” Rich said.

“We are committed to expanding the opportunities for Emory students to connect their classroom studies to the real world, and the Community Building Fellowship Program is a model for preparing students to be rigorous thinkers, well equipped to tackle the toughest issues affecting communities today,” said Provost Earl Lewis.

The Kenneth Cole Foundation provided critical support for the program during its first four years. Cole, a 1976 graduate of Emory College, is founder, president and chief executive officer of Kenneth Cole Productions Inc., one of the top labels in contemporary fashion.

“We are grateful to Kenneth Cole for his seed gift, which launched the fellowship program in 2002, and we are excited about this new phase,” said Emory College Dean Bobby Paul. “We will continue to be a leader in engaged learning, setting an example for other universities to follow.”

The program has touched the lives of many students and citizens of metro Atlanta. Since its founding in 2002, 46 Emory undergraduates have completed it, and another 16 currently are finishing up their fellowship year. Participants report it has had enduring influence, with 34 percent now attending graduate school in law, medicine, public health and social work. Forty-one percent have become community builders by profession; others working in the for-profit sector volunteer in their communities.

The program’s contributions to Atlanta communities is equally significant. Working closely with community leaders, fellows have completed to date 17 collaborative community-building projects in the metropolitan area. Their work helped change policies to encourage affordable housing and mixed-use, mixed-income development. Fellows helped launch a program to provide HIV/AIDS testing and prevention services to women of color; provided a blueprint for revitalizing two neighborhoods without displacing longtime residents; and helped establish a radio station connecting Somali-speaking African refugees in Atlanta.

The program also has led to expanded opportunities and leveraged new funds for community-building. For instance, fellows helped create a program to engage parents and teachers as partners in public education, which led to a $400,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to establish Emory’s Northwest Atlanta Community Outreach Partnership Center. The grant leverages an additional $1 million in resources from Emory and the community to implement the parent-involvement plan and to address issues of affordable housing and community organizing.

Planning and preparation for the expanded program will continue over the course of the academic year. Students may register during spring 2006 for the introductory course to be offered next fall.