Face to face: community engagement at UMB

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“For those of you who haven’t seen the Community Engagement Center [CEC], I guess I would just say you gotta go. It is an incredibly wonderful institution, ”President of the University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB) Bruce E. Jarrell, MD, FACS, urged the virtual audience of its regular online program, Virtual face-to-face with President Bruce Jarrell. “There are great people working there, you can do a lot with the community there. It is our face in the community.

The inauguration of the UMB Community Engagement Center on October 28 was just one facet of the discussion with guests about the University’s community engagement efforts. Ashley Valis, MSW ’06, Executive Director of Community Engagement and Strategic Initiatives, and Wendy Shaia, PhD, MSW, Clinical Associate Professor and Executive Director of the Community Social Work Organization Service (SWCOS). Much of the discussion revolved around the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“COVID has really exacerbated the problems that were already present in this city. We knew that before COVID many of the people we worked with in SWCOS, there were people who worked full time, these were people who worked two and three jobs and still didn’t know how to make ends meet. Shaia mentioned. “And then COVID came along, and these people who were already on the edge – they didn’t need much to push them, okay you don’t have a big savings account, you don’t don’t have much safety net. COVID has arrived and we have seen the needs increase exponentially. “

The sight of the CEC, which Valis oversees, was equally intimidating at the start of the pandemic, Valis agreed. “You give me flashbacks to the early days of COVID, when schools closed, and we were still at our old facility across the street and we set up learning pack stations, kindergarten to eighth [grade], because we knew our families couldn’t just connect to schools in the city that were still trying to figure out what virtual learning was, ”she said. “The stress on families – we try to step in and we have done a fabulous job of meeting the needs – the needs are so great, you could be 80 hours a week there, you know, and so I think. , as a team, SWCOS, Promise Heights, the Office of Community Engagement, and many more, it’s just important that we recognize that we have done so much because we have seen the need, but it has had an impact, I think, on us as well. “

Valis and Shaia shared new initiatives with the audience, including programs and services at the new CEC and a revamp of the Promise Heights initiative led by the School of Social Work at the University of Maryland. Audience members also participated in discussions about the need for more resources for child care, growing concerns about children’s mental health, and ways UMB students and employees can contribute. or volunteer to help.

Watch the full program by accessing the link at the top of this page.


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