The Community Engagement Interview: Carlton Craig


One of the perks of his job, according to Carlton Craig, is meeting and forming relationships with people in Southern Nevada who are caring and genuinely want to help others. This is what gives him hope for the future and the belief that UNLV is an essential part of improving the well-being of our community.

Could you describe your role at UNLV?

I am director and professor at the School of Social Work at UNLV and have held these positions for almost six years. As Senior Administrator of the School of Social Work, I oversee over 40 full-time and part-time faculty and staff. I am also responsible for the collaborative generation of the school’s vision and strategic plan and overseeing the field office. I manage the school budget and oversee hiring, and take an active role in curriculum development and community engagement, both at school and at college and university.

Describe the work you do in the community.

I am a member or have been represented on the Continuity of Care Council (COC) for the Homeless for five years and serve on the Homelessness Policy Council for Southern Nevada. I network with many community partners, including nearly 100 organizations that offer internships to our students.

Due to my involvement in the homelessness file, the School of Social Work hired two homelessness researchers in 2019 as well as a child protection researcher (final year of university).

This year, the school has targeted hiring around interpersonal violence. Thanks to our hires, many research projects on homelessness are implemented through a leading doctoral scholarship and a fellowship in collaboration with the School of Public Policy and Leadership. These projects have been developed in direct collaboration with our community service providers.

The School of Social Work also collaborated with Psychology and Educational Psychology to produce four trauma-informed care videos for the Clark County School District in partnership with PBS. Another collaboration saw the School of Social Work house a new UNLV program for veterans. Another collaboration with UNLV Health saw social work offer internship students to work in a low-cost public medical clinic. Several graduate assistants have worked on a food insecurity app and a number of white papers and systematic literature reviews are published or in progress.

And what is the impact of this work for the university? Students? Community partners and those they serve?

  • The university has benefited from a number of research collaborations, grants, and services for the homeless, on-campus veterans, and those without medical insurance.
  • Social work students provide more than 100,000 hours of service a year to the community as part of their internship, and agencies give back in the form of supervision. We have increased our collaborations with agencies that provide non-traditional social work sites, including places such as the Coroner’s Office, UNLV Dental Services, Las Vegas Police, UNLV Homeless Police, shelter and emergency relief.
  • The community has seen a significant increase in UNLV’s services and research collaboration.
  • Our partners have stated that they benefit from and wish for greater collaboration with the UNLV.

What does “community” mean to you?

Community can mean so many things, but ultimately it should be a safe, inclusive and open environment for its members to grow and reach their full potential, whether local, regional or national. We should focus on human strengths and resilience to constantly improve community safety, inclusiveness and openness.

What makes a great community? In other words, what are the attributes of a community that has a good quality of life?

It is inclusive of all and prioritizes the safety and well-being of its members. A great community should not only focus on equality but also on fairness for its members and should not tolerate the suffering of its members.

During your work in the community, was there a specific moment that inspired you? Please describe what happened.

One summer I was evaluating grant proposals to fund homeless programs in the southern Nevada community and had to vote for a homeless program that serves many homeless people rather than a program that serves a small group with special needs. It was not only a revelation, but heartbreaking for me and for the community. It made me more determined than ever to serve and develop ways to help those in need who are often overlooked.

What can UNLV do to improve our community in general? And the neighborhood around the main campus in particular?

It could be an answer from a book. Ultimately, it comes down to what we prioritize in the community. For example, there are many problems in the neighborhood around us that need to be solved. The university should engage more in the development of translational and transdisciplinary research networks that develop their research programs in collaboration with members of the community who work directly on the specific problem addressed. Grant writing will benefit all parties involved.

If you could wave a magic wand and solve one community problem, what would it be and why?

If it’s magic, I’d like to see poverty and racism disappear locally, regionally, nationally and globally and the word “genocide” never have to come out of anyone’s mouth again. Perhaps more realistic on a local level would be for there to be enough affordable housing for members of the Southern Nevada community.

How have UNLV’s community engagement efforts developed over the past five years?

In the area of ​​community problem solving, I think our efforts have increased dramatically to help providers address homelessness, to develop research projects that are transdisciplinary and translational in nature, and to focus on one problem and then try to make these efforts sustainable. There is starting to be a greater investment in interpersonal violence over the next two years. I can only speak of a few contributions; I know there have been many others on campus.

Why is your service on the UNLV Community Engagement Council important?

The UNLV Community Engagement Council has been very helpful in connecting with the community and with members of the university community. We have developed several partnerships at school and created several new field placements for our social work students through these connections, and we have also developed potential research collaborations and opportunities for our faculty.


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