OXFORD, Mississippi – The new Center for Community Engagement at the University of Mississippi brings new learning, research and service resources and programs to Oxford, Lafayette County and beyond.
Mississippi institutions of higher learning recently approved the creation of the new center. The new statute will help the university leverage partnerships and create new opportunities for students, said Cade Smith, UM’s assistant vice chancellor for community engagement.
Center director Castel V. Sweet, also an assistant professor of community engagement practice, brings a lot of experience and expertise to the university, Smith said.
“Our community partners, our students, our faculty, our staff and our university will benefit from the leadership of Dr. Castel Sweet,” he said.
Sweet, who is new to college, said she was excited about the work here.
“A lot of things were already underway when I got here, so I was able to start making connections,” said Sweet. “There was already a lot of interest from the campus and the community, so when I reached out to introduce myself, they were thrilled.
“I didn’t have to twist my arm to find out why I was here and why this work we are doing is important. It was really easy to start brainstorming and working with people.
Community engagement at university comes in many forms, but its most important feature is easy to understand. This occurs when faculty, staff, and / or students work with non-tertiary collaborators in the public or private sectors to achieve a goal that benefits all parties.
Partnerships often change over time and can include outreach, consultation, involvement, shared leadership and community work.
Efforts are not limited to geographically defined areas. Communities also include individuals or groups linked by shared interests or practices, situational similarities, or even culture and beliefs.
This semester, the center hosted its first group of Bonner Fellows, a leadership program funded by the Corella and Bertram F. Bonner Foundation that connects students with a specific community partner with whom they will work for four years.
There is also a new interdisciplinary minor in community engagement, which is open to students of all majors.
“Students can think about how their degree can work to become an engaged leader in the community, and how can they do it through their discipline of chemistry, or through their discipline of sociology or whatever their discipline.” , said Sweet.
“It’s an interdisciplinary element of how we develop civic-minded leaders. “
Sweet said the Ole Miss students she has met are excited to get involved.
“With the start of the new semester, everyone is energized and excited to be back in person, so they have a lot going on, and we’re excited to be able to help them in any way we can.,” She said said.
William Teer, deputy director of the center, manages, among other things, the Bonner Leader program. He comes to the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College center, where he served as the Enrollment and Engagement Coordinator.
“One of our challenges right now is being new, part of what we do is just trying to get the word out and let people know about the work we do and how it can be for them. beneficial, ”Teer said. “We are very happy to get to this point. “