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Symposium brings together Ohio State and community partners

Collaboration key to addressing needs, participants say

The Ohio State University and the communities that the university serves benefit from partnerships in which know-how and resources are exchanged, administrators and faculty members said during the Autumn 2023 Engaged Scholarship Symposium. The event was hosted Wednesday by the Office of Outreach and Engagement at the Fawcett Center on Ohio State’s Columbus campus.  

“These partnerships allow us to provide invaluable, immersive opportunities for our students and our faculty and our staff. Our students can gain tremendous educational experiences that are really enriching,” said Melissa Gilliam, executive vice president and provost. “These partnerships can and do amazing things for all involved.”

Ryan SchmiesingThe symposium began with a graduate student poster competition highlighting community engaged scholarship and research. Over 40 graduate students submitted a poster proposal and 24 were selected to present.

“Many of our graduate students… are leading the way for community-engaged research,” said Ryan Schmiesing, senior vice provost for external engagement. “They’re the ones driving this work across the country, along with faculty and staff.”  

The symposium also featured panel discussions in which Ohio State faculty and staff spoke about their work with community partners.  

“Many of the themes today, I think you’ll find resonate the work that you do out in our community, everything from how to build partnerships and how to support communities of practice,” Jason Reece, vice provost for urban research and community engagement, said in welcoming attendees. “We’ll also hear from a number of our community partners to learn about opportunities and challenges that they see in the broader central Ohio community.”

In the opening panel discussion, “Building Partnerships and Community Practice,” Ohio State faculty said developing relationships with community partners begins with establishing trust.

“All of our community partners have already been doing the work. When they are reaching out to us to partner with them, it’s because they may have identified something else or some other strategy that they would like to employ to further reach their populations,” said Shaunta Stanford, an assistant professor in the College of Nursing. “It definitely starts with that: listening and stepping back so we can find the space where we can co-develop, co-create these things together.”

During two subsequent panels, representatives from nonprofit organizations spoke about partnering with Ohio State on outreach efforts. In a panel titled “Partnership in Action,” healthcare professionals said they formed the Alliance for Diversity in Brain Health for the Central Ohio Community - known as ADHOC - to provide services for residents in underserved areas.   

“Our hope is that our collaborative effort can build trust in communities so that we can involve minoritized communities in brain health activities, get them to a doctor if they are experiencing symptoms” said social worker Amy Weeks.

The final panel, “Voices from the Community: Needs and Opportunities,” featured community organizations that offer a range of services, from homework help for elementary school students to affordable housing.

Heather Mohrman, co-founder and chief strategy officer of Sanctuary Night, a Franklinton-based organization that provides a safe haven for women at risk of sexual exploitation, said community engagement is key to meeting constituents’ needs.

“We thought, ‘We’ll build this building, we’ll serve about 150 unique women (per year). That’s us at capacity. In our first six months, we served 600 unique women,” she said. “That’s why neighborhood research is so important. We were basing homelessness on shelter numbers, but 95% of the women we serve don’t even try to go to a homeless shelter.”

The symposium also featured a keynote address by Michael Corey, executive director of the Human Service Chamber of Franklin County, about the growing financial and staffing challenges that nonprofit organizations face. Between panel discussions, Ohio State students, faculty and staff made presentations about community projects they’ve initiated with grants from the Office of Outreach and Engagement.

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