Bulletproof Vest and Aviators: Social Change, Firsthand

Katrina Smith ’14, Philosophy and Political Science, participated in the Governor’s Summer Internship Program through UMBC’s Shriver Center.  

Katrina Smith

Sitting on my couch eating Nutella and Wheat Thins–this was high school for me.  Don’t get me wrong, I did well in school, participated in clubs, and played softball, but I just didn’t see a point in all of it.

Then I started listening to the world around me and a light went off with every story uncovered. I witnessed injustices firsthand, involving people close to me.  I watched a good friend be taken in for a psychiatric evaluation by police. This friend ended up feeling more victimized due to the experience and ended up not seeking treatment for a longer period of time because of it. I began to gather passions.  I am passionate about ending intimate partner violence and I am passionate about ensuring fair, adequate, and respectful treatment to those in mental health crises. I was determined to create change.

That’s where summer 2013 comes into play. I was lucky enough to participate in the Governor’s Summer Internship Program (GSIP) where I interned at the Governor’s Office of Crime Control and Prevention. At my placement, I was tasked with researching and presenting on the use of GPS monitoring for respondents to protective orders. While I had worked with victims and with juvenile crime prevention in the past, this was the first time I felt like my work on intimate partner violence would impact a large number of people and would potentially save lives.

katrina smith gov 2Myself and two other interns worked on a policy proposal as well, studying the need for statewide police standards for calls involving mental health crises. We presented our proposal to Governor Martin O’Malley in person. While my mentor said you couldn’t see my legs shaking from the audience, I’m not sure I believe her. Nerves aside, my group had the opportunity to put this issue on the Governor’s radar for his last term in office. Adequate training of officers and better relations between law enforcement and mental health services allow for safer interactions and a greater continuity of care. These measures can spare people like my friend the devastating experience of being mistreated by law enforcement officers, and could even save lives, like  that of Ethan Saylor, a man with Down’s Syndrome who died while being taken into police custody at a Maryland movie theater in January.

katrina smith glasses

I was also able to tour two correctional facilities and ride-along with the Baltimore City Police Department, a dream come true for me. I’m fascinated with the criminal justice system as a whole and those who frequent it, so seeing two sides of it firsthand was incredible. I was able to eat prison food, see the availability of programs for incarcerated individuals, and of course, I rocked the aviators and bulletproof vest.

I got to do some awesome things this summer, totally falling in line with my passions. Along the way I was able to identify new passions, such as safe housing for gender non-conforming inmates and community-building activities within prisons and in city neighborhoods to reduce violence. In the future, I hope to continue working within my passions to create change I truly believe in.

Contact the author, Katrina Smith at k78@umbc.edu.

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Service to Career: Welcoming Refugees

Delana Gregg is the  Associate Director for the Sondheim Public Affairs Scholars Program at UMBC.

20130827_170142I was thrilled to see UMBC junior and Sondheim Public Affairs Scholar Christie Smith profiled in the Owings Mills Patch earlier this month. The article and accompanying video describe Christie’s work this summer with the International Rescue Committee in Baltimore, assisting caseworkers in providing all basic needs and support to newly arrived refugees and ensuring their transition into life in the United States is as smooth as possible. Christie was placed in the internship through the Walter Sondheim Jr. Maryland Nonprofit Leadership Program.

What I appreciate is that Christie has so clearly moved beyond thinking of service as an occasional commitment, or as something she would do while in school butChristie Smith then leave behind. For Christie, work with refugees is a way of building her passion for helping international populations through education into a plan for a career full of contributions to her communities.  A Global Studies and Modern Languages, Linguistics, & Intercultural Communication (Spanish) major, Christie has volunteered since her freshman year through the Shriver Center with the Refugee Youth Project, an after-school program which seeks to improve the lives of refugee youth living in Baltimore. She tutored refugee youth from around the world in English and other subjects while helping them acculturate to their new country. Her service was so impactful that Christie took on a leadership role mentoring the other UMBC volunteers as a sophomore, including raising $5,000 for the organization with an Autumn Gala last fall.

I hope the coming year affords many more students opportunities to build their passion for service into a plan for work and life.

Contact the author, Delana Gregg, at delana1@umbc.edu.

Accessibility Hack Day

Sara Leidner, UMBC’s coordinator of student life for student organizations and involvement, is the chair of UMBCServes.

Sara Leidner 2BreakingGround Community Program Grants fund innovative educational projects related to social change developed by UMBC organizations and departments. The grants are an incentive to transform what might otherwise have been one-shot service opportunities into forums for the development of civic agency. The grants program is administered by UMBCServes, a group of UMBC staff and students supporting opportunities for applied learning and community engagement.

I’ve been talking to some of this year’s grant recipients, asking them to share their ideas and stories. This video features Shaun Kane, a member of UMBC’s faculty in Information Systems, who shares the excitement and momentum behind the upcoming Accessibility Hack Day (tentatively scheduled for April 5-7, 2013).

I’m looking forward to sharing more of my conversations with grant recipients in the coming weeks.

Contact the author, Sara Leidner, at sleidner@umbc.edu.

BreakingGround Course is Front-Page News

David Hoffman is UMBC’s assistant director of student life for civic agency.

David HoffmanToday’s Baltimore Sun features a front-page story about students in two UMBC courses shedding light on the human side of Baltimore’s industrial past. The students, guided by New Media Studio director Bill Shewbridge and American Studies folklorist in residence Michelle Stefano, are helping tell the stories of steelworkers from the now-defunct Baltimore Sun, 2.12.13Sparrows Point Steel Mill, which once employed thousands. The mill has been shuttered and is being sold for scrap.

The oral history project is supported by a BreakingGround course development grant. The article also describes several other BreakingGround courses and projects through which people from UMBC are solving problems and working with community partners to make innovative contributions to the common good. I’m thrilled that readers are getting this taste of UMBC’s rich, creative and collaborative civic work.

Contact the author, David Hoffman, at dhoffman@umbc.edu.

Community Program Grants Awarded, Next Deadline 2/15

Sara Leidner is coordinator for student organizations and involvement in UMBC’s Office of Student Life.

Sara LeidnerThe deadline to apply for BreakingGround Community Program Grants has been extended to February 15, 2013. All UMBC offices, departments and recognized student organizations are eligible for this award, funded by the Provost’s Office. Three innovative community projects have already received funding:

Accessibility Hack Day: UMBC’s Prototyping and Design Research Lab (Department of Information Systems) will engage students in a competition to develop and test ideas for making video games that are accessible to people with various disabilities. Participants in this daylong event on campus will form project groups, propose ideas, build prototypes and submit their designs to a panel of expert judges, including representatives from nonprofit organizations serving people with disabilities. The goal of the project is to spark students’ interest in developing innovative technical solutions for people with disabilities, not just in the context of voluntary service but in their careers in technology-related fields.

Community Arts Projects at UMBC Professional Development Schools: UMBC’s Teacher Education Unit (Department of Education) will support UMBC students aspiring to be teachers as they develop community arts projects with teachers, students and parents at selected local elementary schools (most of which serve families living at or below poverty level). The projects will be designed to deepen cultures of collaboration at each school site; increase UMBC students’ awareness of, and experience in, working with racially, ethnically, economically, and linguistically diverse populations; and enhance all parties’ awareness of the role of the arts in teaching, learning, and community building.

Food for Thought: The UMBC Graduate Student Association will work with local partner Food for Thought to address “food deserts”: urban neighborhoods in which residents face significant challenges in procuring healthy food. UMBC graduate students will teach young people in Pigtown/Washington Village about healthy choices, introduce them to the local community garden, help them plant container gardens of their own, provide cooking classes, and help them become advocates for themselves and their communities in connection with food issues. Participating graduate students will gain connections with each other and with community partners, reflect together on food justice issues, and consider how to integrate lessons from their experiences into their lives.

Contact the author, Sara Leidner, at sleidner@umbc.edu.

UMBC Civic Innovations @ Graduate Research Conference

Romy Jones, a doctoral student in UMBC’s Language, Literacy & Culture program, is Community Liaison for the Office of Graduate Student Life.

 Romy Jones (Square Photo)The Graduate Student Association (GSA) is hosting its 35th Annual Graduate Research Conference on Wednesday, February 20, 2013. This year’s main event is a civic engagement panel consisting of UMBC graduate students, faculty, and administrators. Panelists will discuss various efforts currently underway to foster civic engagement among UMBC graduate students, including graduate level courses featuring a community engagement component, GSA’s Food for Thought project, and Dr. Shaun Kane’s Accessibility Hack Day. These efforts aim to connect theory to practice and move from a paradigm of instruction to one of collaborative, experiential learning. This approach affords graduate students the ability to construct their own learning environments in and outside of the classroom and to reverse the shift from “disciplinary professionalism” to “civic professionalism.”

Meet your panelists:

Philip Rous, Provost
Jill Barr, Assistant Dean of Graduate Enrollment
Steve Bradley, Graduate Program Coordinator, Imaging and Digital Arts
Denise Merringolo, Associate Professor, History
Romy Jones, Graduate Student, Language, Literacy and Culture
Dorothy Alexander, Graduate Student, History
Charlotte Keniston, Graduate Student, Imaging and Digital Arts
Shaun Kane, Assistant Professor, Human Centered Computing

For conference registration, please complete this form:  http://form.jotform.us/form/22914362757156. The civic engagement panel will be featured from 1:30 to 2:15 p.m. in the University Center Ballroom. You are welcome to join us for lunch at 1:00 p.m..

Contact the author, Romy Jones, at rjones12@umbc.edu.

Transforming the Here and Now

David Hoffman is UMBC’s assistant director of student life for civic agency.

[Cross-posted on Co-Create UMBC].

David Hoffman

STRiVE 2013, UMBC’s fifth annual homegrown student leadership retreat, sponsored by the Office of Student Life and Student Government Association, took place last week at the Skycroft Conference Center. I served as one of 12 coaches (6 staff members, 6 students). Each STRiVE is different (I’ve participated in all five), but they are always life-altering. [My reflections on previous STRiVE retreats: 2012201120102009].

B-1The phrase “leadership retreat” really doesn’t do STRiVE justice. It obscures the poetry and magic of the lived experience. What happened in the hills west of Frederick last week was mostly spontaneous, profoundly real and deeply poignant. 62 UMBC students and staff members, most of us strangers to each other when the week began, helped each other to discover that despite our fears and vulnerabilities, and partly because of them, we are strong, wise and perfectly capable of transforming our lives and world together. We know this now without a doubt, because by week’s end the transformations already had begun.

C-14STRiVE’s intellectual foundations include the “social change model” of leadership developed by higher education scholars, student development theory, social cognitive theory, and Harry Boyte’s pioneering ideas about preparing people for active roles in democracy. Based on our synthesis of these ideas, one of the core principles of STRiVE’s design is that we coaches empower the participants as co-creators of all their experiences, including the retreat itself while it is happening. To do otherwise would risk stunting their growth by equipping them to thrive only in leadership simulations, when authority figures are available to give instructions and assign roles. [Read more…]

Innovation Generation: Learning through Practice (videos)

Kerry Kidwell-Slak is assistant director of professional practice at UMBC’s Shriver Center.

Joshua Kurikeshu '12, IS and Visual Arts (Project Lead Intern, General Electric)While many UMBC students make their mark on campus, others choose to take their commitment to change into environments from Baltimore City to the wilds of Alaskan forests. Many of our students find these experiences by taking advantage of UMBC’s award-winning internship, co-op and research programs, offered through the Shriver Center.

These experiences encourage students to develop leadership skills, explore potential career paths and make connections with diverse professionals already working in the field. Further, these students have a tangible impact on their organizations and causes that matter to them. They lead children in community service projects, develop marketing campaigns, research how to cure diseases, and reinforce critical cybersecurity protocols.

Check out these videos from Summer 2012 interns Paulette Mensah ’12, Health Administration and Policy, and Molissa Udevitz ’15, Environmental Studies and Dance, who share their experiences and the impact they’ve made on the world.


Paulette and Molissa are just two of the 700 UMBC students who enrolled in the Shriver Center’s internship, co-op and research practica this summer. See UMBC’s web feature profiling 2012 summer interns to learn more.

Contact the author, Kerry Kidwell-Slak, at kerryk@umbc.edu.

The Value of Seeing for Ourselves

Seanniece Bamiro, a UMBC senior majoring in Political Science and pursuing minors in Theater and English Literature, is President of UMBC’s chapter of Alpha Nu Omega Sorority, Inc., and an officer in several other student organizations.

When I enrolled in professor Terrence Hickey’s course on Problem-Solving in the Urban Black Community (POLI 340), I did not know how much it would broaden my perspective. I was intimidated by the list of readings, but the assigned books helped me get a sense of Baltimore’s history and the sources of modern urban problems. One book in particular, Code of the Street by Elijah Anderson, allowed us to obtain a snapshot of urban life in the form of narratives and observations. Professor Hickey challenged us to see connections and contrasts between our lives and those of the people Anderson writes about.

But our learning didn’t stop with readings and class discussions. We were charged with going into the community to see the challenges we had been reading about for ourselves, at a criminal trial and a community meeting.

Before the trial, a courtroom was something I’d only seen on television. As I watched the proceedings, my mind filled with questions about the justice of our justice system. I found myself identifying with the defendant despite the fact that he had committed a crime. At the community meeting, which attracted older men and women but no other college-age participants, I was filled with delight to see people’s strong interest in making the community better. But in both environments, it pained me to see how few people participated. Our preparation before these events had helped us gain insight about why more Baltimore residents don’t engage in these civic experiences, but actually seeing it was deeply sobering.

Taking POLI 340 exposed me to culture with which I was unfamiliar. The class challenged my views of right and wrong and changed my perspective on Baltimore City. Before, I was just an outsider looking in from a distance. Now that I have a little knowledge, I’m motivated get involved and deepen my understanding, rather than relying on speculation, fallacies and misconceptions.

Contact the author, Seanniece Bamiro, at bamiro1@umbc.edu.

Research Methods Beyond the Classroom

Carolyn Forestiere is an associate professor of political science at UMBC.

I have always wanted to introduce some form of civic engagement in my courses, but I never thought that the subject matter that I teach – Research Methods in Political Science – could be adapted to the overall goals of the BreakingGround initiative. After attending the BreakingGround Workshop in the Spring of 2012, I realized that with some innovative thinking, virtually any course can be adapted.

I have been teaching Research Methods since 2006. Part of the students’ regular coursework included developing survey and interview questionnaires that students deliver to each other as a means for them to create their own data set to analyze. In the workshop I decided I could add great depth to my course by a identifying a group of people outside of the university that my students could interview. To serve as a foil for my young college-aged students, I decided to bring them to a retirement community in the Catonsville area. The objective of the exercise will be to gather original data for analysis from the residents at local retirement communities and to garner a sense of empathy for different groups of people. [Read more…]