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

Connecting Community Partners

Lori Hardesty is assistant director for service-learning and K-16 partnerships at UMBC’s Shriver Center.

???????????????????????????????Positive social change is the product of collaboration: relationships that empower everyone to make meaningful contributions to the common good. This week (as a part of National Volunteer Week) UMBC will celebrate and promote empowering partnerships at the Connecting Community Partners Service Fair, sponsored by the Office of Student Life and The Shriver Center. The event will take place Friday, April 26th, 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. in UC 310 and 312.

The event is designed to build relationships among UMBC students, faculty and staff interested in deeper community engagement and with community organizations active in and around Baltimore. It will be valuable for faculty members looking for potential speakers or thinking about building new service-learning components into courses; students interested in tackling social issues, exploring post-graduate career options or planning events for their organizations; and anyone interested in meeting up with some inspired, inspiring people interested in making a difference.

Community partners who will participate range from U.S. Hispanic Youth Entrepreneur Education to Operation Welcome Home. Alyssa Budros of partner Soccer Without Borders shares:

The mission of our organization piggybacks off your mission as BreakingGround attempts to power meaningful change through community but also through the individual. … The work we do with these families cannot be done without partnerships, volunteers, mentors, and the help of the community.

I’m looking forward to reconnecting with all of these partners at the event, and hope to see you there too!

Contact the author, Lori Hardesty, at

URCAD Research Profile: Does Service-Learning Result in Civic-Mindedness?

Kathleen Algire-Fedarcyk ’13, social work, is president of UMBC’s Social Work Students Association and BSW Representative for the National Association of Social Workers’ Maryland Chapter.

Kathleen Algire-FedarcykAs a social work major, I like the idea of service-learning.  I think it is important to involve students in the community they are living and learning in, and to acknowledge their work, skills-building and new insights with academic credit. But does engaging in service-learning make a student more community-oriented or civic-minded? With support from Social Work professor Jessica Guzman-Rea, I developed and carried out a research project to explore that question.

Dr. Guzman-Rea had received a BreakingGround grant to redesign her Social Work 200 course to include much more extensive service-learning and reflection components, with support from the Shriver Center. I served as the teaching assistant for the course. I examined and coded students’ writings from different points in the semester, and looked for patterns to gauge shifts in their perspectives. The theoretical models that guided my inquiry included the Social Change Model (a leadership development framework developed by Alexander Astin and Lena Astin), and Social Learning Theory (pioneered by Albert Bandura). These models suggest that learning is a process, and that the long-term impact of a learning experience may not be immediately evident, which is a challenge for a project designed to measure learning within an academic semester.

I had not participated in research before, and I found qualitative research principles and methods challenging to grasp. Thankfully, Dr. Guzman-Rea was able to guide me through the process. I spent many hours reading and re-reading students’ writings, but I was excited to participate. By the end of the semester, six of the 27 students enrolled in the course had gotten involved in community work beyond what they had done in connection with the class, and many more were able to identify issues and needs important to the community, insights they can bring to future community involvement.

I am excited to present a poster at UMBC’s Undergraduate Research and Creative Achievement Day (URCAD) because it gives me another opportunity to talk about the research! I feel that the research results are applicable to any situation that requires motivating people to change their behavior towards civic engagement. URCAD will also be a new experience for me; I have presented at conferences but I have never had to design a poster and present the material in this way. I am also looking forward to seeing the other posters. I am particularly interested in the presentation on using motivational interviewing. I think including motivational interviewing would be a great way to take my research to the next level. Maybe I can find a collaborator at URCAD as well!

Contact the author, Kathleen Algire-Fedarcyk, at Read about more URCAD projects aimed at contributing to positive social change here.

Research for Social Change at URCAD

Janet McGlynn is director of communication and outreach in UMBC’s Office of Undergraduate Education.

mcglynn_cropEach year I have the pleasure of organizing a unique forum for sharing students’ extraordinary research, creative projects and scholarly contributions to the common good. Undergraduate Research and Creative Achievement Day (URCAD) 2013 (Wednesday, April 24th) will feature more than 200 presentations by UMBC students on projects spanning (and sometimes blending) the disciplines.

Some of the projects aimed at contributing in creative ways to positive social change include:

  • 3D Modeling for Older Adults, by Uvonne Andoh, Farnaz Feizian and Joshua Dutterer (Mentor: Amy Hurst, Information Systems). This project explores the use of three-dimensional printing technology to help older adults gain autonomy and enhance their quality of life. 12:30 p.m. – 3:00 p.m., Poster Presentation, UC Ballroom.
  • Promoting Social Change through Service Learning, by Kathleen Algire-Fedarcyk (Mentor: Jessica Guzman-Rea, Social Work). This research examines the impact of a BreakingGround grant-funded semester-long Social Work course, in [Read more…]

Graduate Students and Faculty Share Civic Innovations (Video)

K. Jill Barr is senior assistant dean for graduate school enrollment management at UMBC.

K. Jill BarrHow does one go about creating and being the change we want to see in the world, as Gandhi suggested over 65 years ago? Graduate students and faculty at UMBC are answering the question through research designed to make a difference, classes organized to address civic challenges, and significant community projects in locales ranging from Baltimore to Kenya. The Graduate School is a key player in the BreakingGround initiative. At the recent Graduate Research Conference, a panel of graduate students and graduate faculty shared their civic experiences.

I love working with our graduate students as they become creative change agents on campus and beyond, and appreciate that they are connecting research, learning and action in immediately relevant and potentially life-altering ways. We’re all excited by their success.

Contact the author, K. Jill Barr, at

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: 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

Social Issues/Social Action

Jessica Guzman-Rea is an academic advisor in the UMBC Honors College and adjunct faculty for the social work program.

Jessica Guzman-RaeMy Social Work 200 class—Social Issues/Social Action, funded by BreakingGround—focuses on civic engagement in Baltimore City and the surrounding counties in the practice of social work. I partnered with the Shriver Center to connect students with organizations that allowed them to become involved in addressing social issues across levels of influence.

For this post I asked my student Danielle Bouchard ’15, social work, to speak about her work with the Office of Forensic Services. This agency is responsible for court-ordered mental health services and for evaluation and treatment of individuals to determine competency to stand trial or criminal responsibility. Working with this office, Danielle was able to sit in on court cases where social workers play an important role:

JGR: What do you believe are the benefits of what you personally do, or what the agency does, that affects people’s lives?

DB: The agency allows for individuals who have committed a crime, who don’t even understand they’ve committed a crime, a chance to have a route that doesn’t just leave them in prison for the rest of their lives. They can go into a hospital. They can have different rehabilitation services that not only will help them understand their actions, but will help them get better. They’ll provide them with the medication they need and then after they’re done with their time, or their alternative time, like staying in the hospital, they connect them with organizations that help them get re-entry into society.

I was gratified to hear about Danielle’s passion for “making people more accepting of mental illness” in the court system. There are just so many ways to be a social worker; so many ways to use your skills and unique perspective to help the people around you.

Contact the author, Jessica Guzman-Rea, at