UMBC, BreakingGround Featured in New Publications

Craig Berger is UMBC’s Coordinator of Student Life for Campus and Civic Engagement

Craig Berger--SquareTwo new publications are shining a light on the theory, history and cultural practices encompassed in BreakingGround, and exploring its significance for higher education and democratic renewal.

The Winter 2015 issue of the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AACU) publication Diversity and Democracy, published in partnership with Imagining America, showcases promising approaches to advancing publicly engaged scholarship. UMBC and BreakingGround are featured in two articles. “Cultivating Growth at the Leading Edges: Public Engagement in Higher Education,” by Imagining America co-directors Timothy Eatman and Scott Peters, describes how innovations in scholarship, teaching and cultural organizing are “shifting the languages and practices of public purpose and mission in the academy.” They identify UMBC and BreakingGround as suggesting promising answers to questions about how innovative institutions can contribute to this emerging culture.

In another article in the same issue, “Democratic Agency and the Visionary’s Dilemma,” David Hoffman, Bev Bickel and I describe BreakingGround’s history and philosophy, including the ways BreakingGround responds to a challenge common to many movements for positive social change: How to gain traction at the beginning?

Democracy's Education CoverEarlier this month, Vanderbilt University Press published Democracy’s Education: Public Work, Citizenship & the Future of Colleges and Universities, edited by Harry C. Boyte. The book is a collection of innovative ideas: new conceptualizations of citizenship and work; visions of change in the curriculum, student life, and faculty and student roles; and practical strategies for everyday citizen empowerment. The book contains a chapter written by UMBC’s David Hoffman entitled, “Fostering Civic Agency by Making Education (and Ourselves) ‘Real,’” which describes his research with UMBC undergraduates and emphasizes one of BreakingGround’s core tenets: the need for students to co-create our campus culture as agents, not objects.

David’s chapter and the two Diversity and Democracy articles reference great work from Student Affairs, the Shriver Center, the Student Government Association, The Garden, and other campus departments and initiatives, and I’m thrilled to see that work called to the attention of a national audience.

Contact the author, Craig Berger, at

Peace Corps Story Telling Event (3/4)

PC Story telling flyer-page-001On  March 4 from 12-1 p.m. in the Fireside Lounge, there will be a Peace Corps Storytelling event as part of Peace Corps week.

Returned Peace Corps volunteers will share stories from their placements and a Peace Corps recruiter will be on hand to answer any questions.

UMBC Launches New Partnership with Peace Corps

Joby Taylor is Director of UMBC’s Shriver Peaceworker Program.

Joby TaylorUMBC’s new Peace Corps Prep program is now open for applications!   In the BreakingGround spirit of infusing our campus with a culture of engagement, service, and social change agency, we’re proud to announce this new program open to all majors.  UMBC students interested in international service experiences, careers in international development, or even just preparing for a life of thoughtful global citizenship should all consider applying to Peace Corps Prep!  You’ll have the chance to meet with Returned Peace Corps Volunteers and others to learn more about living and working abroad as you bring together the courses and experiences you’ll need to prepare yourself for your own international journey.

Complete the online application (through Feb 20th for this semester).

Peace Corps Prep

Contact the author, Joby Taylor, at

Peaceworker Fellows Host Peace Corps Director at Lakeland School

Joby Taylor is Director of UMBC’s Shriver Peaceworker Program.

Joby TaylorWhat a wonderful surprise for me to get a call from the Peace Corps a couple weeks ago asking about having the new Director, Carrie Hessler-Radelet, come to Baltimore to meet our Shriver Peaceworker Fellows and learn about their community development and service work!  After a bit of quick planning, our Peaceworker Fellows and graduate students Greg Couturier (School of Social Work) and Brooks Binau (Geography and Environmental Systems Department) hosted Director Hessler-Radelet and a small group of us for a full morning of program tours and engaged conversations at Lakeland Elementary-Middle School.  Lakeland is a public school in Baltimore City, where Greg and Brooks have been working alongside other UMBC students and staff, including myself and Peaceworker Assistant Director Meghann Shutt, for the past year as part of a multi-faceted UMBC partnership.

It was a personal pleasure for me to spend time with Director Hessler-Radelet, who is President Obama’s recently confirmed appointee to lead the Peace Corps, especially because the Peace Corps was first directed by Sargent Shriver, who also founded UMBC’s Shriver Center and Peaceworker Program.  Her visit to Lakeland to shadow our Peaceworker Fellows was an opportunity to highlight Returned Peace Corps Volunteers’ ongoing service and see first hand the work that they are doing alongside other UMBC programs aimed at addressing pressing social problems.  As they led us around the school, she also learned about the innovative work of UMBC’s Choice Program, the Sherman Scholars Program, Shriver Center Service-Learning, and a grant initiative funded by 21st Century.  Led by dynamic Lakeland School staff and leaders, Greg and Brooks are contributing to our partnership goals of engaging parents, connecting the school more broadly to the surrounding community, and improving school climate.Shriver Peaceworker

As we all toured the school’s new projects and vibrant new gardens Director Hessler-Radelet learned how Greg and Brooks were bringing back home the skills and experience they gained abroad in Peru (Greg) and Zambia (Brooks) and putting it to work in Baltimore by contributing to this dynamic community school building effort.   She saw the food pantry that is expanding as a resource for Lakeland families and met the Experience Corps staff who are creating inter-generational opportunities that engage seniors in supporting students and classrooms.  She smelled and tasted the expanding school gardens and related projects like solar ovens and dehydrators (I ate a large handful of fresh cherry tomatoes off the vine!).  Back inside, Greg introduced her to the Choice Program staff and fellows who work to improve attendance and behavior issues with some of the schools most vulnerable students.  In a roundtable discussion with leading community members, Pam Oliver and Ms. Emma, and Lakeland Principal, Najib Jammal, she learned about partnerships that are making Lakeland one of the most dynamic community schools in Baltimore.

As the Director and her team left Lakeland they headed off for a small hole-in-the-wall taqueria run by a local family. Our Peaceworker group had just had a great working lunch there a few days earlier.  “There are no seats and it’s not quick,” we told her, “but the papusas and tacos are made to order and high on taste.”  “That sounds perfect!” the Director instantly responded.  With that spirit of enthusiasm for local taste and an eye for real community, I know that she’ll be a great leader of the Peace Corps!

Here is a great video of the Director’s visit.

Contact the author, Joby Taylor, at

Not Just About the Food (BreakingGround TV)

David Hoffman is UMBC’s Assistant Director of Student Life for Civic Agency.

David HoffmanWhat does BreakingGround look like in practice? It’s another question I’m asked all the time, and because BreakingGround takes many forms (engaged scholarship, courses, projects, events, cultural practices, everyday interactions), there is no simple answer. But these three videos involving people at UMBC working on issues relating to food, community, health and justice, created by students in Bill Shewbridge’s TV production course for UMBC’s “In the Loop” program, convey a sense of the range and spirit of BreakingGround activities.

1. Joby Taylor, Director UMBC’s Shriver Center Peaceworker Program, interviews graduate student Charlotte Keniston about her work  with Pigtown Food for Thought.


2. Joby Taylor interviews Jill Wrigley, a community activist who teaches a course about food systems in UMBC’s Interdisciplinary Studies program, about her projects on campus and beyond.


3. Joby Taylor interviews Jack Neumeier, ’16, Interdisciplinary Studies, about The Garden, a new campus resource designed to teach, build community, and foster civic agency.


Contact the author, David Hoffman, at

Why Americorps?

Adebamike Adeniji, ’13, serves as the Maryland-DC Campus Compact Americorps VISTA member at UMBC’s Shriver Center.

Banke“What should I do after graduation?” That question loomed during my final year at UMBC, and like many seniors, I was nervous about taking the next step in my life. I knew I wanted to go to graduate school, but I wasn’t too sure what to pursue. English? International Affairs? There were so many possibilities.

I decided to begin looking for one-year programs that would help me narrow my focus and gain valuable workplace skills. I also hoped to make meaningful contributions to my community, and to continue developing the habits and mindset to make such contributions in all of my future professional roles. With help from UMBC’s Shriver Center, I found exactly the right opportunity for me, through the Americorps VISTA program.

MD-DC Vistas

VISTA volunteers from Maryland and DC

Participants in VISTA spend a year serving in a wide variety of nonprofits, schools, public agencies, community and faith-based groups across the country. I found opportunities to fit every interest. But my perfect match was close to home. Maryland-DC Campus Compact supports a network of Americorps VISTAs building university-community partnerships to fight poverty. One of those positions is based at UMBC’s Shriver Center. What an amazing opportunity: To recruit and support UMBC students serving as after-school mentors and tutors to at-risk students in the Arbutus Achievers program at Arbutus Middle School. Our tutoring and creative activities help motivate the middle school students to view their education as a rich source of opportunity and practical insight.

This experience has helped me build solid organizational skills, stronger communication skills and the ability to work diligently under pressure. I have discovered that I am fully capable of taking initiative and leading others. The best part of my service is witnessing the impact of our collective work on both the UMBC student volunteers and the Arbutus Middle School students. I love seeing barriers to learning crumble as the middle school students become eager to learn and excited to speak to us. I especially enjoy when my student volunteers reflect on their experiences, make connections with other aspects of their own lives, and feel empowered to continue making a difference.

I’m only starting to make my civic contributions, but this year of growth and change is raising my hopes and building my confidence. If you want a similar experience, consider joining Americorps VISTA.

Contact the author, Adebamike Adeniji, at

Why I’m Joining the Peace Corps

Nathan Rehr ’13, Political Science, will begin serving as a volunteer with the U.S. Peace Corps in March, 2014, in Senegal.  

nathanI have known for about four months that in March, I will be leaving to serve as a community health volunteer in the U.S. Peace Corps but it probably won’t feel real until I board the plane to Senegal (although I imagine I will feel something when I am getting all my vaccinations).

I pretty much settled on joining the Peace Corps in my senior year of high school.  That was when I undertook a project for National History Day, kind of like a science fair competition but for historical research.  Having recently worked with a returned volunteer, I was curious to know who had started the Peace Corps.  Almost immediately after beginning my National History Day research, Sargent Shriver became one of my heroes.

Shriver was a textbook idealist.  He was given the task of getting Congress to approve the Peace Corps when everyone thought it was impossible.  But more than 50 years later, Shriver’s idealism lives on in the Peace Corps, the Special Olympics, and War on Poverty programs like VISTA and Head Start. To learn more about Shriver and his legacy check out his biography and this reflection written by his son.

When I learned that UMBC had a Shriver Center to connect students to service-learning opportunities, a Shriver Living Learning Community where students participating in service lived together, and the Sondheim scholarship program for students interested in public service, I was sold.  I participated in service throughout my time at UMBC.  I studied International Affairs and studied abroad, giving me even more of an international focus.

On one level, Peace Corps just makes sense.  It combines my passion for volunteering and my international education.  I’d also like to think that I’m joining for the same reasons that Sargent Shriver was dedicated to launching the program: helping others secure the basic necessities for human life and promoting cultural exchange.  I hope that my time as a volunteer will give me the first-hand knowledge necessary to improve the way we approach international development.

I guess I’ll know more in another four months when I step off the plane and into… well I don’t really know what but I know it’ll be an adventure.

Contact the author, Nathan Rehr at

Speaking for Success in Education

Yvette Pappoe ’13, Sociology, is an intern with the Maryland Business Roundtable for Education.

Yvette PappoeMaryland Business Roundtable for Education is a nonprofit coalition of more than 100 leading employers, 3,000 volunteers, and a staff of eight dedicated to ensuring that Maryland students receive a quality education and are well prepared for productive, successful lives. I first discovered this organization when I was a UMBC student looking to make a difference. Through the Shriver Center, I learned about the Baltimore Collegetown Network’s LeaderShape program, which is designed for students who have a passion for service and want to be civic minded leaders. I applied immediately, and was rewarded with a life-changing, week-long experience with aspiring agents of positive social change from colleges and universities around Baltimore. LeaderShape helped me to identify my specific passion for helping young people in Baltimore overcome barriers to getting the education they need and deserve. One of the community partners I met that week was LaTara Harris, who was then Director of Partnerships and Outreach at Maryland Business Roundtable–an organization I had never known about, but which is located at BWTech North, right on the UMBC campus.

I was elated to find out that this organization shared my vision, and immediately sought ways to get involved. LaTara, who later became my mentor, referred me to one of their programs called the Maryland Scholars Speakers Bureau, which ensures that more students are well prepared to succeed in life and in college by encouraging students to take and master rigorous high school coursework, particularly in math and science. Maryland Business Roundtable provides speakers to help motivate and guide students as they are preparing to select courses for their high school program, and provides incentives that encourage students to stay the course throughout high school. I have been a Speakers Bureau speaker since last year and plan to continue to speak for as long as my schedule allows.

My involvement with this program has been extremely rewarding. It is such an amazing feeling to watch students change their outlook on college, and life, right before my eyes. To hear their minds churning and see their enthusiasm building because of the message I’m delivering is one of my top 5 best feelings ever. Along with being a speaker in the program, I intern with Maryland Business Roundtable and assist the Program Director for the Speakers Bureau. I have the pleasure of seeing how this program works both out in the field and behind the scenes. I am tasked with several projects ranging from program development to outreach and technical assistance.

My biggest project so far has been to develop a strategy to recruit and engage college students, specifically UMBC students, for our Speakers Bureau. Although I have made some progress, I have not quite reached my goal. This is where you come in. I believe it is our responsibility as members of the community to be directly involved in shaping the lives of our next generation. This opportunity is one way to do that. Tell a friend, a mentor, a family member. Share this article, do some research, get involved

Working at MBRT has energized me to push forward toward my goal of creating spaces where students can receive quality education despite challenging circumstances. I plan to open a school, and eventually several schools, in inner cities as well as back home in Ghana, where I can help kids cultivate a passion for learning and a drive to succeed no matter what obstacles they face.

 Contact the author, Yvette Pappoe, at

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