RIT and NENA Sponsor Conference on University-Community Partnerships, Oct. 2-5

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Event to share success of RIT’s Learn and Serve America project

Exploring successful partnerships between universities and urban communities will be the focus of a three-day conference, Oct. 2-5, sponsored by Rochester Institute of Technology and the NorthEast Neighborhood Alliance (NENA).

When the Grass Takes Root: Building Partnerships Between Urban America and Higher Education will culminate RIT’s three-year Learn and Serve America grant from the Corporation for National and Community Service. The $420,000 grant helped launch the university’s relationship with NENA. Now firmly in place, the RIT-NENA partnership continues to grow and holds valuable lessons for initiating community partnerships. The event will be held at the RIT Inn and Conference Center. Registration is required.

The conference will be invaluable for community leaders, city planners, community development professionals, academics and students interested in service learning and co-equal partnerships. It will draw from the success of the RIT-NENA partnership, which supports the NENA Strategic Neighbor Action Plan while broadening and deepening RIT students’ educational experience.

Designed as an interactive event, the conference will start with a theatre production exploring complicated issues of power and change that arise in community-university relationships. A three-act skit will dramatize power barriers that can develop in multiple dimensions between community-and-university, faculty-and-community, as well as city-municipalities-university-community partnerships, and disrupt developing relationships.

Workshops and dialogue, beginning with the shared collaborative experience of the NENA-RIT partnership, will provide an introspective look at the dynamics of these partnerships.

The audience will learn the critical factors that made the Learn and Serve America project a success in its first three years. Additional workshops will be held on community-based learning, university-community partnerships and student learning. Audience members will create portfolios assessing what they have learned and how to start or enhance their own successful partnerships.

“We want people to emotionally and intellectually understand how to apply the knowledge to their personal experience, ” says M. Ann Howard, director of RIT’s Learn and Serve America project.

“This is a unique opportunity for grassroots people to learn how to work with a university partner without giving up control of the decisions made on behalf of neighborhoods,” observes Delaine Cook-Greene, co-chair of the NENA Council.

RIT President Albert Simone and Rochester Mayor William Johnson will deliver the opening remarks on Friday, followed by a video-tour introduction to the community. Nationally known neighborhood planning and development specialist Gus Newport will deliver the keynote speech, “The Value of Partnerships in Neighborhood Revitalization,” on Saturday evening. For registration details, contact Meredith Dalton, at 585-475-2656 or madgla@rit.edu.

The College of Liberal Arts, one of eight colleges at RIT, provides the foundation for every RIT student. The College offers studies in anthropology/sociology, philosophy, fine arts, language and literature, history, science/technology/society, and political science and offers bachelor’s degrees in criminal justice, economics, social work, psychology, public policy, and professional and technical communication. The college offers master’s degrees in communication and media technology, public policy and school psychology.

For the past decade, U.S. News and World Report has ranked RIT as one of the nation’s leading comprehensive universities. RIT is also included in Yahoo Internet Life’s Top 100 Wired Universities, Fisk’s Guide to America’s Best Colleges, as well as Barron’s Best Buys in Education.