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UMass Boston faculty members Amy Cook, Kenneth Reardon, and Paul Watanabe were celebrated for their community engagement. Image by: Harry Brett
February 5, 2018

UMass Boston event focuses on enhancing community engagement


  • Boston

More than 100 members of the university and neighboring communities gathered in UMass Boston’s Alumni Lounge on Wednesday, January 31 to explore ways to enhance community engagement and collaboration. The event, called “Together We Build, Together We Rise,” was co-hosted by the offices of Community Partnerships and Community Relations and served as a platform for discussing campus–community partnerships. The audience also came together to celebrate three faculty members who have each played an integral role in forging the path for community engagement and received awards in 2017:

  • Amy Cook, assistant professor of counseling and school psychology in the College of Education and Human Development, received the early career recognition award from the International Association for Research on Service-Learning and Community Engagement (IARSLCE).
  • Kenneth Reardon, professor of urban planning and director of the master's program in urban planning and community development in the School for the Environment, received the Thomas Ehrlich Civically Engaged Faculty Award from Campus Compact.
  • Paul Watanabe, professor of political science and director of the Institute for Asian American Studies, received the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold Rays with Neck Ribbon from the Japanese Government. Additionally, UMass Boston awarded him the Community Engaged Teaching Award.

The event kicked off with a networking session that expanded into a fireside chat. Audience members were encouraged to participate via live text message polling by answering questions such as “What traits build a successful partnership?” and “What do you hope for in 2018 with regard to building the ‘beloved community’?”

Cynthia Orellana, director of the Office of Community Partnerships, explained that the “beloved community” was a nod to a quote by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., whose legacy was celebrated earlier this month and who was a fellow advocate for community involvement.

“The backdrop of this whole event is how do we build together this community, the beloved community,” said Orellana. “It’s the beginning of the year. It’s a really good time to step back and reflect on all the work that we’ve done with communities and all the work that we could be doing moving forward.”

Five campus–community partnership leaders appeared as panelists during the second part of the program, facilitated by Campus Compact President Andrew Seligsohn: Beth Chandler, interim president and CEO, YW Boston; Chuck Jones, president and CEO, Harbor Health Services; Lydia Lowe, director, Chinatown Community Land Trust; Mark Culliton, CEO, College Bound Dorchester; and Turahn Dorsey, chief of education for Mayor Martin Walsh, City of Boston.

Panelists offered their perspectives on topics from improving the health of the community and building stronger relationships with partners to breaking down collaboration barriers and encouraging communication and openness between partners. They also shared their ideas on the role that the next chancellor could play in strengthening these bonds, as well as opportunities for UMass Boston to take a lead across the city.

Angsana Duong, who works at a family-owned fabric store in Chinatown, said that it’s important as a member of the community to stay active and involved in these types of discussions.

“I’m here today to learn about what’s changing,” said Duong, who was among the external community members in attendance. “It’s important to stay informed.”

With more than 2,000 partnership ties, UMass Boston has an ever-growing relationship with the community. Amy Cook, one of the community engaged faculty awardees, said that she viewed the event as an opportunity not only to celebrate what the university has accomplished but also to discuss where we can go from here.

“It’s not just an endpoint but really hopefully a midpoint in our conversation. I hope that people will go away with new and fresh ideas and commitment,” said Cook. “I think what would be great is if there’s some folks who come that aren’t already connected to UMass—or the other way around, folks from UMass that want to get connected with other organizations—that we can start to bridge some of those connections.”