2015 Community Engagement Institute

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Community Engagement Institute graphic

For five days this month at Virginia Commonwealth University’s 2015 Community Engagement Institute, researchers and community partners came together to immerse themselves in strategies and ideas for working together to address the needs of the Richmond community and beyond. This year’s theme focused on practical solutions to common challenges.

Hosted May 11–15 by the VCU Division of Community Engagement and the VCU Center for Clinical and Translational Research, the event — in its third year — featured two days focused on service-learning and three days focused on community-engaged research. It also featured concurrent breakout sessions, a new format for the event.

The VCU Division of Community Engagement writes on its website that “service-learning refers to an intentional teaching strategy that engages students in organized service activities and guided reflection. The service activities benefit the community and, in combination with reflection and other classroom-based learning activities, enhance the academic curriculum of participating students.”

This portion of the institute featured open conversations and workshops on high-impact educational practices, the importance of community engagement in higher education and strategies on mobilizing community partners.

The last three days of the institute focused on community-engaged research, which holds the goal of contributing to both academic disciplines and the community by incorporating input from all stakeholders. These three days saw VCU researchers and community partners learn from each other on topics such as finding funding, expanding authentic partnerships, incorporating the arts, considering international perspectives, identifying ethical issues and communicating about research.

Jenn Early, doctoral student and graduate research associate for the Department of Community Engagement and the CCTR, was the institute’s main organizer.

“The institute was a huge success,” she said. “It was a high-energy event that seemed to be building towards something special. The initial feedback we received indicated that people are craving this kind of information and opportunity to connect. Some of the success and energy can likely be attributed to the range of expertise and experience that participants brought with them, and the opportunity for faculty, students and community partners to learn together.”

Organizers and participants expanded the institute experience and conversation to social media.

Al Richmond, executive director of Community-Campus Partnerships for Health, gave the community-engaged research keynote address, titled “Advancing Social Justice and Health Equity through Authentic Partnerships.”

A screenshot of a tweet from VCU DCE A screenshot of a tweet from Arnethea Sutton

Steven Woolf, M.D., director of the VCU Center on Society and Health, spoke on achieving authentic engagement in which the community is an equal partner in the research process.

A screenshot of a tweet from Kasey J Martin

The final day of the institute focused largely on communicating research, with breakout sessions focused on social media, infographics, Photovoice and blogging.

A screenshot of a tweet from Jen Early A screenshot of a tweet from Zoe Neale

And photos were shared.

A screenshot of a tweet from Zoe Neale

For presentation materials from the institute, visit http://scholarscompass.vcu.edu/cei/.

The event described was supported in part by CTSA award No. UL1TR000058 from the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences.