Cultivating Effective University-Community Engagement: A Workshop for UT Faculty, Graduate Students, and Community Members

March 20, 2013

The University of Texas at Austin, School of Social Work, Utopia Theater, 1925 San Jacinto Blvd., Austin, TX 78712

1:00pm – 5:45pm

Please join us for a half-day forum on university engagement with communities. Highlighting recent case studies involving UT faculty and students, the forum offers an opportunity for meaningful discourse about cultivating effective community engagement relationships and a chance to assess the strengths and challenges of community-university partnerships. The forum will bring together faculty, students, administrators, and community members who are engaged in this work and in a position of influence teaching, policy, and practice. Scott J. Peters, Co-Director at Imagining America, will deliver the keynote, followed by case studies, interactive breakout sessions, and final reconvening. The day will end with a reception and poster session featuring student projects.

For more information on Dr. Peters and Imagining America, visit

To Register:
Registration is available at Registration for this event is required.


1:00:  Welcome and Introductions
Helen Gaebler, UT Opportunity Forum, School of Law
Erica Saenz, UT Division of Diversity and Community Engagement

1:05-1:45: Keynote Address: Cultivating Effective University-Community Engagement
Dr. Scott Peters, Co-Director, Imagining America

1:45-2:45: UT Community Engagement Case Studies
UT faculty and graduate students will present three community engagement case studies. Each case will highlight the successes and challenges the participants encountered and lessons learned around pedagogy, institutional supports and roadblocks, and the complexity of effective community engagement.

Engaging with Rural Communities to Further Community Development: The Mart Community Project in Mart, Texas
Paula Gerstenblatt, MCP Founder, Assistant Instructor, and PhD candidate, UT School of Social Work
Heidi Schmalbach, Former UT student and current PhD student at Tulane University
Carolyn Potts, Mart resident and Editor of the The Mart Messenger

Engaging with Schools and Communities to Promote Academic Achievement and Well-Being of Children in Central Texas
Kevin Foster, Founding Director, Institute for Community, University & School Partnerships, UT Department of African and African Diaspora Studies

Engaging with Communities and their Municipalities to Engender Sustainable, Affordable Housing in Austin
Barbara Brown Wilson, Director of the Center for Sustainable Development; Assistant Professor of Community and Regional Planning and Sustainable Design, UT School of Architecture

2:45-3:00: Break

3:00-4:00: Breakout Groups
Participants will break out into small groups to discuss ways to cultivate effective university-community engagement relationships, drawing from their own experiences and the case studies. In addition to brainstorming and discussing potential strategies to implement improved community engagement at the university, each small group will focus on a different theme: the pedagogy of community engagement, building institutional support at UT for community engagement, and best practices for working with communities.

 4:00-4:45: Reconvening
The closing session will include reports from the small groups and draw together the main conclusions from the afternoon and key strategies in moving forward to cultivate more effective university-community engagement partnerships.

4:45-5:45:  Reception and Student Poster Session
Join us for light refreshments. UT students will present posters on community engagement projects they have been working on through their classes and extracurricular activities.

Conference Presenters:
UT Opportunity Forum
Division of Diversity and Community Engagement

Conference Sponsors:
Center for Politics and Governance
Center for Sustainable Development
Institute for Community Development
Longhorn Center for Civic Engagement
School of Social Work
William Wayne Justice Center for Public Interest Law

Organizing Committee:
Yvonne Fuentes, Longhorn Center for Civic Engagement
Helen Gaebler, School of Law
Paula Gerstenblatt, School of Social Work
Sherri Greenberg, LBJ School of Public Affairs
Suchitra Gururaj, Longhorn Center for Civic Engagement
Elizabeth Mueller, School of Architecture
Katie Pritchett, Longhorn Center for Civic Engagement
Heather K. Way, School of Law

Case Studies
Engaging with Rural Communities to Further Community Development: The Mart Community Project in Mart, Texas
Mart is a small, economically-depressed and racially-divided town near Waco, Texas, with a population of approximately 2,200 residents. The Mart Community Project (MCP) began as an art installation in 2008 and evolved into a community-university partnership utilizing arts practice and oral history in partnership with faculty from the University of Texas at Austin School of Social Work, Department of Writing and Rhetoric, and Department of Art, and the Baylor University Institute of Oral History. Incorporating a School of Social Work class that started in 2010, the community-university partnership has grown to include Mart residents, faculty, visiting artists, and nearly 130 undergraduate and graduate students from a variety of disciplines at UT Austin working with community partners on a broad range of projects. MCP has received nine grants including two National Endowment for the Arts grants.

Engaging with Schools and Communities to Promote Academic Achievement and Well-Being of Children in Central Texas
The Institute for Community, University & School Partnerships (ICUSP) is dedicated to facilitating partnerships that benefit Central Texas students and improve their academic outcomes. Their little secret is that ICUSP is simply the realization of an effort of a UT assistant professor and graduate students to create opportunities at the University for community engaged scholarship. ICUSP’s partner projects have included developing and running student programs in schools for Austin Independent School District, arts enrichment summer camps on the UT campus with a local youth organization, and now a television show with KLRU.

Engaging with Communities and their Municipalities to Engender Sustainable, Affordable Housing in Austin
The Center for Sustainable Development (CSD)’s Public Interest Design Program (PID) engages with community residents, organizations, and municipal entities to research, design, and implement dynamic community-identified projects that address critical concerns within the community. Emerging from a community-university project called the Alley Flat Initiative, this university-community partnership has been trying to find ways to infuse more sustainable, affordable housing opportunities into Austin’s central neighborhoods without changing the character of these residential areas since 2005. After building two alley flats and designing a pattern-book of other options, this consortium started looking at the alleyways themselves as opportunities for inspiration.  Now, with involvement from ten different City departments, this project is expanding to revision how Austin might use its alleyways as venues for affordable housing, distributed energy and water, food production, stormwater management, public art, and other community-based sustainability concepts.