Photo of a diverse group of people smiling
10 years of
classroom impact relationship building research dissemination career advancement scholarly enhancement
Photo of a diverse group of people smiling

Working together, changing lives.

In 2016, the Division of Community Engagement celebrates its 10th anniversary. By collaborating with Virginia Commonwealth University faculty to advance community-engaged teaching and scholarship while addressing critical issues in the region and world, the division has led VCU in becoming a national model for community engagement.

Help us kick off the next 10 years by joining the movement — elevate your work by connecting with the community. The Division of Community Engagement provides the training, funding, connections and support you need.

Meet community-engaged scholars.

“I can’t imagine doing my job in any way, shape or form without being engaged with the community, and the DCE has really moved the needle in establishing that trust.”

Tracey Gendron, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Gerontology in the School of Allied Health
Learn more about Gendron’s work.

Combining Teaching, Outreach and Scholarship to Challenge Ageism through Art

To the 80-year-old woman: “Well, hello there, young lady.”

The speaker at the podium pauses to get his glasses when reading his notes: “It’s because I’m so old.” The audience laughs.

Commenting that an older adult is “young in spirit.”

“Age shaming and age blaming – this implicit and unconscious bias against older people – it is so ingrained in our culture, and it drives me absolutely crazy when I hear things like this,” said Tracey Gendron, associate professor in the Department of Gerontology in the School of Allied Health.

Gendron is working to combat ageism by combining her teaching, outreach and scholarship through Palette, a transgenerational program that pairs students and older adults in professionally conducted arts programs. She said the Division of Community Engagement (DCE) has been integral to her work, providing support and direction, connections in the community and funding. 

“This is about a larger social movement,” she said. “We have to work together to raise awareness and hear the voices of older people. I can’t imagine doing my job in any way, shape or form without being engaged with the community, and the DCE has really moved the needle in establishing that trust.”

Since 2013, approximately 80 VCU students in pharmacy, physical therapy and social work have been paired with 60 older adults from the community. Palette participants work on visual and movement arts projects and end their five-week session together with a gallery show or performance.

“We’re challenging the assumption that aging means decline, and we’re wiping away the anxiety of working with older adults and improving how people feel about their own aging,” she said. “It’s about seeing people as people. This isn’t some old person. This is my art partner.” 

VCU. Make it Real

Learn more about Gendron’s work.

The Division of Community Engagement provides resources and assistance for faculty on:

“Diversity is what makes this class great. They’ve realized we’ve always been one, and there really is no ‘other.’”

David Coogan, Ph.D., associate professor in the College of Humanities and Sciences and director of the Open Minds program
Learn more about Coogan’s work.

How Do You Spark Social Change through Writing?
Hold Your English Course in Jail

Kick-started by a Community Engagement Grant, David Coogan, associate professor in the College of Humanities and Sciences, developed the Open Minds program, which brings VCU students into the Richmond City Justice Center for a service-learning course.

On equal ground, students and jail residents participate in writing workshops to share their stories and perspectives.

“People who come through the program understand that they’ve just done something incredibly radical. They’ve assembled across the barriers – not only incarceration vs. freedom, but the so-called barriers of race, class, status, criminal history and gender and sexuality differences. They’ve managed to make a mockery of the idea that diversity is a problem. Diversity is what makes this class great. They’ve realized we’ve always been one, and there really is no ‘other.’”

VCU. Make it Real.

Learn more about Coogan’s work.

The Division of Community Engagement provides resources and assistance for faculty on:

“It’s crucial for all medical students to have an understanding of how the social context of a patient’s life impacts their health; I think if you don’t go out and engage in community, it’s really hard to understand that.”

Steve Crossman, M.D., associate professor in the Department of Family Medicine and Population Health
Learn more about Crossman’s work.

Access to Quality Medical Care
It Takes a Village

When Steve Crossman, M’95, was a student at VCU Medical School, he knew just one other student outside his medical classes and only because they went to undergrad together.

Now an associate professor in the Department of Family Medicine and Population Health, Crossman and his colleagues within the VCU Health System lead partnerships with free clinics in both Virginia and Honduras that allow teams of health sciences students to work together in clinical settings.

Doctors working with pharmacists; comparing notes with physical therapists; consulting with nurses; and collaborating with dentists. Exposing students to a model that sends a clear message: the only way to provide high quality primary care to underserved populations is to partner with each other.

VCU. Make it Real.

Learn more about Crossman’s work.

The Division of Community Engagement provides resources and assistance for faculty on:

Rosalie Corona working with a team

“My service is my research — the work I do is driven by the community.”

Rosalie Corona, Ph.D., associate professor in clinical psychology and director of the Latino Mental Health Clinic
Rosalie Corona Learn more about Corona’s work.

Promoting mental health in Richmond’s Latino community

In 2015, Rosalie Corona, Ph.D., facilitated a discussion with community partners about critical health issues in Richmond’s Latina/o community. A key finding? Not enough bilingual mental health providers and limited access to needed services.

She is now training 50 members of the Latina/o community to become mental health “first responders,” able to identify mental health symptoms and connect with services. These health workers will address the cultural stigmas related to mental health and decrease barriers to receiving assistance.

“For me, research, teaching and service are totally integrated. The impact of my scholarship is not just in journal publications, but rather how many people within the community have access to care.” A perfect example of that is her founding and directing the VCU Latina/o Mental Health Clinic, working with community partners and VCU psychology doctoral students to provide mental health services to the community.

Corona has partnered with some of the same community organizations for over a decade. These relationships began as a result of her connection with the Division of Community Engagement. “When I was brand new to VCU, Cathy Howard [vice provost of community engagement] heard about my research interests, and scheduled a meeting with various stakeholders. It was my first connection to the community, and it was the start of it all.”

Learn more about Corona’s work.

The Division of Community Engagement provides resources and assistance for faculty on:

“Engagement with the community is supported at high levels at this university, and it matters in being able to teach effectively and produce valuable scholarship.”

Meghan Gough, Ph.D., associate professor and chair of urban and regional studies in the Wilder School
Meghan Gough
Meghan Gough Learn more about Gough’s work.

Nontraditional partners empower citizens to improve community

Meghan Gough’s teaching and research focuses on how collaborative partnerships can affect local sustainability goals. In 2013, with the help of students in her Sustainable Community Development course, she worked with Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden, Richmond’s Sustainability Office and GroundworkRVA to launch Beautiful RVA, a coalition of public and private agencies, organizations and individuals dedicated to improving the quality of life in Richmond through landscape beautification and increased greenspaces.

Aided by a community engagement grant, the partnership aims to positively transform the urban landscape, build community pride, deter crime and promote social cohesion in communities.

“The key is empowering community members so they have the power to impact how their city develops and work to improve community conditions. A top-down approach will not work; people need to be part of a solution in order to take ownership of long-term community development approaches. For Beautiful RVA, the idea is that beauty shouldn’t be a luxury; it’s about making [spaces] attractive and accessible to diverse community needs and interests.”

All this work not only benefits community partners and students. Her research will also reach a wider audience through “Public Gardens and Community Revitalization: Partnerships for Social Change,” a book that will be published by Cornell University Press in 2017 that looks at different cities and how creative partnerships realize common community goals.

Learn more about Gough’s work.

The Division of Community Engagement provides resources and assistance for faculty on:

Kelechi C. Ogbonna with the community

“By getting out of the classroom we can teach in a venue that reflects where healthcare practice is going.”

Kelechi C. Ogbonna, Pharm.D., CGP, assistant professor, Department of Pharmacotherapy and Outcomes Science
Kelechi C. Ogbonna Learn more about Ogbonna’s work.

Groundbreaking health care model impacts health care education, supports research and provides quality care

It’s 8:30 a.m. when an interdisciplinary team of pharmacy, nursing, social work, medical and psychology service-learning students arrives at Dominion Place, a home for older adults near VCU’s Monroe Park campus.

Led by Kelechi “K.C.” Ogbonna, Pharm.D., CGP, in partnership with Pamela Parsons, clinical associate professor in the School of Nursing, the students and their professors will spend the day providing care coordination services to residents in a specially built clinic room on the first floor of the building.

“We’re really challenging how traditional health care is delivered. Instead of asking people to come to us, we’re bringing care to them. Members of the community are receiving access to quality care, we’re gaining valuable insight and data about whether enhanced care coordination decreases ER visitation and improves chronic conditions, and in the midst of all of it, we’re teaching.”

Started with a community engagement grant, the Richmond Health and Wellness Program was awarded a $1.5 million grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration. Three years in, the program operates in five residential buildings in Richmond and has served more than 450 community members. Approximately 550 students have taken part in the program, gaining insight into the social determinants of health within the context of where their patients live.

“When you can leverage your expertise to assist another human being, that’s true impact — that’s why I’m here at VCU.”

Learn more about Ogbonna’s work.

The Division of Community Engagement provides resources and assistance for faculty on:

“DCE has always been my support. They’ve been very beneficial, accessible and willing to help me implement something important in the community.”

— Rosalie Corona, Ph.D.

Ten years, immeasurable impact.

2006

 

346,526 student service hours

Now

 

1,462,854 student service hours

162%

increase

in the number of Service-Learning class sections

$1,000,600

in grants awarded from 2007-2017

Become a community-engaged scholar.

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