Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Artist Within Us...the stories within us!

The University’s Urban Research and Outreach Engagement Center (UROC) is entering a new phase of growth and development in its permanent new building at 2001 Plymouth Avenue North, Minneapolis.
Senior Vice President Robert Jones and an interim leadership team are working to expand UROC's community-university partnerships, building on an earlier
strategic planning process that involved many residents and organizations of North Minneapolis. The goal is to advance the University's commitment to North Minneapolis and urban communities by building sustainable programs that are responsive to community needs and that maximize the resources and assets of the University and all of its community partners.
A formal search for a permanent UROC director is planned by the end of the year. In the interim, Jones and the leadership team are working to identify gaps in UROC programming; broaden engagement of University faculty in UROC-based teaching, research, and outreach; and pursue opportunities for innovative partnerships that address critical challenges in North Minneapolis and create models for other challenged urban communities.
The team will continue to promote ongoing engagement with the people, organizations, and communities of North Minneapolis. This includes regular monthly meetings of the
University Northside Partnership Community Affairs Committee as a forum for hearing ideas and concerns.
UROC History
The development of the University of Minnesota Urban Research and Outreach/Engagement Center began in 2005 as a result of informal conversations between Mayor R.T. Rybak and University President Bob Bruininks about how the University might join with the city to tackle the complex problems that faced North Minneapolis, one of the most underserved communities in the metro area.
This coincided with the University’s recruitment of Dante Cicchetti, a world-renowned expert who conducts groundbreaking work on family mental health aimed at reversing the negative effects of poverty, neglect, and other problems facing impoverished communities (including helping families avoid out-of-home placement of children into foster care). Cicchetti went on to to hold an endowed chair in the College of Education and Community Development but without direct connection to UROC. For a time, however, community interest in—and debate about—his work (see related
FAQ for the University Northside Partnership, PDF format) spurred a vigorous process of community engagement that would prove important to UROC's development. In focus groups and community meetings, varied constituents in North Minneapolis participated in wide-ranging dialogues as well as formal votes. Representatives from the City of Minneapolis and Hennepin County joined these discussions.
In 2006, Senior Vice President Jones oversaw the creation of the
University Northside Partnership as the convening mechanism to bring together community organizations based in North Minneapolis, city and county representatives, faith-based leaders, and University faculty and staff. The goal was a broad-based partnership to build stronger and healthier neighborhoods—a partnership that would build on existing community assets, tie together community and university expertise and resources, and leverage these efforts with city and county services and resources to realize a strong urban vision of community revitalization.
Towards the end of 2006, building on the foundation of the University Northside Partnership, Senior Vice President Robert Jones led the University's development of the Urban Research and Outreach/Engagement Center (UROC) as the interface between the University and community to achieve community-identified goals.
UROC increases the University’s ability to respond to repeated requests from North Minneapolis that the University facilitate collaborative projects, make its research and services more accessible, and allow for a more productive sharing of expertise and resources among community residents and organizations and University faculty, staff, and students. This direction is consistent with the suggestions and recommendations that emerged from the University’s Urban Agenda Taskforce Report.
Since 2006, the University has invested almost $200,000 in the
Northside Seed Grant Program, administered by the Center for Urban and Regional Affairs (CURA), to support proposals from community organizations that operate programs that serve residents of the Northside community. The grants provide student research assistants and faculty researchers to carry out neighborhood-initiated and neighborhood-guided projects.
In November 2007, UROC’s first executive director, Irma McClaurin, was hired. The final transactions to secure the former shopping center at 2001 Plymouth Avenue N. as UROC’s home were completed in February 2008. The building opened its doors in October 2009, with a grand opening in May 2010. UROC continues to be led by Senior Vice President Jones as well as the interim leadership team he appointed in spring 2010.
UROC's mission is to link the University of Minnesota in vital public partnership with urban communities to advance learning, improve quality of life, and discover breakthrough solutions to critical problems.The UROC building provides University faculty and staff with office space in North Minneapolis for collaborative outreach and research programs reflecting community-identified priorities in the areas of education and training, family and community health, and economic development. Programs work toward specific goals in areas such as early childhood education, health disparities, health career development, youth development through the arts, youth development, nutrition, and other areas.
The Business and Technology Center (B-Tech), which received a $300,000 Empowerment Zone grant from the city to support programs for youth entrepreneurs, serves as a business incubator, provides technical assistance and support for Northside business and nonprofits, and helps to coordinate the UROC-based Broadband Access Project, a $3.6-million University of Minnesota initiative to close the digital divide.
UROC's initial development reflects a substantial financial commitment from the University. It also reflects funding from the federal Fund for the Improvement of Post-Secondary Education (FIPSE) over three years to document the process of community engagement around the themes of out-of-school time, healthy foods, and youth entrepreneurship. A $750,000 FIPSE grant served as the jumpstart to make UROC a reality.
Multipurpose space in the UROC collaborative research facility provides opportunities for other University services and community organizations to work and carry out programming on the Northside. As UROC’s building and programs take shape, a variety of initiatives and projects at the University and in neighborhoods are coalescing among community participants and University faculty and staff.
The Urban Research and Outreach/Engagement Center now anchors the University’s commitment to working in close partnership with the community to discover solutions to complex urban issues. Over the long term, the University of Minnesota envisions UROC as an anchor for thriving, innovative, and respectful collaborations that create a healthy and vibrant North Minneapolis, build new models of urban community development, and strengthen the University of Minnesota as a vitally engaged 21st-century university serving the public good.
Hawona Sullivan Janzen
Gallery Curator and Special Projects Coordinator
Urban Research & Outreach/Engagement Center
2001 Plymouth Avenue North Minneapolis MN 55411
private phone & fax: 612-626-1526
mobile phone: (612) 386-5268

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