The Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) has selected UMBC as one of 10 institutions nationwide to participate in a bold, new initiative designed to “educate, prepare, and inspire the next generation of leaders to advance justice and build equitable communities.”

Participating colleges and universities will establish Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation (TRHT) Campus Centers to engage campus and community stakeholders around issues impacting racial equity, such as conscious and unconscious bias. AAC&U President Lynn Pasquerella shares that this is the first piece of a broader vision “to ensure that higher education is playing a leadership role in promoting racial and social justice” through a future national network of 150 such centers.

Frank Anderson, assistant director of The Choice Program at UMBC, coordinated UMBC’s TRHT proposal, with support from Zeevelle Nottingham-Lemon, associate director. The Choice Program has served more than 25,000 youth from Maryland’s most underserved communities for nearly 30 years, providing 24/7 wrap-around support. The program is based in UMBC’s Shriver Center, which works to realize the vision of Eunice Kennedy Shriver and Sargent Shriver to mobilize higher education to confront and solve major challenges facing urban America today.

“The Shriver Center’s Choice Program at UMBC recognizes that now, more than ever, there exists a need to create platforms for Baltimore City youth, UMBC service-learners, and our communities to voice their truth about systemic racism, and to seek opportunities for transformation,” says Anderson.

UMBC’s proposal focuses on the Shriver Center’s service-learning and community engagement work with youth, artists, advocates, and community-serving organizations in and around Baltimore. It also incorporates plans for youth-led community conversations, at UMBC and in Baltimore, around racial equality and transformation. The $30,000 AAC&U grant will support The Choice Program’s Youth in Action group, which unites students and service-learners at UMBC with youth in Baltimore through art and social justice, and college night programming for Baltimore City school students, among other activities.

The UMBC TRHT Campus Center team includes Eric Ford, associate director of the Choice Program; Beverly Bickel M.A. ’94 IDS, Ph.D. ’05, LLC, clinical associate professor of language literacy and culture; Keisha Allen, assistant professor of education; Charlotte Keniston M.F.A. ’14 IMDA, associate director of the Peaceworker Program; and Eloise Grose, program coordinator for service-learning in the Shriver Center, in addition to Anderson and Nottingham-Lemon.

— Dinah Winnick

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