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Center For Community Engagement & Service Learning Highlights A Momentous Month

The Center for Community Engagement & Service Learning (CCESL) is always bustling with activity, but last month proved to be spectacularly busy – and productive – for everyone.

The Center hosted two signature events that demonstrated the work taking place on campus and in the field, underscoring the power of UHD students making an impact through their community endeavors.

March 2: Community Engagement Showcase

Nearly 100 faculty, staff, and community partners gathered to celebrate the diversity of community-engaged, experimental learning during CCESL’s annual Community Engagement Showcase, which spanned diverse curricular and co-curricular settings while exemplifying the students’ and the Center’s positive social impact.

“It was wonderful to connect, learn, and reflect on the service and projects completed by our trailblazing Gators this past year in person once again. In addition to the inspiring presentations, the event provided a space for students, faculty, staff, and community partners to network and foster future connections,” said Caroline Smith, the Associate Director of CCESL. “Strong and vibrant communities depend on the contributions of individuals and groups committed to improving the world around them. I’m so proud of those in our UHD Community who have pledged to help make this difference.”

President Loren J. Blanchard kicked off the showcase by introducing the current Newman Civic Fellow, Miguel Garcia, followed by the keynote speaker and community activist Angelica Jones, who passionately spoke about her journey, experiences, and service projects. Garcia is a senior Psychology major, and Jones is an undergraduate alumna and current graduate student.

In the later portion of the showcase, Lecturer of Social Work Dr. Angela Goins articulated her work with service learning and the students’ shift from face-to-face to virtual interactions during the height of the pandemic. Seniors Gladys Chan and Claudia Vega and graduate student Steven Benson encouraged others to take action through involvement about participating in Community Engagement Grant Projects.

Attendees were able to browse research posters by students and faculty and watch a video by junior Odalis Uriostegui and seniors Gabriela Medina-Torres and Allison Martinez Nolasco – who expressed their meaningful experiences with the Community Engagement Internship Program. The showcase closed with seniors Carlos Huerta-Enciso and Paloma Esparza-Guerra discussing their experience with the Community Scholars Program.

Community Engagement Showcase Poster Presentations:

  • “Using Therapeutic Chinese Massage to Treat Peripheral Neuropathy in People with HIV in Houston” by Song Ge, Linda Dune, Caiyi Liu, Xin Ming, Carlota Sweeney, Lucy Ndubuisi
  • “Project Big Hope & Camp Champions” by Greg Ige
  • “Understanding Health Disparities in Ethnic Communities” by Ursela Whetstone Knox
  • “Finding Hope" by Vincent J. McCauley, Advisor: Dr. Judith Harris
  • “Effect of Meditation on Brain Training” by Myo W. Thane, Jaskiran Sur, Deisharrah Allen-Benson, Anh Do, Advisor: Dr. Hong Lin

March 23 - 25: Gulf South Summit

The 2022 Gulf South Summit (GSS) on Service Learning & Civic Engagement featured alumni, students, staff, and faculty leading the way.

Since 2003, the summit has been one of the premier conferences on service-learning and community engagement in higher education in the United States. The mission of the summit is to promote networking among practitioners, research, ethical practices, reciprocal campus-community partnerships, sustainable programs, and a culture of engagement and public awareness through service-learning, and other forms of civic engagement.

“Collectively, we were able to explore what community resilience means and how it can be fostered and sustained across diverse populations,” noted Smith. “As a member institution, it’s rewarding to see UHD represented by so many dedicated individuals who continually strive to improve our communities.”

In Goins’ presentation, “Decreasing Isolation and Loneliness in Older Adults in a Post-Pandemic: One Service-Learning Solution,” she spoke about work performed by students to mitigate the pandemic’s social effects on Houston’s elderly population.

Chan, a Health & Behavioral Science major, and Vega, an International Business, led a presentation focused on combating the stigma on mental health through community engagement.

In honor of the late Dr. Hamida Qavi, Lecturer of Chemistry in the College of Sciences & Technology, UHD alumna Mays Al-Maliki and senior Meheret Tadesse, both Chemistry majors, presented their experience in Dr. Qavi’s service-learning course, where they worked on a project focused on improving community resiliency by combating the ill effects of drug usage among high school students.

Poster presenters included Garcia, who spoke on the topic of climate migration, and CCESL Associate Director Smith demonstrated how UHD Community Scholars serve as agents of change by learning and growing within the community.

For more information about the Center for Community Engagement & Service Learning, visit the Center’s webpage.

About The University of Houston-Downtown

The University of Houston-Downtown (UHD) is the second-largest university in Houston and has served the educational needs of the nation’s fourth-largest city since 1974. As one of four distinct public universities in the University of Houston System, UHD is a comprehensive, four-year university led by President Loren J. Blanchard. Annually, UHD educates approximately 14,000 students, boasts more than 66,000 alumni, and offers 45 bachelor’s degrees, 12 master’s degrees, and 19 online programs within four colleges: Marilyn Davies College of Business, College of Humanities and Social Sciences, College of Public Service, and College of Sciences and Technology. UHD has one of the lowest tuition rates in Texas.

U.S. News and World Report ranked UHD among the nation’s Best Online Bachelor’s Programs for Applied Administration and Best Online Master’s Programs in Criminal Justice, as well as a Top Performer in Social Mobility. The Wall Street Journal/College Pulse ranked UHD one of the best colleges in the U.S. for its 2024 rankings, with notable distinctions: No. 1 for diversity (tied) and No. 3 for student experience. The University is designated as a Hispanic-Serving Institution, a Minority-Serving Institution, and a Military Friendly School. For more information on the University of Houston-Downtown, visit uhd.edu.