In upcoming editions of Engaging U, we will feature University of Minnesota engagement units and centers. If you have suggestions for upcoming profiles, please contact Amber Cameron at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For this Engaging U spotlight, we meet Will Craig, Associate Director for the Center for Urban and Regional Affairs (CURA). In the interview below, Craig provides highlights of his office’s engagement work in the surrounding communities.
Describe the work of your office.
CURA is an all-University Center working to connect University faculty and students with the community for the benefit of both. We do this primarily by supporting applied University research projects and providing technical assistance to community organizations. Last year we supported 71 research projects involving faculty and graduate students from 12 different colleges and over 30 different departments and units. For details, see our recent Annual Report.
What is unique about CURA's work?
That’s tough, because it’s hard to choose, but I’m going to focus on our Community-Based Research projects because they are unique. Each semester we issue a Request for Proposal (RFP) to community organizations, asking them to outline a research project that could help them achieve their mission. Winners are awarded 10 hrs/week of graduate student time for a full semester–195 hours. CURA works with the community organization to develop a job description, which is posted on the University website. Students apply directly to the community, and they pick the student that best suits their needs. We pay the student and publish the final report so other community organizations can benefit from it.
What kinds of outcomes do you expect?
CURA hopes that our community partners get a report that helps them advance their mission. Typically, the project helps them frame an issue or take action on an issue they already understand. In the process, we want them to grow their social capital. An example:
- An early project in the Elliot Park and Loring Park neighborhoods of Minneapolis identified restorative justice as a way to combat nuisance crimes, a project that eventually convinced the courts to adopt this approach.
CURA expects most students working on projects such as this grow intellectually and professionally. Many individuals extolled their community-engaged experience, saying it was a highlight of their professional development.
For faculty projects, we expect an article in our CURA Reporter newsletter focused on issues relevant to the Minnesota public, including policy recommendations. We also expect them to turn their community-engaged work into professional publications that share the knowledge they have gained with the scientific community.
For more information on CURA and their engagement work visit: www.cura.umn.edu.
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