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Community Engagement

Community Engagement Current Projects:

Completing a 300-hour practicum placement in a community-engaged setting is one of the core requirements for students in the Community Development & Action (CDA) master’s degree program. Since CDA’s inception, 73 students have spent over 21,000 hours in more than 35 locations. The organizations that partner with CDA to provide practicum experiences for CDA students contribute staff time, space, and resources to support students as they learn and develop professional skills in an applied setting. In return, these organizations benefit from the many passions and talents of CDA students.

Below is a small sample of current CDA student engagement with community organizations in Nashville:

Amy Campbell-CDA is currently interning at Monroe Harding, Inc. and has been there since August 2013. Monroe Harding seeks to provide children, youth, and young adults in and recently emancipated from state custody with support, security, and a chance at success. During her time at Monroe Harding, Amy has assisted by researching possible new programs, serving on the committee that plans their yearly fundraiser, and working with the Development team to help organize and implement a silent auction for that fundraiser.

Caitlin Nossett-CDA worked with Project Return during the summer of 2013 to develop a new fundraising strategy. Project Return is a nonprofit organization committed to providing services and connecting people with resources needed to return successfully to work and community after incarceration. For her final project, Caitlin is creating ways for Project Return to interact with the community and engage broad-based support to accomplish its mission.

Rebecca Abramson-CDA is working for the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at Vanderbilt which provides adults aged fifty and older with educational programs, stimulating tours, trips and cultural activities and events. She has been working with OLLI at Vanderbilt since January 2013 and has done a number of things including conducting research, creating marketing materials and running an advisory committee of composed of community members. She is doing her final project with OLLI at Vanderbilt which will create a structure to have member peer-led groups and increase volunteerism within the program.

Jillian Watral-CDA is working for Tennessee Voices for Children (TVC), an organization that speaks out as active advocates for the emotional and behavioral well-being of children and their families. She has been working with TVC for just shy of a year, and during this time, she has worked on marketing projects, statewide conference planning, fundraisers, an original documentary release, and the TeenScreen mental health risk screen program. Jill is completing her master's final project with TVC through a series of workshops that aims to provide TVC's management team with information on group development skills and conflict management tactics.

Jessica Barfield-CDA is working for You Have the Power, Inc. (YHTP). YHTP educates, advocates and empowers people and communities who are impacted by violent crime, which includes teaching Victim impact classes to offenders in state prisons. Jessica has been working with YHTP for 3 months and during that time has written a grant proposal, built a database, input questionnaire & survey information into that database, visited a local prison to shadow a victim impact class, and volunteered at a victim advocacy walk. Jessica is completing her final project with YHTP, which is analyzing the current victim impact class data and building program evaluation capacity within the organization.

CRA Projects:

Community Mental Health Stigma Project (A. Mann-CRA)
An HOD faculty-and-student research team is currently collaborating with two Vanderbilt University primary care clinics to examine stigma towards children with emotional and behavioral disorders. Dr. Craig Anne Heflinger (HOD faculty) and CRA student Abbey Mann, M.S. are working with Dr. Lynn Walker (Director, Vanderbilt University Adolescent and Young Adult Medicine) and Dr. Rachel Mace (Associate Professor of Pediatrics, Vanderbilt University) to gather information about children’s mental health stigma. Parents of children visiting one of two clinics at One Hundred Oaks in Nashville, TN are being surveyed about their perceptions of personal and community-based stigma towards children with emotional and behavioral disorders. This study builds on previous research on this topic that was conducted in a rural county of TN. With these new data, researchers will be able to examine differences in perceptions of stigmatized attitudes, ideas, and beliefs by location and will be able to provide information about stigma towards children with mental health issues to local health and mental health care professionals.

Nashville Refugee Health Survey Project (L. Lunn-CRA)
The Nashville Refugee Health Survey represents a partnership between the Center for Refugees and Immigrants of Tennessee and Vanderbilt University to learn more about the health of refugees living in Nashville. Two of the largest resettled groups were chosen for participation in this mixed methods pilot study - those from Iraq and those from Somalia. We aim to (a) provide both descriptive information about the health status and needs of these groups that can be used to inform the design of services, and (b) to contribute to knowledge about health and its correlates that can inform the broader academic literature about refugees and the social determinants of health. Survey data from 275 refugees have been collected, with topics including health status, health service use, life stressors, and others. In addition, four focus groups with Somali refugees have been conducted (with plans to conduct additional focus groups with Iraqi refugees). The focus groups will generate qualitative data about cultural differences in the understanding of health, issues of adjustment to life in the United States, appropriate ways to interpret the survey data that were collected, and practical suggestions for enhancement of services provided to refugees in the Nashville community. Numerous local organizations and volunteers have contributed to the development and execution of this study, led by CRA student Laurel Lunn and CDA graduate Marielle Lovecchio, with support from faculty member Craig Anne Heflinger.

MentorsCommunity Engagement News

Vanderbilt researchers collaborate on $31 million housing grant
for Nashville neighborhoods

Housing experts and researchers affiliated with HOD Community Engagement collaborated with local development and housing agencies on a grant proposal that won federal funding to help repopulate and rebuild distressed neighborhoods in four targeted areas. The grant was the only one given in Tennessee.

Read the story

Study shows age and occupation put workers at risk
for less health care coverage at work

A new survey report – Tennessee’s Small Businesses and Factors Influencing Health Insurance Coverage – shows that Tennessee service industry workers, the young and part-time employees are at higher risk of not having access to health care coverage through their employers. The survey was conducted by Vanderbilt Peabody College researchers and the Tennessee Small Business Coalition.

Read the full report

Read the press release


In Summary:

The challenges facing modern society are immense. Homelessness, ineffective schools, youth violence, inadequate health care and distressed families are just a few of the problems that exact a high societal cost -- in actual dollars and in lost human potential -- as people struggle to overcome obstacles and become contributing members of society.

Community Engagement in HOD brings together academic researchers with community partners to critically evaluate these pressing problems with the goal of supporting and promoting positive human, social and economic development. Our goal is two-fold: to support social inclusion, social justice and human flourishing, and to develop new theories and bodies of knowledge that will inform this mission.

Department experts work with government agencies, non-profit organizations, private sector partners and grass-roots groups to define and address major societal challenges, providing objective analyses grounded in current research and best practices. As such, they serve as a ready institutional resource for community partners from the first steps of identifying problems and strengths through the final phase of evaluating the effectiveness of new policies, practices and initiatives.