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CSC program fosters community involvement

Catherine Owers | Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The Center for Social Concerns is partnering with the College of Engineering and College of Science to provide research opportunities in the local community for faculty and students.

Alisa Zornig has been appointed coordinator for academic community engagement, specific to the Colleges of Science and Engineering.

“The Center for Social Concerns had some resources for community-based learning and community-based research courses, and the Colleges of Science and Engineering had the desire to spread those opportunities to students in those disciplines,” Zornig said. “My position helps to connect faculty with community partners in order to offer opportunities for undergraduate students to engage in the community.”

Zornig said the research projects will be driven by faculty interests.

“They’ll come to me with an idea for collaborating in the community and I’ll seek out and find what organizations will really fit their research interests,” she said.

 Zornig added that the University would like to enhance the opportunities for faculty who want to work in the community.

“There’s a nice framework already, and this is an expansion of that framework,” she said.

Additionally, the partnership will be helpful to newer faculty members who are not familiar with local partnerships and possibilities, she said. 

” [Faculty can find] what we have to offer as a community, where they can go to work and find others who have similar interests, and can really collaborate to expand the dissemination of their research, and bring educational opportunities to those who might not have them,” Zornig said.  “I’m the liaison, making the connection for them in the community.

“I’m also meeting with faculty already engaged in the community to find out what we already have established and to find out how people might be able to connect or assist in programs that are already ongoing with our students and our faculty.”

Current partners include local nonprofits, as well as schools in the area, Zornig said.

“We have research experience for teachers programs that bring in area high school teachers,” she said. “They work with faculty on campus in research labs and develop curricula that they can take back to their classrooms, so it really helps with the education of their students, and they get the research experience in the labs.”

Zornig emphasized the partnership is a “reciprocal approach.”

“We want to fit the faculty and the students and the organizations in a way that all benefit, specific to the faculty member’s research interests and the students’ learning interest, as well,” she said. “One of the neat things that I really like about this position, is that I get to meet with community partners and talk to them about where they might like to expand, where there are opportunities for science and engineering students.”