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University Supports Community Partnership Projects

By Erin Garrett

University of Mississippi

One of the Community Engaged Partnership Development Fund grants awarded this year aims to expand marketing efforts for farmers markets hosted at the university in partnership with the Oxford Community Market organization. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

The University of Mississippi has awarded funding to six projects aimed at increasing collaboration between the institution and the Lafayette County and Oxford communities. 

The Community Engaged Partnership Development Fund grants are awarded by the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement and support the UM Empower Now strategic plan. 

“Providing these grants allows us to support and recognize a wide variety of collaborative projects and move them toward goals that will ultimately benefit both the university and community,” said Castel Sweet, director of community engagement and assistant professor of practice in community engagement.

The fund provides up to $1,000 to support projects proposed by Ole Miss faculty, staff and students. The partnerships may include aspects such as outreach, consulting and shared leadership among university and community members.

Ryan Parsons, assistant professor of Southern studies and sociology, has received an award to work with the Emmett Till Interpretive Center in Sumner to design oral history projects. The oral histories will be related to the memory of Emmett Till and his family.

“The ETIC has been at the forefront of preserving and sharing public history in the Mississippi Delta, and I’m excited to work with them to strengthen their connection to the university,” Parsons said. “This semester, I’ll be working with students in S St 560: Oral Histories of Southern Social Movements, to design some pilot projects in Tallahatchie and surrounding counties.”

Parsons anticipates that the work will expand to assist other ETIC partners. In the past, the center has hosted a documentary and filmmaking camp for high school students. Parsons hopes that these students will be able to help film their interviews. 

“The Community Partnership Development Fund grant gives the ETIC and me the flexibility to test out innovative collaborations like this,” he said. “I’m appreciative of the Division for Diversity and Community Engagement’s willingness to help us rethink what our relationship with Mississippi communities looks like.”

Other new projects supported by the Community Engaged Partnership Development Fund and their awardees are:

  • “Whipping Up Good Health,” awarded to Teresa Johnson, pharmacy administration research associate, will develop youth nutritional education activities with a variety of community partners such as the Boys & Girls Club, Chicory Market and Oxford High School.
  • “The Movement Starts Here,” awarded to Melanie Ho, producer-director and adjunct assistant professor of the Southern Documentary Project, consists of screening a feature-length documentary that focuses on the birth of the environmental justice movement.
  • “Building a SAFE Community,” awarded to Joshua Semko, a fourth-year student in the clinical psychology doctoral program from Valencia, California, will build a partnership between the university’s Clinical Disaster Research Center and the Shelter and Assistance in Family Emergencies Inc. organization, which assists individuals affected by domestic violence, sexual violence and homelessness.
  • “OXCM Flower of Life Volunteer Squad,” awarded to Jackson McArthur, junior international studies student from Ocean Springs, will strengthen a student-led group that focuses on community building and assistance through Oxford Community Market activities.
  • “OXCM Campus Farmers Market,” awarded to Kathryn Kidd, Office of Sustainability project manager, aims to expand marketing efforts for farmers markets hosted at the university in partnership with the Oxford Community Market organization.

This is the second round of grants that the Community Engaged Partnership Development Fund has awarded since its inception. 

“The fund was developed to help partnerships that are at the beginning stages because doing work together is key to creating long-lasting, mutually beneficial and, hopefully, transformative work,” said Avery McNeece, assistant director for community partnerships in the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement’s Center for Community Engagement. 

“The funding helps them carry thoughts and plans into actions.”

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