I had a good day yesterday – in some ways exemplary of what I’m trying to accomplish at UChicago in this era.
I ended my day at about 7PM by talking with some members of the NEURO Club about CPS, the University, local education, science in the schools, etc, in my capacity as the head of the Neighborhood Schools Program. They’re an on-campus club (mostly undergraduates) that hosts some neuro-science activities for high schoolers on campus throughout the year, and works with particular schools in the Spring Quarter to conduct some in-class activities. It was a good conversation. I think it’s important for University staffers to be accessible to students on their terms as much as possible. A big part of my experience as an undergraduate was about feeling like I had access to the staff and consequently understanding that the University wasn’t some nameless/faceless monolith. It’s key to try to provide something like that for today’s students (particularly in education/community engagement spaces).
Prior, my team at the Community Programs Accelerator met with the Graham School to discuss different approaches to the future development of our professional development series for nonprofit leaders. Our current series has been very well recieved and has had a very strong effect towards building a more vibrant ecosystems of community organizations that operate in the mid-south side. As we talk to the graham school – ultimately we’re hoping to be able to craft a certificate so that the organizations that participate can have an additional piece to show for it. We’re also intrigued by the possibilities of online or blended learning models, and thinking about organizational certification models down the road. The folks at the Graham School have been great thought partners in the initial steps of this.
Earlier, I met with Charles Payne, who is certainly one of the great UChicago Faculty of this era. I can’t help but recommend “So Much Reform, So Little Change” as one of the great education books. We talked about the IB Curriculum at CPS and the potential for some interesting programs with teachers, parents, and students. I’m lucky enough to have had a serious hiring committee that included senior faculty members like Charles Payne that brought me to my role at the Neighborhood Schools Program, and fortunate to have such an esteemed group as mentors and colleagues these past six years.
I’m going to gloss over the lunch I had w/ a colleague who is based out of Levi Hall. I heard some stories that I can only term as “palace intrigue” and am hopeful that people don’t really have the time for much of that nonsense. Fortunately, it’s not something that I have to deal much with.
Before lunch, I was able to catch an hour of the “Habitat3” New Urban Agenda program that the Office of Federal Relations, Civic Engagement, and the new UChicago Urban hosted at UChicago. “Learning from the City” was the formal name. Programs like this were formerly the province of a handful of think tanks, but it’s now clear that UChicago (and I’d guess other Universities) will be heavily invested in the developing global urban agenda and related programming going forward. Really fascinating potential. The part of the session that I was in attendence for had a focus on systemic approaches to combatting homelessness. It was a “solutions oriented” talk with had an upbeat quality, a nice change of pace (even if not entirely believably so) from the usual lamentation about the resource deficits that we face in the social sector.
I started off the day with a 3 hour block of email. 7:30am to 10:30am. So much of our work is done over email – students, faculty, staff, community partners, etc — it’s almost overwhelming sometimes when one stops to ponder the pure volume of the email we deal with. One can never be “caught up” – but, ultimately, it’s one of the easiest ways to create accessibility and build relationships, so it’s an inextricable part of the work.