Symposium Encourages Graduate Student Researchers

Symposium Encourages Graduate Student Researchers


Attending the 5th Annual Cincinnati Project Symposium was very rewarding. As a graduate student, I had never presented at or attended a symposium before, so I didn’t quite know what to expect. I thought we would discuss research that I might find interesting, but didn’t expect the discussions to be as engaging as they were.

Presenting at the symposium

As my turn to present my research approached, I decided to ditch the standard PowerPoint slides. I have never given a presentation without a PowerPoint before, and I’m usually a nervous wreck even with the slides as backup. However, the symposium made me feel comfortable enough to just speak. I talked about the work I have done over the previous year with Learning Through Art, Inc. and how much I gained from the experience. I told the audience about the opportunities I was afforded after working with The Cincinnati Project, and how I’m now working on my dissertation. Everyone seemed interested and engaged like we were among a community of like-minded individuals who just wanted to catch up. After I wrapped up, one woman even asked me how my dissertation was going! I remember sitting down with all nervousness gone waiting for the next group, eager to hear the next presentations.

As soon as the first panel began discussing their topic on absolute objectivity in research being impossible, I was glued to my chair. The panelists from disparate fields, only one from my home department of psychology. Because they were very passionate and engaging, they drew me in. I am a scientist by trade, so it is likely that any discussion of scientific matters would interest me. However, few conversations address my inner activist that is so near-and-dear to my heart given my minority status. I had been a member of activist organizations in the area, but never found a place where I could bring my skill-set and really make a difference. The next panel on scholarly-activism showed me that it was not only possible, but there was a group of women who did just that. I was intrigued to hear of the plights of scientists who aim to improve conditions for the disenfranchised and how the mechanisms through which research is funded sometimes stymie their efforts. It was a very enlightening discussion that left me energized to pursue research projects that uncover injustices and demand social and political action.

The topics of the symposium were very timely, and I am grateful for the opportunity to have attended and presented. Weeks later, I am still thinking of those topics and looking for ways to put those thoughts into action. 

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Reflections on Past Symposia

Reflections on Past Symposia


As we look forward to the symposium on March 1, I have been reflecting on the lessons from prior symposia. Last year, Yvette Simpson gave the keynote address. She explained that the journey to justice is neither a sprint nor a marathon. Instead, it is a relay in which we work with others to achieve our goals. Different people will carry the baton at various points in the journey. Her point resonates on many levels. For The Cincinnati Project, it reminds us that we have a specific role to play in our city. We should take the baton when the particular skills and resources of a university are needed. Others can rest and regroup knowing that they can rely on us for our part. We’re pleased to be trusted to help move the team forward.

Other important lessons have come from symposia. Two years ago, Patricia Hill Collins attended the conference as the keynote speaker. She responded to a presentation by asking how the UC researchers understand and manage their expertise and the expertise of the community members with whom they work. The discussion that followed was valuable, but time was too short to fully address the multiple layers of the question. It inspired us to organize a panel the following year entitled, “Power, Progress, and Partnerships” in which we spent an hour engaging with these questions. Christina Brown moderated a panel that included Iris Roley, Jeniece Jones, Shaunak Sastry, Farrah Jacquez, and Brian Calfano. Representing a variety of points of view, the panelists discussed how they manage power differences, which may change at different points in a project, and come together for a successful outcome.

I look forward to the lessons of this year’s symposium. We will hear from undergraduate students, graduate students, faculty, and community activists. A panel will discuss objectivity and scholar-activist work; another will describe partnerships from first meeting to policy change; we will hear about completed research projects; and we will conclude with a call to action from women of color who are activists in Cincinnati. Their call follows a year of The Cincinnati Project amplifying the voices of women of color in Cincinnati with the exhibit “What Is and What Can Be: Women of Color and the Struggle for Justice in Cincinnati.” (The exhibit will be on display in TUC in the two weeks before the symposium. Check it out!)

Please join us for this year’s symposium. We are grateful for the lessons of each year’s symposium. We look forward to the insights that emerge this year.

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Undergraduate Students Engage Community-Oriented Policing

Undergraduate Students Engage Community-Oriented Policing


One of the challenges for a university situated in the heart of an urban area is to help students see themselves as part of the larger community, not just as consumers or people who are just passing through. This is particularly true in a place like the university of Cincinnati, whose size and footprint play a big role in the decision making of the city in terms of resources, attention, and development. The Cincinnati Project helps to foster connections among UC researchers, students, and community organizations throughout the tri-state. I wanted to give my students experience with community engaged research and the project provided a perfect opportunity to give them a set of real-world applications for the topics we were studying in class.

I taught an introduction to Public Administration class for about 25 undergraduate students in the fall of 2017. Public Administration’s goal is to train students who can think practically about managing the public sector and serving citizens in administrative government. Sometimes, however, it is hard for students to see the real implications for our theoretical conversations. By partnering with the Greater Cincinnati Urban League, my students were not only able to see the practical implications of their theoretical knowledge, but were able to see how a non-profit community organization can directly benefit from the efforts of community-engaged college students.

The project the Greater Cincinnati Urban League tasked us with was to better understand the efforts of other cities in creating cultures of community-oriented policing. The city of Cincinnati and its police department operate under a collaborative agreement, a negotiated set of rules and practices designed to help the city and police department more equitably address crime and its prevention in a city with a history of racial tension and even violence. Because the collaborative agreement was not a court order, it can be amended by the community. The city of Cincinnati entered into conversations with stake-holders to “refresh” the agreement in 2017 and my PA students helped to provide some of the background information for the Greater Cincinnati Urban League, a primary stake-holder in these conversations.

Students spent the semester completing group research projects into the community-policing philosophy, infrastructure, actors, and outcomes in cities across the country, including Cleveland, Boston, Baltimore, Philadelphia, and Seattle. Based on the Arnstein “Ladder of Community Engagement,” students evaluated the participation of citizens in community policing and police decision-making. They used information and narratives – and even some personal interviews – with stake-holders involved in these efforts to evaluate the plans and how police, city leaders, and community members and organizations responded to these plans and their outcomes. Students presented their findings to Dorothy Smoot, executive director of the Urban League’s Community Police Partnering Center and several other leaders of the Greater Cincinnati Urban League, leading the League to request more in-depth research on some of these cities’ plans and experiences.

Students in the class not only enjoyed the project and the opportunity to contribute practically to the city of Cincinnati, but several expressed interest in pursuing these types of issues, through a Public Administration degree or other avenue, in their careers after college. Several students made presentations about their work and experience to The Cincinnati Project Symposium in March of 2018. They demonstrated to other community partners how engaged and enthusiastic students could be in serving community needs and helping to solve problems for the city in which the students now feel much more embedded. We were happy to provide useful information for the Urban League, but perhaps even more important for the future of Cincinnati, we have demonstrated to both students and community partners that undergraduates can be drawn into the life of the city and offer their unique contributions to the well-being of the community beyond the University.


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UC Students Evaluate Program & Have Fun!

UC Students Evaluate Program & Have Fun!


Dr. Sara Williams, Scott Stoll, Dr. Farrah Jacquez, Dr. Carlie Trott, and a group of 14 University of Cincinnati students partnered with Parker Woods Montessori to implement and assess Dream It! A Playbook to Spark Your Awesomeness. The Dream It! Playbook was created by Dr. Sara Williams and Scott Stoll with the intention to teach children to become more aware of their dreaming capabilities. The goal of the UC student facilitators was to collect data from the participants from Parker Woods Montessori and track their dreaming progress through a pre/post survey, each chapter of the Dream It! Playbook, and a survey made specifically for this study. The study occurred over a nine-week period. Each week, throughout each meeting and chapter covered, we saw growth in mindset and hopefulness in most participants.

University of Cincinnati facilitator, Zoe Brown, poses with her token of appreciation made for her by a student in her group.

Having not worked with kids before, I had no idea what to expect. I remember being nervous before walking in on the first day of facilitating, but having that feeling be replaced by excitement as soon as I entered the room. All of the kids were happy to see us and to begin the Dream It! Playbook.

By the end of the program, each child in my group would volunteer to read out loud, which was something they struggled with in the beginning. They were always open to sharing their thoughts and dreams with the group. A lot had changed since the first day, for them and for me. After working together for nine weeks, a bond had been formed. On the last day of facilitating, one of my students told me she “wished she could put me in her pocket, so I could always go to school with her.”

The book’s authors, student facilitators, and professors after their Dream It! presentation at Parker Woods Montessori.

When presented with the course description a couple weeks before starting, I hesitated. Looking back now, I feel lucky to have been a part of this amazing study. Through this, I was able to work alongside many passionate people who all had the goal of supporting the children’s development. Working collaboratively on this created many great friendships and memories. I will always be grateful for this experience, the people I met along the way, and the impact it had at Parker Woods Montessori.

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How to Make More of an Impact


Every semester, my public relations students and I work with numerous local organizations. Sometimes, those organizations are start-ups or small businesses. Most of the time, however, they are local non-profit organizations. The non-profits, without fail, have inspiring goals. They serve the homeless, the hungry, the impoverished, and the vulnerable. As I speak with the leaders of those local agencies, I am awed by their missions. They are passionate about doing good. They invest countless hours and all their resources in their mission.

However, no matter how inspired their mission, no matter how ceaseless their efforts, these organizations share a common struggle. This is a common challenge, faced by every cause-driven organization, and it boils down to two key questions. How do we inspire people to care? And once we inspire them to care, how do we inspire them to act?

Because I hear these questions frequently, I created a simple infographic (attached) to help organizations think through their connection and communication needs. If your organization is considering how to motivate the community, read on.

The first step is to assess how aware people are of your organization. Creating a positive and widely recognizable brand is key here. The second step is to strengthen your organization’s reputation. Here, it is important to assess what people think about your organization, and to communicate your organization’s unique value to the community.

Once the larger community knows about your organization and you have established a strong reputation, consider your message. Consider how clear and persuasive your message is. You might also consider if you are leveraging the right mix of communication platforms to spread your message. You might also consider extending clear invitations to act (i.e., donate, volunteer, share).

Then, after you have given the community a moving invitation to act, you should assess any impact this appeal has had on your goals. A public relations strategy is only as good as the impact it has on your primary goals. Do more people recognize your brand? Have you seen an increase in volunteers? Did you meet your fund-raising goals?

Although this is just a skim of what is involved in a strategic communication plan, I hope it gives you some idea of the process. If your start-up, small business, or non-profit organization would like to work with a group of senior public relations students to create a strategic communication plan, let me know. I would be happy to speak with you about this free community service offered by the University of Cincinnati!

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What Is and What Can Be: Women of Color and the Struggle for Justice in Cincinnati

What Is and What Can Be: Women of Color and the Struggle for Justice in Cincinnati


In January we responded to conversations with community organizers and activists by bringing together a group of UC scholars to ask how we could amplify the voices of women of color in Cincinnati. How

Children listen to activists’ voices at the opening.

could we do more to support the efforts of organizations working to make Cincinnati a more equitable city? The product of those conversations debuted at Reverb Art + Design with the opening of “What Is and What Can Be: Women of Color and the Struggle for Justice in Cincinnati.”

The exhibit features voices that reflect the diversity of women of color’s experiences in Cincinnati. Those who attend the exhibit can read the words and use headphones to hear the voices of well-known activists as well as anonymous women who have faced violence and other challenges. The exhibit shares the stories of black women and Latinx women, Cincinnati-born women and women who moved to Cincinnati, cisgender as well as trans women. Visitors can take home small books that have more information about women’s experiences and suggestions about how to get involved.

Many of the women whose voices are shared in the exhibit joined us on the opening night. During the panel discussion, we were lucky to hear directly from Heyra Avila and Dr. Carolyn Mazloomi, whose activism is featured in the exhibit. Both women emphasized the importance of everyone acting in the face of injustice. Ms. Avila urged people to show up for immigrants and vote with immigrant rights in mind. Dr. Mazloomi shared a quilt made by refugees that illustrated that women’s fight for justice is global and highlighted the power of quilt-making to help tell women’s stories.

The exhibit asks visitors “What is next?”

The panel also included professors Anjali Dutt and JT Roane, who lead the archiving activism project that collected these women’s stories. Their comments reflected their commitment to bringing together justice and scholarship.

We hope that the exhibit speaks to people who want to see a more equitable Cincinnati by inspiring them to act, as the women featured in the exhibit have taken action to create the Cincinnati they want to see.

You can learn more about the exhibit and those who created it, see the small books, and hear activists voices on our website. We are thankful for support for this project from The Greater Cincinnati FoundationThe Carol Ann and Ralph V. Haile, Jr. / U.S. Bank FoundationThe Murray and Agnes Seasongood Good Government Foundation, and the College of Arts and Sciences, University of Cincinnati.

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High School Student Scientists Working in Communities

High School Student Scientists Working in Communities


While the Opioid Crisis is making headlines across the United States, communities in and around Cincinnati have been hit particularly hard. “Growing Community Change Researchers in STEM”, a project funded by a Science Education Partnership Award by the National Institute of Health, aims to let student researchers gain real world research experience as they investigate innovative ways to address the opioid crisis within their communities.

For this project, “Growing Community Change Researchers in STEM” will be working with students and teachers at two high schools. One is Princeton High School in Cincinnati and the other is Manchester High School in Manchester Ohio.

A high school sophomore responds to a research prompt

Though the project is only in its early stages, it has been particularly meaningful for a variety of reasons. Many of the student researchers have first-hand experience with the harmful impacts of opioid use. They shared stories of how their family members struggled with opioid use and explained how increased opioid use impacted their schools and communities. This first-hand experience is central to the mission of this project: We believe that these students have the answers as to what it will take to alleviate the impacts of drug addiction in their communities. We want to give them the tools to bring those theories to life.

Also central to this project is the desire to increase representation of African American and rural Appalachian students and teachers into STEM and research communities. Both of these populations are underrepresented in STEM and research communities. We hope that this project will allow students and teachers to develop research skills, and increase underrepresented populations’ desires to pursue college degrees and careers in STEM and research. Students and teachers will be learning a variety of Community-Based Participatory Research methods that they will employ in their projects.

The students joined us at UC in May for a Research Kickoff Day. While they were here, the students participated in a variety of activities to help get them excited about the project and get them thinking about their research questions. They participated in a Group Level Assessment about their views on research, science and drug addiction. They heard from a number of speakers, including our researchers, Dr. Farrah Jacquez and Dr. Lisa Vaughn, drug addiction expert Dr. LaTrice Montgomery, and local activist Christina Brown.

The students also participated in a Digital Storytelling project, where each student made short videos explaining how drug abuse and addiction has impacted them, their families, and their schools/communities. We wanted students to get a chance to tell their story, develop their voice, and we hoped that this would help guide their individual research projects.

Teachers also spent the two days participating in their own kick-off events. They spent their time working on ideas for curriculum development for the school year.

We can’t wait for the students to get back to school in August so we can begin working on their research projects. We can’t wait to see what kinds of research questions they choose to investigate, and we love that their stories and voices will get a chance to shine in whatever project they choose!

To learn more about this project:


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WOC Initiative Project Highlight – Public Relations Campaigns Class with Suzanne Boys

WOC Initiative Project Highlight – Public Relations Campaigns Class with Suzanne Boys


The Cincinnati Project’s 2018 initiative, made possible through support from the Greater Cincinnati Foundation, centers women of color. The Cincinnati Project pairs University of Cincinnati researchers, both faculty and students, with local organizations that work for social change in the greater Cincinnati area. These research partnerships are done independently, as part of classes, and as teams across disciplines. One exciting class is working on multiple public relations campaigns to support local organizations as part of The Cincinnati Project 2018 Women of Color Initiative.

Dr. Suzanne Boys is teaching an upper level Public Relations Campaigns class where her students develop projects to support local non-profits and small businesses. Her students are serving Strong Cincinnati, The Child Poverty Collaborative, Wesley Education Center, and RISE. Each of these organizations have their own goals and needs, and students are creating unique projects accordingly. Students have done extensive research on the organization, their needs, their target demographics, and effective strategies to accomplish their goals.

While some of the partner organizations have very specific goals, such as fundraising, others have more ambiguous but equally fruitful ones. The Child Poverty Collaborative is hoping to expand their efforts to include spreading awareness of poverty and tackling the stigma associated with it. Students are beginning to make sense of their personal experiences with poverty, having to reflect on their own judgments about people living in poverty, and question assumptions about what poverty looks like. Students will be creating surveys and conducting interviews to engage business managers and community members about their perceptions of poverty. Poverty is a sensitive topic that touches more lives than people are often aware. This class is supporting this organization in bringing an important issue to the forefront of dialogue for all people, regardless of their economic status.

Students are enthusiastic about working with actual clients who bring a high level of passion around their topics. Students working with Strong Cincinnati was struck by their emphasis on empowerment and engagement for neighborhoods and are helping them by developing and distributing a survey to people about community involvement. The hope is that this survey will provide data from opinion leaders and neighborhood councils so that Strong Cincinnati can continue its mission. Much of the work Strong Cincinnati does is about uplifting neighborhoods and local organization, with an emphasis on strengths.

Another group of students in Dr. Boys’ class is working with a local staple that has uplifted the community through education for 98 years – the Wesley Education Center in Avondale. They are an infant and early childcare center who also provides additional programming to support families. With such an extensive history serving the community, students in the PR are able to assist them in strategizing about their future growth.

While students are providing support towards the further expansion of these community partners, they can improve their skills and training. While The Cincinnati Project centers the work of the organization, it is important to note the positive impact the work on student researchers. Students in this class are able to situate themselves in the greater Cincinnati community, prepare for potential careers, and learn about positive efforts towards social change in Cincinnati.

Look for more updates about the Women of Color Initiative in the coming weeks!

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The 4th Annual TCP Symposium, from behind the curtain

The 4th Annual TCP Symposium, from behind the curtain


About a month ago, we held our 4th annual TCP Symposium. I was asked to reflect on the TCP Symposium from the perspective of the Project Coordinator, a role that also includes organizing the symposium. Normally, I decline sharing my reflections from the event because I am primarily concerned about others’ experiences. I am invested in our attendees understanding the importance of community-partnered research, and gaining knowledge on how to get involved in community-partnered research, and why organizations like The Cincinnati Project are important. However, this year I would like to give you my thoughts from behind the curtain.

Student presenters at the symposium.

The environment at the symposium this year was electric. I felt the energy from 9AM when the students kicked off the EARLY morning sessions, until the last attendee walked out the doors of The African American Cultural and Resource Center (AACRC) at 4PM. The Cincinnati Project leadership team was grateful to host the symposium in the sacred space known as the AACRC. It was the perfect space to have much-needed conversations on power, partnerships, and the community. The TCP leadership team prides ourselves on being equal partners in research for equity, so we wanted the symposium to match these goals. As a result, the symposium was just not just an event for professors, but also included students, and community members. Our approach facilitated important conversations on the value of community-partnered research and working collaboratively across the city. This year we charged all parties to do more, and to work collaboratively.

Yvette Simpson describes the importance of working together

The symposium was a remarkable event because both the attendees and the speakers engaged deeply with the subject. The students emphasized how classroom-partnered research gives them real-life experiences and connections with the community that they live in. The TCP faculty scholars explained how faculty can successfully navigate community-partnered work and why it is rewarding. The panels featured many influential Black women leaders of Cincinnati. The Power, Partnerships, and Progress panel was amazing because the faculty were both transparent and vulnerable, addressing their positionality and how it affects their research, and what it means to really listen to community partners. The concluding call to action by keynote speaker Yvette Simpson left the room buzzing. She emphasized the importance of bridging communities and collaborative work. The panel she sat on with other local leaders emphasized the necessity of different leaders coming together for a common goal.

Thank all of you for making this symposium a success. It was amazing to see the connections made, the crowded sessions, the delicious food, and the hope and desire to do important collaborative work to eradicate inequality. I end this post with a call to continue the work. There is plenty of work to do, and we all have skills to add to the fight. Moreover, let me be frank, if you are not fighting to eliminate inequality, you are continuing inequality. To UC and other academic folk, I urge you to take your research outside of academia, and publish your results outside of journals. To the community, please continue to teach us, and allow us to leverage our power and resources to benefit you! There is no time like today to act, and most importantly listen. #WeInThisTogether. #TCP18 was great. Hope to see all of you again next year!

jmalatThe 4th Annual TCP Symposium, from behind the curtain
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