Six emerging and priority investments announced

BTU—Partnerships at Work for Greater Baltimore, one of eight presidential priorities, continues to push forward strong partnership and community engagement work across Greater Baltimore. Now in it’s third year, the BTU team in the Division of Strategic Partnerships and Applied Research continues to work with Towson University faculty, staff and students to provide strategic support for partnership and community engagement projects by creating linkages and honing communication between different segments of campus.

Related story: Partnerships hit milestone moment

Externally, we continue to resource projects and to be recognized for the work that the BTU presidential priority supports, including receiving backing from partners like Whiting Turner. Curriculum at TU focused on community engagement continues to expand as faculty, staff, and students remain engaged. And, our faculty and staff continue to share the productive outcomes of their community engagement work nation-wide.

We are particularly excited in the Office of Partnerships & Outreach to see projects scale from emerging to priority investment, demonstrating the power of strong support throughout the university for partnership and community engagement work. The priority and emerging investment projects for 2019–2020 represent how BTU continues to scale, sustain, align and institutionalize this great work.

Emerging Investments Projects

Emerging investment funds are allocated for a one-year period and focused on supporting new and emerging TU community partnerships and projects.

Sweaty Eyeballs Animation Festival

TU Lead: Dr. Phil Davis, Art + Design, Art History, Art Education
Partner: Stavros Niarchos Foundation Parkway Theatre—Maryland Film Festival

Sweaty Eyeballs Animation Festival is a three day juried festival of the world’s most cutting-edge, quirky, and boundary-pushing animation being made today. The mission of the festival is to expose the Baltimore public and TU students to unique, experimental and diverse voices in the field of animation while also developing professional development training for art and film students. Founded in 2012, the festival has become one of the premiere animation festivals on the east coast and takes place at the SNF Parkway Theatre. As the first project in a new institutional partnership between TU and the SNF Parkway Theatre—Maryland Film Festival, BTU priority investment support is providing infrastructure development to scale and sustain the festival for the future. The specialized knowledge base in the Office of Partnerships and Outreach is helping to develop a unique arts based entrepreneurship model for the festival that will translate to other endeavors for our faculty, students, and external partners.

Public Communications Center

TU Leads: Dr. Jennifer Potter and Dr. Desiree Rowe, Communication Studies

The Public Communications Center was founded in 2018 by Dr. Jennifer Potter and Dr. Desiree Rowe in the new Department of Communication Studies. The center helps students develop and refine their public speaking skills, build data for classroom projects and provide peer mentorship. It is a research-based center that also intersects with the course offerings of this department. After a successful first year, the PCC garnered support from the Division of University Advancement through their inaugural grant program. With additional BTU support, the Office of Partnerships & Outreach is helping the PCC expand their work to engage regional non-profits.

Home and the Human

TU Lead: Dr. Jennifer Ballengee, English
Partner: Baltimore Immigration Outreach Center

The important work taking place among refugee populations in Greater Baltimore is the focus of Dr. Jennifer Ballengee’s project, “Home and the Human”. This BTU emerging investment project is a collaborative endeavor between faculty, students, and the Baltimore Immigration Outreach Center, that includes coursework, workshops, visiting scholars and artists, film screenings, interviews, collaborative documentary projects, and a website for collecting stories and gathering together the threads of the project. The objectives of “Home and the Human” are to gather stories of home and homelessness from immigrants and refugees in the Baltimore area; to foster a broad humanistic, historical, and culturally-informed understanding of current crises of homelessness, economy, and war; and to lay the groundwork for ongoing exchange and development between all project participants. The broad goal of the project is a humanities-based cross-cultural experience with value to all participants, building a network between the community and the university that has a positive social and psychological impact upon the refugee community in Baltimore while also developing a specific curricular impact in the College of Liberal Arts and in the broader Towson University community.

AileyCamp Baltimore

TU Lead: Dr. LindaDenise Fisherell, Dance
Partner: Baltimore City Public Schools

Through the Towson University Department of Dance and the College of Fine Arts and Communications, AileyCamp Baltimore delivers programming based on the successful national AileyCamp model. Completing its sixth year in 2019, AileyCamp Baltimore now partners with Baltimore City Public Schools as a part of their Summer Enrichment Expansion Plan. Through this partnership and access to Title I funding, AileyCamp Baltimore delivers programming based on the successful national Ailey Camp model, developed in 1989 and now serving more than 900 adolescents in ten states. Rigorous dance instruction is used as the vehicle for nurturing discipline, expressivity, creativity, and self-confidence in high-risk adolescents. Campers ages 11–14 learn the importance of cultivating respect for themselves and others, how to set and achieve goals, gain experience in decision making, and carve out their own identities within an encouraging framework that gives them an important foundation for the future. Through BTU emerging investment support, AileyCamp Baltimore will be able to complete rigorous assessment requirements for Title I funding to sustain the camp for years to come.

Priority Investment Projects

Priority investment funds are allocated as investments over a 1–3 year period, focused on scaling, sustaining, aligning, and institutionalizing leading TU community engagement partnerships and projects. Funding is dependent on achieving benchmarks of success.

Supporting Returning Citizens

TU Lead: Dr. Elyshia Aseltine, Sociology, Anthropology & Criminal Justice
Partner(s): Baltimore County Detention Center, Goucher Prison Education Partnership, Harford County Detention Center, Jessup Correctional Institution, University of Baltimore Second Chance Program, Volunteers of America

After the success of the Inside-Out emerging investment project in 2018–19, Dr. Aseltine has expanded this important work to create a comprehensive strategy to support access to higher education for formerly incarcerated individuals. The goals of the Supporting Returning Citizens Priority Investment project is to increase awareness for this population and its needs by forming an advisory board of internal and external partners, develop a public awareness campaign, create best practices, review research on supporting returning citizens and create strategies for the TU campus community. Through the work of Dr. Aseltine, there is now a campus-wide network of individuals working to establish TU as a national leader in this area. The project will strengthen communities where mass incarceration is concentrated by improving educational outcomes of formerly incarcerated people and increasing their opportunities for participation in the conventional labor market. Through bringing awareness to the challenges faced by returning citizens and the potential for improved outcomes when they are given access to higher education, the project aims to reduce the stigma that makes the reintegration of formerly incarcerated people into mainstream society more difficult.

YAAAS (Youth Artists and Allies taking Action in Society)

TU lead: Dr. Kate Collins, Master of Arts in Interdisciplinary Arts Infusion
Partner(s): Baltimore City Community College Refugee Youth Project, Patterson High School

The YAAAS (Youth Artists and Allies taking Action in Society) project involves a partnership between TU, the Baltimore City Community College Refugee Youth Project and Patterson High School, a city school in southeast Baltimore with a significant immigrant and refugee population. Building off of the success of a BTU award winning program and emerging investment support in 2018–19, Dr. Collins will expand the YAAAS program to expand the curriculum and offerings of this program. YAAAS has employed a model where TU grad students (mostly working teachers) and refugee students work side by side as collaborators in an evening arts enrichment program during the Fall semesters. The innovative curriculum focuses on collaborative artmaking strategies that prioritize dialogue to meaningfully support and engage refugee youth with limited English. The ethos of the program emphasizes assistance to our most vulnerable populations to make them feel valued, expand their relationships and network of support, build their confidence with English, and provide opportunities for creative self-expression and positive peer relationships. The goal is to help these students navigate their way into college and careers and help them find their place in American society and in the Baltimore community.

Goals of BTU Priority and Emerging Investments

The BTU—Partnerships at Work for Greater Baltimore presidential priority continues to make strides to resource and support the partnership and community engagement work of faculty, staff and students at Towson University. Through the BTU presidential priority, we are breaking down internal barriers, creating strong communications, and providing resources for the TU campus. We continue to embolden our community partners by providing the capacity for them to work with us to move projects forward in meaningful ways for all involved.

BTU support exists on three different levels including enrichment support that will bolster and strengthen existing or emerging BTU engagements and partnerships, national visibility support for faculty and staff presenting their community engagement focused work, and transportation support for bringing partners to campus or taking TU faculty, staff, or students off campus to engage in established partnerships or collaboration. These three levels of BTU support can be requested at any time during the year. If you are curious about the criteria for this support, please visit our BTU Funding Support website.

The application process for BTU priority and emerging investments for the 2020–21 academic year will be available this fall as we continue to solidify our partnership and community engagement work.