Special to 1812Blockhouse
The Ohio State’s University Outreach and Engagement Awards honor faculty, staff, students and community partners for outstanding achievement in producing engaged scholarship and community impact.
Recipients were recognized on April 13 at “OSU Engages: Celebrating Engaged Scholarship at Ohio State”
The Community Partner Award is presented to a community agency/group/institution that demonstrates collaborative work with university faculty, students and staff, resulting in a partnership that produces positive impact in the community and at Ohio State. Nominations can come from faculty, staff, students and community organizations. The 2021 Award was made to the North End Community Improvement Collaborative (NECIC) of Mansfield.
The Award narrative was as follows:
The primary partnership between Ohio State and the North End Community Improvement Collaborative is the Mansfield Microfarm Project. NECIC co-presented on the Mansfield Microfarm Project with Dr. Kip Curtis and Brian Snyder of InFact in the Schmidt Future’s Alliance for the American Dream competition. They were one of the top three projects selected to represent Ohio State to co-present with Curtis at Arizona State University. They ultimately were not successful in that competition, but the project secured a $1 million Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research grant matched by another $1 million from local organizations and donors in addition to Ohio State and NECIC. That project is currently concluding year two of three and recently garnered another significant grant from the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education program.
That project developed gradually over several years through individual meetings and community group meetings. The community has rallied behind the project, and it is widely touted as a creative and promising approach to longstanding problems — including a lack of job opportunities in the most economically depressed area of the city of Mansfield, abandoned and blighted properties in that area, food insecurity, and the need for more locally-sourced food production for environmental, economic, and social justice reasons. Research is being conducted on the project so that others will be able to learn from it.
In addition, NECIC and Ohio State Mansfield collaborate in a variety of other ways. An Ohio State Psychology faculty member, Dr. Phil Mazzocco, leads a “Social Justice Book Club” hosted by NECIC for community members. NECIC pays faculty in the summer who are involved in the Algebra Project as part of Ohio State Mansfield’s Math Literacy Initiative, which frames mathematics education as a civil right and works to improve K-12 math pedagogy and teacher training. NECIC has partnered with Ohio State Mansfield to offer diversity forums. NECIC also currently partners with the Kirwan Institute on Ohio State’s Columbus campus. NECIC partnered with Ohio State on a special awards program hosted by the Area Agency on Aging and Richland County Children Services. They also partnered on the creation of the “Grandparents Room” at Mansfield Senior High School with Ohio State Mansfield.
NECIC also frequently sends guest speakers to Ohio State Mansfield classes on various topics, and Ohio State faculty similarly speak to NECIC community gatherings periodically. Some of the Ohio State faculty and staff involved in such partnerships include Dr. Adrienne Hopson, Renee Thompson, Dr. Heather Tanner, LuAnn Howard, Dr. Donna Hight, Dr. Terri Bucci, and Dr. Kelly Whitney. The NECIC’s Tony Chinni speaks periodically to classes at Ohio State Mansfield as a guest lecturer. Currently, an Ohio State Mansfield student in our Professional Writing Minor internship program is writing a grant for NECIC to replace tools in their community tool shed. And NECIC regularly partners with us to organize Ohio State Mansfield’s annual Soul Food Dinner (in honor of Black History Month each February), which brings more community members to the Ohio State Mansfield campus each year than any other event. Additionally, NECIC has worked with Dr. Judy Villard in OSU Extension to support Community Gardens and Richland County Master Gardener Training.
In sum, the relationship between NECIC and Ohio State is both deep and broad. It has developed over many years and is nothing short of a gift to Ohio State. Without NECIC, the Mansfield Microfarm Project quite simply would not have happened, let alone that we have turned to NECIC again and again for their leadership and insights in helping us address issues of common concern for the betterment of our community and our campus.