Cultivating Civic Engagement
Tutoring at-risk schoolchildren, improving living conditions for those in need, and strengthening local economies are among the many initiatives that demonstrate UT Arlington's commitment to enhancing our quality of life.
AN HONOR TO SERVE
For honors student Ali Alam, a well-rounded education means getting out of the classroom and into the real world every now and then.
As president of the Honors College Council, the biology/pre-med major instituted a theme of community service and volunteerism for the academic year.
"Honors College students are among the best and brightest students academically," he says. "I felt that we should be shining in the community as well."
While Alam has started a number of service-learning projects, perhaps the most successful has been a tutoring initiative at a local Boys and Girls Club.
"We were a little apprehensive at first, not knowing how the kids would respond to us," he says.
There was no need to worry; the group's services were in high demand.
"We really got to see what an impact that one-on-one interaction can have and how much that can mean for those kids," he says. "Beyond that, it's just a good feeling to help."
INSPIRING A COMMUNITY
It started with a vision for a better community and evolved into a thriving partnership between UT Arlington and its neighbors with the potential to benefit thousands of families in Tarrant County and beyond.
A School of Social Work initiative, the Innovative Community Academic Partnership (iCAP) program promotes research aimed at improving the living conditions and increasing the effectiveness of the county's social service agencies. A grant from the Amon G. Carter Foundation funded five iCAP projects in 2010, its first year of operation. They included Common Threads, which focuses on refugee reintegration through the knitting of scarves, as well as LOSS Team, a pilot suicide prevention program in Arlington.
"We're helping local community projects become sustainable. We bring in new ideas while strengthening and developing what's out there," says iCAP Director Stefan Ateek, who has fielded questions from universities nationwide interested in establishing similar programs. "iCAP is the opportunity of a lifetime because it raises the standard of living for families and children throughout the Metroplex and beyond."
MEETING URBAN CHALLENGES
Wander far and wide in Texas and you'll find hundreds of cities benefiting from the Institute of Urban Studies' expertise. With more and more municipalities struggling, expect that number to rise.
"This kind of service has been going on for 40 years, although it has recently picked up new energy and vigor with so many more communities looking for a way to plan and spend smart in a down economy," School of Urban and Public Affairs Dean Barbara Becker says.
As SUPA's applied research arm, the Institute of Urban Studies completes dozens of projects each year—from the state's Panhandle northlands, south to the Gulf Coast, east to the Piney Woods, and west to Big Bend. Many are in urban and rural North Texas.
Led by graduate students, the projects include strengthening local economies through feasibility and corridor studies, economic development ideas, updates of parks and land-use plans, citizen/business surveys, and more.
"It's about doing something for Texas and its communities," Dr. Becker says.