Located in Over-the-Rhine, Cincinnati, the Center for Community Engagement (CCE-OTR) provides a site for learning and for producing knowledge that intersects with the needs of social movement in the the inner city. Through social engagement our mission is to generate learning and knowledge among students, faculty, residents, and ultimately the community.
The Miami University Center for Community Engagement in Over-the-Rhine is the result of Director Thomas A. Dutton‘s affiliation with the community’s leaders and organizations dating back to 1981. Through trust built up over this time, the Center establishes collaborations between Miami University and community groups in Over-the-Rhine in order to forge opportunities for student, faculty, and community learning in cross-disciplinary and inter-cultural experiences.
The uniqueness of CCE-OTR is its relationship with the Over-the-Rhine People’s Movement and other important organizations within the inner city of Cincinnati that struggle for human and racial right, and social justice. Accordingly, it is a site for learning and for producing knowledge that intersects with the needs and demands of a social movement. The Center privileges human and ecological needs as leading priorities in urban development, and challenges the profit motive as the dominant arbiter in urban social policy.
The Center’s firm conviction is that such learning in support of broader community transformation is best served by direct social engagement. Part of the Center’s mission is to create a “community of practices” that generates learning and knowledge based upon social participation within a cultural community of color. These activities enable faculty and students to experience the realities of race and class first hand, which are not usually encountered by many students who, owing to their backgrounds, rarely get closer to the study of inner city life than what they read in a textbook. Such experiences are not reproducible on Miami’s Oxford campus.
For students, expanded inter-cultural service learning experiences will foster an ethic of civic stewardship and could lead to career opportunities in civic organizations. New courses will amplify opportunities for engaging multiple cultural issues and informing curricular paths;
For faculty, the locational and experiential dimensions of the Center offer what may be called Service Learning for Faculty. This form of faculty development will increase faculty learning of socio-political reality as it intersects with their disciplines, in research and teaching complemented by real social action;
For the University, the direct experience of other races and classes typical of the American city will energize the pedagogical practices of the typical classroom. Of course, classrooms and the campus remain vital sites of public discourse within which faculty and students participate, but they will be transformed by placing faculty and student learning directly within the context of the lived experiences of citizens of color and different classes within Over-the-Rhine;
For the neighborhood of Over-the-Rhine, establishing deeper relations with university expertise can help build civic and social institutions in all areas of community life. Equally important is the recruiting potential that the Center can play in introducing young students to an academic career at Miami, or to higher education in general.