News Items from UNC Greensboro

man with sign in sunflower patch
man with sign in sunflower patch
A sunflower patch at the St Phillip AME Zion Church Garden of Peace and Community Farm that is part of the Guilford Urban Farming Initiative

Farming initiatives, democracy discussions, storytelling for movement-building, fresh food markets, and learning circles.

What do all these things have in common? Two big Cs, to begin with: Communication and Community.

They’re also all part of the largest grant ever awarded by the National Communication Association (NCA), $110,000 with a $85,000 UNC Greensboro match for a total of $195,000, that the UNCG Department of Communication Studies received in 2019 for implementation as host of the NCA Center for Communication, Community Collaboration, and Change.

The grant was made to UNCG in recognition of the deep roots the Communication Studies faculty have established in the community along with demonstrated success in sustaining partnerships that have led to tangible results in the community and student learning. For two decades, the faculty have been at the center of many opportunities in Greensboro for communication interventions that specifically support social justice programs in historically marginalized communities.

Since the grant was received, Dr. Spoma Jovanovic has served as director for the NCA-sponsored center to first select community grantees through a multi-stakeholder review process, and then to organize public events, promote curricular connections, and support the research efforts among the five local community projects. Lead faculty researchers are Dr. Marianne LeGreco, Dr. Etsuko Kinefuchi, Dr. Christopher Poulos, Dr. Jenni Simon, Dr. Cris Damasceno, and Dr. Spoma Jovanovic.

The large initiative has provided unique opportunities for graduate students to assist in research and help manage center operations. Dan Bayer and Jessica Clifford served as graduate program assistants, while dozens of undergraduate and graduate students advanced the programming aspects of the community projects and aided in data collection and analysis.

While continuing this work through the pandemic has been challenging, the projects made critical pivots to continue their projects that center the role of communication in promoting equity, social justice, and participatory democracy. Students have learned the myriad ways community dialogue is vital for civic life and service, at a time of great need and uncertainty.

Department head Dr. Roy Schwartzman says, “The coordinated department effort highlights the work of the grassroots activists and government institutions to reveal systemic forces at play, and the rhetorical responses to those in order to cultivate creative adaptability to lessen the persistent digital divide and literacy, ameliorate racial injustices, improve food access and security, and deepen civic engagement.”

In February 2022, the researchers, department colleagues, and community partners will present a nationally streamed symposium to share with other scholars and students the lessons learned in strengthening university-campus relationships. The interactive event will include presentation of the research and impact of the five projects in Greensboro that advanced the grant theme, “Cultivate Resilient Communities.” Communication Studies students will assist with event planning, promotion, and professional development aspects.

Looking ahead, select department faculty are drafting a book based in part on the grant activity for future use in the core communication studies course: Communication and Community.

The center’s website hosts short videos of faculty researchers and community partners as well as stories written by students about the work.

Stay tuned for an in-depth look at the projects in the Spring 2022 issue of UNCG Research.

ribbon cutting in garden
Garden of Peace and Community Farm ribbon-cutting
farmer's market
Grove Street People’s Market
woman selling cake at market
A vendor at the Grove Street Peoples’ Market
woman selling vegetables at market
A vendor at the Grove Street Peoples’ Market
A Democracy Tables activity at LeBauer Park
woman with girl working on journaling
Learning Circles at the Greensboro Public Library

Story by Susan Kirby-Smith, University Communications
Photography by Martin W. Kane, University Communications

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