Gathering Opportunity: Organization Aims for UT Community Engagement

The University of Toledo has many different programs that offer assistance to the community, in addition to resources given to students and faculty. Unfortunately, many people may not be aware of these programs or know how to get involved. That’s why the University is working with staff member Valerie Simmons-Walston to strengthen community engagement.

Simmons-Walston has worked with the University of Toledo since 2017 when she was named Associate Vice President of Student Affairs and Director of Residence Life. She was recently named Special Assistant to UT President Gregory Postel. This work involves the creation of a centralized body, the Office of Community Engagement, to oversee and promote community work and programs that enhance faculty, students, and the community around the university.

Unite the University

“Currently, there are hundreds of partnerships within the community through our faculty and students,” Simmons-Walston explained. This can range from a dance competition organized by students to raise money for charity, to a program in which Jeep launches a recruitment program within the university for local jobs. “There is no central office to ensure that these programs engage properly with the community. Also, we have no group to build and repair relationships that may not have been nurtured in the past.

In recent weeks, groups such as Owens Community College, Toledo Public Schools and The Order of The Pythagorans have reached out to Simmons-Walston for future projects. “These groups have reached out to me with a view to partnering up in some way, and I’m in the process of making those contacts” for projects within the Office of Community Engagement, Simmons said. -Walston.

With these ideas in place, Simmons-Walston turned to the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, a century-old organization involved in promoting education. “In 2026, we again have the opportunity to have foundation recognition from Carnegie, in order to obtain funding for our programs. But we have to prove that we are able to live up to the principles of the foundation by showing how effective our community involvement is.

In creating an on-campus advisory board to oversee various projects, Simmons-Walston said “everyone benefits: everyone has the opportunity to be accountable for their efforts, and we can show that the university has implemented puts a structure in place to get funds where it needs them. go. Showing that we have a research and practice-based initiative for advocacy legitimizes the work we do.

Give a hand

So far, the university has contacted and has been contacted by local businesses and charities to find other projects. “We plan to have relationships with Jeep, Hope Toledo and Dana to provide cooperation and internship opportunities for our students. Altogether about 17 different organizations have contacted us and we want to maintain these relationships. It seems the Rocket community has been waiting for an announcement like this.

Another positive aspect of creating a central organization is letting the community know where to go for help. “Having a central body acts as a liaison for the community, so they know where to go for information about college programs,” Simmons-Walson said. “They can also find out how to easily develop partnerships with us. A successful group like this does not just involve one aspect of the university. We ensure that we have a comprehensive resource for community engagement at the university for faculty, community, staff and students.

Virginia S. Braud