In July 2020, a community engagement-working group formed under the auspices of Chancellor Michael Amiridis’ Advancing Racial Equity Task Force.  The group was charged with generating big and bold ideas for how UIC could/should address systemic racism across campus and in particular its community engagement practice. Working as a diverse group of staff, faculty and students in August 2020, the group ideated on how UIC could advance racial equity through a process of truly reciprocal community engagement. It tried to imagine what it would mean for UIC to transform its structure to redress past wrongs where communities have been acted upon and not heard, while also acknowledging the significant and varied community engaged research and service happening across campus.

As a result of this group’s work and recommendations, the Office of Community Collaboration (OCC) was formed to build upon and strengthen UIC’s current community engagement efforts.  OCC’s focus is to create infrastructure, institute channels to improve cross campus communication and collaboration, as well as, facilitate a unified philosophy and a set of values for community practices and partnerships.  OCC serves as a catalyst for true partnerships and reflect a commitment to establish reciprocal relationships and provide opportunities for partners to be involved in defining and, as necessary, redefining the terms of engagement and measures of equity.

Neighborhood Centers Project

The Neighborhood Centers are a collaborative community project designed to support local stakeholders with meeting their goals through strategic programs and services, equity-based interventions and community-based research.  These Centers will be located in southside and westside neighborhoods of Auburn Gresham and North Lawndale.  Working in partnership with Greater Auburn Gresham Development Corporation and North Lawndale Community Coordinating Council, planning and implementation will be developed collaboratively with community- based organizations, residents, educators and other local stakeholders.  Programming will occur both in the centers’ physical spaces (offices and community rooms) as well as in other neighborhood settings such as school or churches.

The Auburn Gresham Center will be situated within the Healthy Lifestyle Hub located at 839-45 W. 79th street and is scheduled to open early 2022.

The North Lawndale Center is still to be determined.

Goals

The projected goals of the centers are as follows:

  • Increase African-American enrollment and retention for traditional and non-traditional students at UIC or other post-secondary institutions
  • Provide relevant and responsive services that serve to address systemic education, economic, health and other disparities in Auburn Gresham and North Lawndale
  • Serve as partner and steward to catalyze continued community and economic development in Auburn Gresham and North Lawndale

Development Highlights

  1. Lease for Auburn Gresham space fully executed in June 2021.
  2. Retreat with over sixty(60) community and UIC stakeholders held on June 23- 24 to foster relationships, identify and prioritize community needs and set the stage for long-term collaboration.
  3. Report retreat distributed to stakeholders in August.