UAA Center for Community Engagement and Learning hosts AmeriCorps VISTA worker for eCitizenship project
by Kathleen McCoy |
"VISTA" stands for Volunteers in Service for America, and the program is the AmeriCorps' national service program designed specifically to fight poverty. Kris Katkus is an AmeriCorps VISTA worker at UAA on a grant from the Center for Economic Development and slated to work with the Center for Community Engagement and Learning (CCEL) on their ENGAGE Social Issues project. ENGAGE connects student liaisons (pictured) with faculty, students and community partners in different social issue areas to address complex community problems, all related to or influenced by poverty. Kris will be coordinating the student liaison team as they reach out to constituents.
ENGAGE Social Issues is UAA's version of the larger nationwide eCitizenship initiative. eCitizenship is part of the American Democracy Project and a partnership between the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU) and the Center for the Study of Citizenship at Wayne State University. The main goal of eCitizenship is to engage students in using social networks and technology tools for civic purposes and to prepare students for lives of engagement and participation.
"The intention through all of this is to increase connections with the community and to increase the quantity and quality of student work within the community," says Dr. Judith Owens-Manley, CCEL Director.
The issue areas that Kris and his team of 5-9 student liaisons will be focusing on are: domestic violence, education and transitioning to young adulthood, education and youth development, environment and sustainability, general and mental health, immigrants and refugees, international issues, and poverty, hunger and homelessness. The liaisons will connect stakeholders to existing projects, partnerships and resources by using social media, providing opportunities for information sharing, resource development and discussion forums.
"The aim of the VISTA position is capacity building," explains Kris, a 2006 Chugiak High School grad and University of Oregon alum. "My goal is to help set up sustainable programs that can be carried on by the liaisons, CCEL and the community."
Three of the eight ENGAGE issue areas are already online for participation: domestic violence, environment and sustainability, and poverty, hunger and homelessness. Visitors to those pages can find in-depth information about each issue, current events and activities, projects, academic courses and community-based research. You can also find Kris and his student team on Facebook, as well as keep up-to-date via Dr. Owens-Manley's blog. If you have questions or ideas, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Upcoming events include Community Engagement Week (Oct. 17-21) that will culminate in their annual Community Partner Speed Dating event to connect community and campus members on projects and partnerships, as well as a spring conference March 30-31 to continue the discussions about the complex issues facing Anchorage and Alaska. After his year with CCEL, Kris hopes to remain in Alaska to work in community service and has plans to apply for the master's program in social work here at UAA after earning back his residency. And although Kris himself is assigned here for only one year, the VISTA grant allows the position to be in place for three years.