UEP partners with Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative to help students, community

Dean of Tisch College, Alan Solomont, is pictured on Nov. 2. According to Solomont, Tisch College supports the CoRE model because Tisch supports civic learning, research, and practice in an integrated manner. (Max Lalanne / The Tufts Daily)

The Department of Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning (UEP) is launching the Co-Research/Co-Education Partnerships (CoRE), which will allow Tufts master’s students and staff from the Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative (DSNI) to partner in researching and developing strategies for community-controlled economic development, according to Senior Lecturer and Director of the Master of Public Policy Program and Community Practice Penn Loh, who will serve as the program’s faculty lead.

According to Loh, the program is a three-year plan that will strengthen the over 30-year partnership between university graduate students and the DSNI, an effort to empower residents of the lower-income Roxbury/Dorchester neighborhoods to help manage urban decay.

“The name CoRE comes from our belief that our partners are co-researchers and co-educators,” Loh said. “They are helping us meet our mission to provide education for our students who want to become policy planners and practitioners.”

The official affiliation agreement was approved by Provost David Harris in August 2016, but the resources to support the project were not available until the end of spring 2017, so CoRE is officially launching this fall, Loh told the Daily in an email.

The partnership will extend beyond sporadic research projects and include a practicum course, opportunities for summer internships for students and DSNI and Tufts collaborated-research projects, according to Tufts Now.

However, Loh said that because of the semester-based university schedule, student participation in outside organizations like DSNI has historically been dependent on students’ schedules.

“All these partnerships happened in an ad-hoc way, meaning it was always a case-by-case basis depending on student initiative,” he said. “It was almost all based on personal relationships.”

Loh noted that the existing case-by-case basis did not always result in valuable partnerships.

“The community partner often feels like [they’re] spending a lot of time with a student just so they can grasp what they’re doing,” Loh said. “They question is, are [the students] able to add value back? Usually that takes beyond one semester to have the value kick in.”

Loh said that this new three-year partnership will give students the opportunity to work for DSNI for two years or more and thus be able leave a more tangible impact on the Roxbury/Dorchester community.

CoRE is trying to figure out how to move towards a longer term, deeper engagement,” Loh said.

The CoRE program will be supported by the Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life, which will provide necessary compensation to DSNI staff for their work with Tufts students.

Dean of Tisch College Alan Solomont told the Daily in an email that the partnership with DSNI helps advance Tisch College’s vision of promoting civic practice and community partnerships.

Tisch College supports the CoRE model because it is one of the ways that Tisch can promote civic learning, research and practice in an integrated manner,” he said. “It is particularly compelling because CoRE can lead to real world impacts in Tufts host communities, in addition to creating transformational opportunities for our students.”

Solomont  agreed with Loh that longer-term partnerships such as this one will ultimately yield better outcomes.

Tisch College has always been committed to partnerships with the communities that Tufts is a part of — and beyond,” Solomont said. “But we believed that there could be more multi-year planning with partners, which is what CoRE is all about. Planning and resourcing partnerships for more than one semester or year creates possibilities for deeper impact for both students and community partners.”

Joceline Fidalgo, DSNI’s resource development director and a student in UEP’s Master of Public Policy program, will be involved in the CoRE program. She was introduced to the master’s program through her previous work with DSNI and from growing up in the Dudley Street neighborhood.

“The CoRE partnership allows a new level of research and offers opportunity to redefine what the relationship between communities and universities look like,” Fidalgo said.

She added that the university and the CoRE program will help her hone in on her interests and provide her with new research opportunities.

“I’m able to get involved in the community in a way I wouldn’t usually be able to otherwise,” Fidalgo said. “The connection that DSNI has with Tufts really increases research opportunities. It really is a different type of partnership.”