Statement from Chancellor Ford | UW-Parkside Community Engagement in Kenosha

Published: October 7, 2020
By: Chancellor Debbie Ford

Since our founding over 50 years ago, UW-Parkside has been committed to making the communities it serves better places to live, learn, serve, and grow. That commitment is unwavering, reaching beyond the words we say to actions we as members of those communities can take to help, both in good times and during our most challenging moments.

Over the past few weeks, we have engaged in conversations with elected officials and community leaders on how best to leverage our university assets to support Kenosha. We continue to support and to join with members of our learning community who are lending a hand with cleanup and recovery efforts or raising their voices in peaceful protests. We denounce the violence and destruction that has negatively impacted so many people, families, and businesses in our community. As a university community, we stand ready to support the families, business owners, and community partners whose lives have been forever changed by the tragic events that have occurred since August. 

UW-Parkside remains guided by our university’s commitment to the values of dignity and respect. Our intention is to be both a leader and participant in our community’s efforts towards justice and peace. Diverse perspectives and insights are valued at UW-Parkside and we are dedicated to creating an equitable, inclusive, and diverse learning community. We join with our neighbors, partners, alumni, students, faculty, staff, and community to understand our challenges and develop solutions to create more equitable outcomes.   

Turning words into action, our students, faculty, administrative leadership, and staff have joined with our community partners on the following initiatives.

  • Supporting Kenosha. Creating the “Ranger Reach Out” effort to connect the UW-Parkside community to cleanup and rebuilding efforts in the city of Kenosha.
  • Business Engagement. Utilizing the Al Guskin Center for Community and Business Engagement as a point of contact for business and community partners seeking support from the university and coordinating community-based learning projects.
  • Small Business Rebuild. Working with UW-Parkside’s Small Business Development Center, which supports Kenosha businesses through no-cost confidential consulting and education via a statewide network, to help those small businesses affected by recent events to pick up the pieces, survive and grow during this challenging time.
  • Building our Future. With Provost Ducoffe, we are serving as co-leaders of Building our Future and partnering with our colleagues at Carthage College and Gateway Technical College to expand higher education opportunities for residents of Kenosha. In addition, staff serve on the Building Our Future Networks, including the Community Engagement Network. This Network is working to assess community priorities in Uptown and support Brass Elementary and Lincoln Middle schools.
  • Election Experience. The College of Social Sciences and Professional Studies is sponsoring the Election Experience, which provides opportunities for voter education and registration, including brown bag discussions, guest speakers, and highlights important events – such as National Vote Early Day October 24 – to engage students and community members in the election process.
  • Community Conversations – Faculty member Dr. Jonathan Shailor is teaming up with Pastor Kara Baylor from Carthage College and students with the UW-Parkside’s Certificate Program in Conflict Analysis and Resolution to hold conversations with community members. These conversations will run from September-December and are held in an environment that is inclusive, diverse, respectful, and responsive to everyone’s concerns. The goals of the effort are to:
    1. to learn more about each other’s experiences;
    2. to understand each other’s needs;
    3. to discover how we can best serve one another;
    4. to identify the issues that we can work on together, and
    5. to take actions that strengthen our community 
  • Make A Difference Days – Volunteer opportunities for students, staff and alumni will span late October though early November in support of the Shalom Center food pantry and other community initiatives.

Our actions of course won’t stop there. We understand this is a long-term challenge that deserves a long-term commitment. We are ready to help, to listen, and to grow with our students, faculty, our Parkside community and the Kenosha community, as we have done in our first 50 years, and will continue to do for the next 50 and beyond.

Debbie Ford

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