Potential of partnerships on display

By Arthur Smith on April 24, 2018

Annual BTU Partnerships Showcase connects faculty, students and staff with community partners.

The 2018 BTU Showcase
Department of Theatre Arts’ assistant professor Tavia La Follette discusses the Community Outreach in Theatre project at the 2018 BTU Showcase.

By the time the doors officially opened at 11:30 a.m., SECU Arena was already buzzing. Over 50 exhibitors from across the Towson University campus were in place and ready to exhibit their work to the nearly 300 people who had registered for the BTU Partnerships Showcase.

“This is such a great event. Not only do we get to highlight our current partnerships, this event creates opportunities for potential collaborations. It’s a wonderful opportunity to see what possibilities are out there that we haven’t explored,” said Bobbie Laur, associate vice president for outreach and a member of the BTU leadership team.

TU faculty, students and staff are actively engaged in nearly 200 partnerships with over 300 community partners. The BTU Partnerships Showcase is the best opportunity for external groups to connect with TU and explore, initiate or expand partnerships and collaborations.

Learn more about BTU—Partnerships at Work for Greater Baltimore.

For the first time, community partners were invited to present their work alongside their TU partners.

Sarah Kerr serves as grants and outreach coordinator at Helping Up Mission (HUM). She attended with her on-campus partner Mary Lashley, TU professor of nursing, who leads a 15-year partnership with HUM. As part of the partnership, TU nursing students provide on-site wellness services to homeless men in recovery from chemical addictions.

“I’ve already talked to a TU faculty member today who teaches a nutrition class about a potential partnership,” said Kerr. “Their students would complete their service learning at Helping Up Mission.”

“You’ve heard of the term freshman 15? At Helping Up Mission we talk about the HUM 30. To have students help our clients think about healthy nutrition would be fantastic,” she added.

2018 BTU Showcase
Sarah Kerr (left) speaks about her work at Helping Up Mission.

Also new this year, members of the Service-Learning Faculty Fellows program showcased their work.

This year-long program provides support for TU faculty interested in creating new service-learning courses or incorporating a new service-learning component into an existing course.

In previous years, the Office of Civic Engagement & Social Responsibility held a Service-Learning Faculty Fellows Showcase in May. This year, the five fellows are participating in the BTU Partnerships Showcase.

“After last year’s event, I felt that it would make sense for our fellows to present at the BTU Partnerships Showcase instead of duplicating efforts hosting both events,” said Stephanie Easterday, who manages the Service-Learning Faculty Fellows Program. “The fellows are able to present their work to a larger audience, including potential community partners.”

Tavia La Follette, a faculty fellow and assistant professor in the Department of Theatre Arts, presented her Community Outreach in Theatre project. This program uses storytelling and other theatre activities to encourage and enhance the importance of reading and community to Baltimore City third graders in the Oliver neighborhood.

This year’s theme was ‘Heroes and Community Health,’ which asked students to think about the people in their lives and create their own super heroes in the form of puppets.

“As a theatre minor and psychology major with a track in art therapy, this project was a great experience,” said Abigail Braithwaite ’19, who has helped with this year’s project.

“When I first started with the project the kids were like, ‘Puppets? That’s weird.’ But now, they are so excited about the puppets and want to take them home to show everyone,” said Braithwaite. “It’s been a great experience. I’m sad that the project is almost over.”

On May 2, the third graders will visit TU’s Center for the Arts, where their completed puppets will be on display. The students will tour the campus and eat lunch with TU students.

“By the time they’ve left third grade, Towson University and college will have become a real place for these third graders,” said La Follette.

Also presenting their work were the three winners of the inaugural BTU Partnership Awards, which were announced April 16.

Learn more about the BTU Partnership Awards and this year’s winners.

“Partnerships are about creating possibilities. This event is successful because it highlights the real, positive impacts Towson University is having in our communities and lets attendees think about new possibilities,” said Laur.

This story is one of several related to President Kim Schatzel's priorities for Towson University: TU Matters to Maryland and BTU: Partnerships at Work for Greater Baltimore.