TU celebrates community partners at annual awards ceremony

Three partnerships received the BTU Partnership Award for their impact on Greater Baltimore

By Arthur Smith on April 18, 2019

BTU partnerships dinner attendees

It’s been almost exactly three years since President Schatzel launched BTU—Partnerships at Work for Greater Baltimore as a presidential priority. A key aspect of BTU is recognizing and rewarding the 300+ partnerships Towson University has with community partners across Maryland.

On Tuesday, April 16, TU honored three—from a pool of 12—for the impact they are having on TU and the communities they serve:

  • Applied Mathematics Laboratory. Led by Alexei Kolesnikov, the Applied Mathematics Laboratory provides experiential learning opportunities for TU students while creating impactful solutions for community organizations through applied research.
  • Environmental Injustice in Curtis Bay: A Participatory Action Research Project. Led by Nicole Fabricant, this participatory research project provides Baltimore City high school youth and TU students with eye-opening experiential education opportunities while also advocating for positive changes in their communities.
  • YAAAS! Youth Allies and Artists Taking Action in Society. Led by Kate Collins, YAAAS! provides refugee high school students with safe, positive opportunities to collaborate one-on-one with TU students, increasing their global competencies.

In her opening remarksto a crowd of 100+ in the South Campus Pavilion, President Schatzel noted the awards weren’t just about recognizing faculty and staff but were an opportunity to celebrate TU’s community partners and the work they are doing to lift up Greater Baltimore and the state.

“Tonight is very special. We’re celebrating those who are working with faculty to do this amazing work within the community,” said Schatzel. “It's an opportunity not just to be able to celebrate their exemplary work, but it's also a time for us to say thank you. Thank you for coming to work with us every single day. Thank you for working with us months and months on end.”

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The community partners celebrated at the BTU Partnership Awards have been working with TU faculty and students for months and even years.

Gregory Emerson ’06 was a member of the Applied Mathematics Laboratory (AML) as an undergraduate. Today, he serves as fuels trader at Constellation, where he sponsored a two-year partnership with the AML that furthered their understanding of natural gas demand in the United States. 

“As a former student and AML member and, now, a sponsor of the program, I just feel honored and excited to celebrate tonight,” said Emerson.

“The AML is more than just a research project. It's an opportunity for students to gain real world experience. They learn how to conduct independent research, collaborate, write publication-worthy papers, distill complex topics into simple statements, and communicate it to people who are non-technical,” said Emerson while accepting his partner award.

Destiny Watford ’18 has been collaborating with Fabricant and students at Benjamin Franklin High School in Curtis Bay since she was an undergraduate. Now a community organizer at United Workers, Watford says Environmental Injustice in Curtis Bay: A Participatory Action Research Project is impacting her community in forceful ways.

While accepting her award, Watford noted that sometimes institutions go into communities with “a different set of values and a vision in mind of what to do with our community,” and that TU isn’t doing that. 

“Something that I'm really proud of is that that isn't what's happening [with this partnership]. Instead, residents on the ground are coming up with powerful game changing solutions to the issues that we're facing with the youth leading the way,” said Watford. “And that vision, that support, is lifted up by Towson and supported in a million different ways.”

Brittany DeNovellis, program coordinator at Baltimore City Community College Refugee Youth Project, has been working with Collins on the YAAAS! partnership for two years. According to DeNovellis, the program receives many partnership inquiries. However, they rarely have such clear vision and stellar execution as YAAAS!.

“This project is really great proof that it's good, worthwhile and important to dream big enough to provide these spaces and to provide these structures for connection. I know our students and [the TU] students have undoubtedly had vastly different life experiences up to this point, but I think both parties really showed a willingness to stay well after their normal school hours to play, learn, grow,” said DeNovellis.

DeNovellis says the partnership has been transformational for everyone involved and hopes that it serves as a model to create even more change in our communities.

“It's my sincere hope and wish that we can multiply this model of using arts to build bridges between people who just might not have the chance to encounter each other on a regular basis. Thank you to Towson University for investing in the future of refugee youth,” said Novellis.

In her closing remarks, President Schatzel echoed that sentiment.

“I look forward to not only celebrating the successes of these partnerships, but also seeing how all of these projects and partnerships continue to grow, as we also continue to grow our work around BTU and explore new ways to support your efforts.”

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.