Community and university launching a Co-Research/Co-Education (CORE) partnership
Tufts University and the Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative (DSNI) have launched an innovative, community-based collaboration for teaching and research. Recognizing that a multi-year approach holds the potential for greater impact, the Co-Research/Co-Education (CORE) program is a three-year initiative that integrates joint learning, research, and action.
The agreement is built on almost three decades of collaboration between the Tufts University Department of Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning (UEP) and DSNI. With support from Tufts University’s Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life, the collaboration is growing to include a Practicum course, support for summer internships for students, and the development of research strategies for community-based sustainable and just local economic development. Since 1990, a DSNI co-founder and board member became a UEP lecturer, 13 UEP student teams have conducted semester-long Field Projects, two UEP graduates have become DSNI staff, and 5 DSNI staff, including 2 Executive Directors have entered UEP’s mid-career master’s program.
“We’ve had such a long relationship, yet we never planned our collaboration more than a year at a time,” said Tufts Senior Lecturer Penn Loh. “This new model will allow us to learn from previous initiatives, and build on them to expand our work together in more innovative and sustainable ways.”
“As a graduate of UEP’s Master of Public Policy program, I know that Tufts can bring fresh thinking and help create a learning space for us to continue our community innovations,” said DSNI Executive Director Juan Leyton. “Tufts has been a respectful community partner that values our expertise and time, and now we know we can count on their partnership over the next three years.”
Alan Solomont, Dean of Tisch College, noted that “Tisch College is proud to support this groundbreaking collaboration, which will provide transformational learning experiences for our students and generate new knowledge from community research. Over the long-term, we believe that community-based initiatives like this one can help advance positive social change and recruit more diverse students and faculty to Tufts.”
Tufts and DSNI co-designed a Practicum course this Fall for both Tufts students and community practitioners to learn together about strategies for building community-controlled economies. Students will be undertaking projects to support DSNI and its partners to convert the former Citizens Bank building in Uphams Corner into a commercial development that can generate jobs and economic opportunities for residents. DSNI’s land trust recently acquired the building and is working with City of Boston on planning the future of Uphams Corner.
Ben Baldwin went to work for DSNI on their land trust staff after graduating from Tufts UEP and represents the learning and career development that are possible with these kinds of partnerships. Ben said “this kind of collaboration is why I chose to come to Tufts in the first place. I was able to learn about DSNI as part of a Field Projects team and then continued working with them as a Tisch Summer Fellow. The second year of my master’s program culminated in a master’s thesis where I did research for DSNI. Now, I have the privilege of working here as a staff.”
Joceline Fidalgo, DSNI’s Development Director and a former youth member who was born and raised in the neighborhood and who recently started UEP’s master of public policy program added, “I would never have considered going back for my masters at Tufts without having seen their students and faculty working with us here at DSNI. I’m an example of how a deep partnership can blur the boundaries between community and university because now I wear both hats.”
Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative (DSNI) is a nationally renowned pioneer in community-driven urban revitalization, formed in 1984 by residents in the Roxbury/North Dorchester neighborhoods in response to disinvestment that had left more than 1/5 of the neighborhood’s land vacant. Over more than 30 years, DSNI has transformed that vacant land into a community land trust of more than 30 acres, on which it has developed 226 affordable homes, a 10,000 square foot community greenhouse, community gardens, an urban farm, town center, and playgrounds. DSNI remains the only community group in the nation to be delegated eminent domain powers by a municipality. Learn more at https://www.dsni.org/.