Quick Lerner

Just three months old, Brennan Prof.'s interdisciplinary center is off to a fast start

By Sean Smith
Staff Writer

Less than three months after its debut, the Boston College Center for Child, Family and Community Partnerships is involved in several multidisciplinary projects and is poised to expand its presence on campus and beyond, according to its director, Anita L. Brennan Professor of Education Richard M. Lerner.

Lerner said the center - established to organize University involvement in projects which serve the social, educational, health and other needs of children, families and communities - has received an enthusiastic response from administrators and faculty across the University. The center plans to hold a reception Dec. 3 that will serve as its formal introduction to the Boston College community.

"We're quite excited by the progress we've made in such a relatively short time," said Lerner, who began his appointment as Brennan Chair and center director Sept. 1. "We want to stress that we are continually looking for the contributions of great ideas and superb expertise that are the hallmark of Boston College."

Center for Child, Family and Community Partnerships Director Richard Lerner in a recent meeting with his staff. (Photo by Lee Pellegrini)
Typically, he said, administrators and faculty representing different schools, departments or programs might develop an initiative and, through the center, find other collaborators and an appropriate setting for the project.

"What we've also been seeing, however, is the outside communities coming to us and asking, 'Can BC help us?'" Lerner added. "We are then able to locate and bring together the resources within the University that these communities are looking for. They are seeking the scholarship, the professional skills and talents our University possesses.

"With this approach, the center's work speaks to many aspects of Boston College's Jesuit and Catholic character," he said.

One pre-existing program now operating through the center is the Integrated Services Project, in which the schools of Law, Education and Nursing, the Graduate School of Social Work and the Carroll School of Management work with educators from Allston and Brighton to serve children at risk. In recent months, Lerner said, the center has helped launch or become involved in a variety of other initiatives.

One project is "Overcoming the Odds," a collaboration with Michigan State University to study the bases of positive development among African-American and Latino students. Another involves SOE, the Office of International Programs and the International Youth Foundation in a graduate training initiative to help developing countries evaluate and sustain youth programs.

Other projects use innovative methods to address child development concerns, Lerner said. One program - run in cooperation with University of Massachusetts-Amherst and a local food organization - matches Roxbury schoolchildren with an organic farmer in Lincoln, where the children learn cooperation and see their efforts result in a tangible product of value. Also, they learn about marketing and advertising.

In tandem with UMass-Dartmouth and New Bedford educational, business and municipal representatives, CCFCP is evaluating a New Bedford program in which local vocational students use abandoned mills to breed fish and vegetation. The project's leaders hope to begin a similar program in Lawrence, Lerner said.

Another initiative in the formative stages calls for Boston College to join with other educational institutions in the state to form the Massachusetts Consortium of Child and Family-Serving University Centers. Lerner said the consortium would provide a network of services that would enhance the state's outreach to youth, families and communities.

Assisting the center's efforts within the University, Lerner said, are advisory committees for administrators and faculty, chaired respectively by Associate Vice President for Research and Graduate School of Arts and Sciences Dean Michael Smyer and SOE Associate Dean Mary Walsh. Another committee being organized will consist of administrators and faculty who will represent the center in the international community.

"There is a tremendous need and a growing demand for higher education institutions to explore these kinds of partnerships," Lerner said. "Clearly, based on what the center has experienced so far, Boston College is at the forefront in making such collaborations possible."

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