Engagement is vital to the University of Richmond community. This engagement takes the form of community service trips, ongoing community partnerships, engaged scholarship, and campus-wide events. The Bonner Center for Civic Engagement is the heart of the service community on campus, and through its wonderful faculty and staff, the Bonner Center maintains close partnerships with a wide variety of Richmond’s key service providers. One example of a fundamental partnership is the mentoring program, which places UR students in Richmond City Public schools to foster key relationships for children’s success and development. Likewise, the Carrico Center for Pro Bono Service, directed by Tara Casey at UR Law, helps law students engage with the legal needs of people throughout Richmond. As a Student Manager in the Carrico Center, I help coordinate the Street Law program, which partners with local providers to teach children about different areas of the law.
The One Book, One Richmond campaign, sponsored by the Office of the Chaplaincy, is one of my favorite examples of the depth of UR’s focus on critical engagement. Each year, UR chooses a book on a social justice issue to spur conversation and engagement throughout campus. This year’s book, Bryan Stevenson’s “Just Mercy,” focuses on mass incarceration and juvenile justice. Across campus, all year long, we’ve had conversations with students, faculty, staff, and the broader Richmond community about how we can be personally accountable for alleviating oppression caused by inequality in our criminal justice system.
The University of Richmond community views engagement as critical both for students’ education and to benefit the broader community. The VA Engage Network is crucial to this process for two main reasons. First, it allows UR’s impact to extend through connections across the Commonwealth, and second, the network allows UR to benefit from the experiences of others in the field. This connectivity is essential to consistently evaluate our engagement process and see how we can improve, in order to best serve the needs of students and our society.
Cassie A. Powell is in her final year of the dual JD/MSW program at the University of Richmond School of Law and Virginia Commonwealth University’s School of Social Work. She serves on the Virginia Engage Journal Board and interns with the Bonner Center for Civic Engagement. She is also a Student Program Manager for the Carrico Center for Pro Bono Service at UR Law.