The Center for Community Engagement & Learning is a branch of UAA that promotes academic study that strives to involve both students and faculty together in many community-based projects. The new director will be a great addition to their staff and will be another link to promoting their image of high achievement.
Owens-Manley has an extensive background in social work, receiving her Ph.D. and M.S.W. from the University at Albany, School of Welfare. She has worked with several organizations, such as the House of Good Shepherd and the Hall House/YWCA shelter for battered women.
She is also a reputable member of many groups including the National Association of Social Workers, Academy of Certified Social Workers, Rotary International in New Hartford New York and Qualitative Research Consultants of America.
Before coming to Alaska, Owens-Manley spent the last 10 years as the Associate Director for Community Research and was a lecturer at Hamilton College in New York.
Her choice to come to Alaska was partially influenced by what many people experience, the appeal of the great outdoors.
“We love the spectacular beauty of Alaska and the outdoor life that the community embraces,” Owens-Manley said. Her final decision was mostly motivated by the previous CCEL Director.
“Nancy Andes, the former CCEL Director, was a part of a Community-Based Research Network with me as a result of a grant, so I knew about some of the wonderful work that had been done here at UAA,” she said.
One of Owens-Manley’s most memorable accomplishments is her involvement with the 5-year-long HOPE VI project in Utica, New York.
“We used a program evaluation course, but also summer internships and student research assistants to complete interviews, create maps, record oral histories and ultimately create a DVD and a website that told the story of this housing project and “remembered” a way of life that was important to people,” Owens-Manley said.
Her new position will greatly help raise awareness about the CCEL and its goals for students. She will also be designated the head of the CCEL Advisory board.
“(Dr. Owens-Manley) comes to us with a lot of experience in a very different kind of university, and ideas from being involved with several national initiatives,” Professor Diane Hirshberg, Advisory Board chair said. “I think she will help us think about different ways to involve faculty and students in community-engaged teaching and research.”
The board, consisting of faculty, staff, students and members of the community, is meant to be a way to discuss improvements, exchange ideas, decide on what projects to pursue and how to connect students and the community.
“The last year was hard. There was a team of us working collaboratively to keep the center running, and we worked really well together, but there was no one point person to take on new initiatives or sometimes to make some of the hard decisions that have to be made,” Hirshberg said. “Her arrival means that there is someone who can be seen as the face of the center, a person who can represent the work that the center and university does with the community”
Owens-Manley has many new ideas that she hopes to set in motion to help improve the center, such as developing an even deeper relationship with the organizations that they work with, to get a more solid connection between them. She also wants to focus on showing off the work that has already been accomplished.
“Community engagement is a different kind of energy,” Owens-Manley said. “I met with faculty last Friday who shared why they became involved in the community as a part of what they offer in their courses. For many, they love that it gives their students a sense of agency in the world, that they can make a positive difference and be a part of solutions to global and local issues. And then it gives us a sense of hope too, that together we can do far more than we can apart. What is education for if it doesn’t make a difference?”