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Lost in Translation Seminar a Tremendous Success

                                                           

 

Lost in Translation - Sean Bender.JPG

      Keynote speaker Sean Bender, director of the Center for Community and Learning Partnerships at Wentworth Institute of Technology in Boston, said that "universities are the economic engine of the 21st century."    

                                

Willimantic, CT -- More than 100 Willimantic area businesspeople, educators, public officials, members of the local Latino community and other local leaders attended "Lost in Translation 3: Community Connections," a free, half-day seminar held on April 15 in the Betty R. Tipton Room of the Student Center at Eastern Connecticut State University. 

            The event, which was co-hosted by Eastern, the Chamber of Commerce/Windham Region and Bauza & Associates of Hartford, followed two successful workshops held at Eastern in October 2007 and May 2008. 

While the themes of bringing together Willimantic's mainstream and Latino communities and supporting local economic development were continued from the first two events, Lost in Translation 3 focused on engaging Eastern students in the Willimantic community. 

            During his welcoming remarks, Eastern's Vice President for Institutional Advancement Kenneth DeLisa said, "Today we will be exploring how we can leverage the expertise of Eastern's students and faculty to address some of our community's pressing needs while ensuring that students are gaining valuable experience and knowledge in return."   

Chamber Executive Director Roger Adams also welcomed participants, and encouraged businesses in attendance to connect more with Eastern and the K-12 school system. Adams also said that strengthening connections beyond Willimantic will be critical to economic development in the region. 

During his luncheon speech, keynoter Sean Bender, director of the Center for Community and Learning Partnerships at Wentworth Institute of Technology in Boston, said that "universities are the economic engine of the 21st century."

            Bender explained that improving relationships between towns and universities means students, faculty and staff need to travel off campus and area residents and businesses must be willing to visit campus. "You need to 'go down the hill,' and they need to 'come up the hill,'" Bender said, referring to Eastern's geographic location in the Victorian Hill section of Willimantic.

"We are undergoing an educational evolution," he continued, "where learning takes place in the community. Universities will become like the Marine Corps for service.  This is about more than picking up trash; it's about investing in the community and the community investing in the university."                                                                

Lost in Translation - George Hernandez.JPG 

George Hernandez of the Spanish American Merchants Association reviewed the many services available to local firms through SAMA and the Chamber during the Lost in Translation 3 seminar at Eastern Connecticut State University.

 

Eastern President Elsa Núñez opened the luncheon program by acknowledging both the town's "formal leaders" such as selectmen and school officials, as well as the community's "informal leaders" in nonprofit agencies, churches, PTAs, and other organizations. "Both are needed to secure the future of Willimantic," she said.

            Breakout topics in the morning included a review of the services available to local small businesses; a workshop on overcoming cultural differences in a multicultural environment; a session on expanding relationships between the University and the community; and a dialog on how to build a stronger support system for local schoolchildren.

Wilson Camelo, vice president of Bauza & Associates, described the growing Latino population, saying there are more Latinos in the United States than there are Canadians in Canada.  He presented statistics and humorous anecdotes to show the need for developing better communications to help appreciate cultural diversity and to be sensitive and respectful of cultural differences.  Camelo concluded by saying, "Our differences should not lead to a divide. This is complex, but it is not complicated. We all should be willing to learn what we do not know."                                                                                   

Lost in Translation - Tummers Anderberg.JPG

Eastern Education Professors Nanette Tummers and Ann  Anderberg discuss the role of service learning in Windham public schools during the Lost in Translation seminar at Eastern Connecticut State University.

 

In the workshop "Education is Everyone's Business," Windham Public School Superintendent Doreen Fuller and Ann Anderberg, Eastern professor of early childhood education, said there is a need for more collaboration between government agencies and educational institutions to reduce the educational gap between low- and middle-income students.  

They also advocated linking educational and social services in Willimantic to create a community-wide system to support student progress from preschool to college.  They said schools should not be singled out for failure; that failure is the result of larger societal challenges -- housing, health care, how public education is funded and equitable employment opportunity.  A case was also made for a more efficient, regional approach to public education. 

            During the session on small business, Diane Nadeau of the Chamber of Commerce/Windham Region and George Hernandez of the Spanish American Merchants Association reviewed the many services available to local firms through SAMA and the Chamber        

Bender led the fourth morning breakout session, using the time to speak with Eastern faculty about his experiences developing the Center for Community and Learning Partnerships at Wentworth Institute of Technology.  Last year, 1,800 Wentworth students performed 116,000 hours of service in the community, involving 270 projects each semester that ranged from internships and coops to paid work/study and project teams performing pro-bono and pay-for-hire work in the community.

            "It's all about reciprocity," Bender explained. "Every partner has a bottom line and everyone has resources -- time, money, knowledge, connections.  Being open and honest about what those agendas and assets are is the basis for developing a mutually beneficial relationship." 

            Bender also said it was important when developing a student/community engagement model to  measure the "return on investment" in quantifiable numbers for each stakeholder--students, faculty members, the University, and community partners.  ###

 

 

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