Lauren D. Cunningham, Assistant Director, Office of Leadership and Service-Learning, UNCG
May 23, 2017
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG) was honored to host the 2017 Gulf South Summit on Service-Learning and Civic Engagement through Higher Education (GSS), held March 22nd– 24th at the Greensboro Marriott Downtown in Greensboro, North Carolina. This year’s summit was coordinated by a local planning team, led by the Office of Leadership and Service-Learning at UNCG. The three-day event drew more than 350 passionate educators, practitioners, and students from 23 states, and 90 institutions.
The mission of the Gulf South Summit on Service-Learning and Civic Engagement through Higher Education is to promote networking among practitioners, research, ethical practices, reciprocal campus-community partnerships, sustainable programs, and a culture of engagement and public awareness through service-learning and other forms of civic engagement. The summit provided a dynamic forum to discuss the challenges and successes of higher education's drive toward true community engagement. Attendees from across the U.S. gathered to discuss best practices, share research, and foster a growing professional network.
The theme for GSS 2017 was “Partner Up! Fostering Just and Inclusive Communities Together” and served as a proactive response to the growing concerns regarding North Carolina’s controversial House Bill 2, a bill that sparked a national debate on LGBTQ rights. Initially, the local planning team grappled with whether to even host this year’s summit in the state because of HB2. The committee was committed to presenting this conference as a scholarly forum around this national dialogue addressing issues of equity and inclusion, issues that extend far beyond North Carolina. Considering North Carolina’s House Bill 2, the Public Facilities & Security Act passed by lawmakers March 23, 2016, GSS coordinators felt that it was important to address the impact of HB2, an important issue facing citizens throughout our nation (Brooke, 2016). Signed by the former North Carolina governor, Pat McCrory in 2016, HB2 restricted individuals who identify as transgender to use public bathrooms according to the sex they were assigned at birth (Brooke, 2016). However, the director of the Office of Leadership and Service-Learning at UNCG, Dr. Cathy Hamilton, responded by affirming that GSS 2017 would serve as an opportunity for our community to confront the inequity and negative impact of a bill like HB2.
“As scholar-practitioners, we lean into the issues facing our communities. We felt Gulf South Summit brought people together who confront the complexity in their work each day.”
The summit’s keynote speakers created a powerful, collective voice leaving attendees inspired. Dr. Randy Stoecker, Professor of Community and Environmental Sociology at the University of Wisconsin, Dr. Anne DePrince, Professor and Department Chair for Psychology as well as Director of the Center for Community Engagement and Service-Learning at the University of Denver, and Joyce Hobson Johnson, Co-Executive Director of the Beloved Community Center and local Community Activist served as this year’s cohort of speakers, and pre-conference workshop facilitators. There were nearly 75 workshops, 17 round table discussions, and a grand reception that took place at the International Civil Rights Center and Museum located in downtown Greensboro and is connected to the famous F.W. Woolworth lunch counter.
For more information about the 2017 Gulf South Summit visit http://www.gulfsouthsummit.org/. There you will find the biographies of GSS 2017 keynote speakers, a detailed list of workshop sessions, the 2017 award winners and much, much more. The 2018 Gulf South Summit will be hosted by University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) in Birmingham, AL. For questions contact the Office of Leadership and Service-Learning at UNCG via email at [email protected].
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