In Pursuit of Liberty and Justice for All

In Pursuit of Liberty and Justice for All

We in the Center for Community Engagement were distraught by the invasion of the Capitol building and the congressional offices earlier this week, yet we’re not surprised. This was the logical conclusion and even the intended outcome of those in positions of leadership, especially Donald Trump, who propagated false conspiracies about the 2020 election to the United States populace.  

Furthermore, we were dismayed to witness the disparities in how the violent insurgents were treated by law enforcement officers at the Capitol in contrast to how law enforcement has responded to nonviolent protestors for racial justice in Washington, DC, and around the country over the past year—and for decades prior. We recognize that this inequity is deeply rooted in our society and all too familiar to disenfranchised and marginalized groups.  

We have much work to do to uphold and advance the University’s Meliora values that we hold dear:  equity, leadership, inclusion, openness, respect, and accountability. We believe in the power of people to effect positive social change through active participation in established democratic processes and institutions, as well as through non-violent direct action that seeks to make those intuitions ever better and more accountable to the needs of the people. We acknowledge that policies that have been (and continue to be) put in place to prevent some (notably people of color) from having access to these mechanisms of power, and we dedicate ourselves to advancing equal access, and to promoting liberty and justice for all.  

We uphold the statement of University President Mangelsdorf in response to this week’s attack, and we  embrace the work of our partner organizations and want to share their messages in response to the violence in Washington, DC, yesterday. These include Campus Compact, the Andrew Goodman Foundation, and 540 West Main.

Our Work Here is Not Finished

Our Work Here is Not Finished

The death of George Floyd in police custody last week, and the ensuing outrage that has been expressed in communities around the country—including here in Rochester this past weekend–demand that we redouble our commitment to addressing long standing structural inequalities in Rochester and beyond. For 15 years, the work of the Rochester Center for Community Leadership has connected students, faculty, and community partners to confront these stark realities and to dismantle the structures that perpetuate existing racial power dynamics. Black lives matter:  every black life lost represents unrealized possibilities. The current crisis calls for us to think anew about how we undertake this work. We advocate to redress injustice through informed, nonviolent, civic action—and that mission is needed urgently now, not just in word but in deed. 

Our approach to our work is grounded in the belief that community engagement needs to be informed by community-identified needs. We must be respectful of the knowledge of the black community and responsive to its needs. If you have ideas of suggestions about how we might best direct our efforts and resources at this time, please let us know. 

We also believe that we must start by ensuring that we have done our homework to understand the history and context behind the current manifestation of this crisis. Toward that end, here is a short list of tips and resources that our team has compiled. We don’t pretend that this is comprehensive–if you have additional suggestions, we’d love to hear them. 

  1. Do the work. This means honest introspection and navigating discomfort with racism, including our own unconscious biases and our relationship with structural racism.
  2. Read up. Here are a few titles to get you started: 
  3. Listen up.
  4. Show up. Participate in meetings and events with a spirit of cultural humility, deferring to indigenous knowledge and leadership. Come to listen and learn rather than speak. If meetings or events are in person, practice recommended practices for the pandemic, including physical distancing and wearing a mask:  epidemiological data show that the pandemic is disproportionately affecting people of color. 
  5. Pay up. If your means allow, support organizations that are taking action to dismantle the structures that continue to concentrate poverty in marginalized communities.
  6. Breathe. Practice self care so that you can make this a long-term strategy. While the need is urgent, the structures that oppress people of color have been built over centuries and require sustained effort to reform.


The RCCL Team
Glenn Cerosaletti, Abbie Deacon, Ed Feldman, Yahaira Hayle-Laboy, Mary Beth Spinelli
Rachel Theisen, Andrew Thomas, Matt Trombley
Community-Engaged Course Development Grant Spotlight: Moving Memories, DAN 247

Community-Engaged Course Development Grant Spotlight: Moving Memories, DAN 247

RCCL Course Development Grant Summary of Moving Memories, DAN 247, Spring 2019
Submitted by Anne Harris Wilcox, Program of Dance and Movement

It is my great pleasure to share the development of DAN 247 Moving Memories for the Spring of 2018.  The success of this inaugural year has prompted us to offer the course again for the Spring of 2019.  The following is an account of the course’s development including pre-planning initiatives, professional development, implementation, and reflection.

nursing home residents and UR undergraduates engage in physical movement together


After the good news of receiving the grant from RCCL, I began researching other organizations who offered creative experiences with elder populations.  Since Moving Memories emphasized creativity and artful engagement, I wanted to learn from other programs’ who offered this particular kind of participation. I first looked at Americas Best Intergenerational Communities (voted in 2012) such as City of Georgetown, Texas; Town of Lamoni, Iowa; City of Oberlin, Ohio; County of San Diego, California; Virginia Planning District 10.   I focused in on the center closest to me hoping to visit if needed.  I had several conversations with the Activities Director at Kendal at Oberlin in Oberlin, OH, and one conference call where I was able to interview the staff who provided a creative movement opportunity at the senior residence. The most significant take-way from this conversation was the importance of social engagement with the students and senior participants.  This was new information for me and definitely shaped the manner in which I set up the course. I asked if 9-10 weeks seemed a reasonable amount of time for what I was designing and they confirmed my sense of time.  The semester is fifteen weeks, but there would need to be preparation time for the students prior to working with their partners, so I was concerned about devoting an appropriate amount of prep and implementation time.  I was also curious how their programs went about pairing students and elders. They responded that the senior organization took more of the lead on this, but both parties weighed in.  This in fact is exactly how we went about pairing UR students with River Edge Manor participants (but I’m a little ahead of myself).  Right here on the River Campus, Thom Slaughter has been doing an ongoing intergenerational collaboration transcribing of the Seward letters.   I interviewed Thom to get his advice on setting up my course.  Thom also encouraged social engagement, so I knew this had to be an important component of the syllabus.

I felt it was important that I have first-hand experience working in an inter-generational creative setting.  This is what brought me to Dance Exchange, in Tacoma Park, MD. Dance Exchange is kind of a mecca for intergenerational work thanks to its Founder, Liz Lerman.  Liz Lerman has been working and writing about designing creative classes and performances for intergenerational participants for decades.  I participated in a Winter intensive workshop in January with Dance Exchange that focused on inter-generational choreography.  Our group ranged from teenagers to octogenarians, and was truly inspirational and informative.  After the semester finished, I also went back to Dance Exchange to be in an intergenerational performance in July.  This experience was extremely different from the Winter Workshop and broadened my personal understanding and appreciation for the creative process.  Besides these intensives at Dance Exchange, and interviews of people working with elder citizens creatively, I also researched numerous books, articles, and websites to gather resources and flesh sources for the course.  In addition, I arranged for two of my dance colleagues Ann Diamond and Ellen Tomer Baker MSW, to be guests in the early stages of the course. Both Ann and Ellen have spent their careers working with senior citizens and are also both dancers and choreographers.  So, I engaged both of them to work with the students; Ellen led a workshop on “Aging: What Does It Mean? What Does it Look Like? How to Work with Elders”; Ann invited our students to come to her at Marion house to observe a Dance Therapy class with seniors in various stages of Alzheimer’s.  Both were marvelous experiences that helped students demystify ideas of elder generations.

Contacting the Activities Director at River Edge Manor was another critical step.  Bonnie Gregoire was the lynch pin that made this semester a success.  Her enthusiasm and all-in commitment made the partnership work.  Prior to the semester beginning, I visited RE in December to introduce the course, and encourage people to consider joining the class.  The course would run (from their perspective) from Feb. to end of April.  In addition, we made a flyer, and Bonnie also spread the word, which resulted in securing seven willing participants; four from the RE independent living and three from the RE Nursing home.

The format for the course included 5 weeks of independent preparation before meeting the RE partners and 9 weeks for the partnership.  During the partnership time, we all met together on Mondays for a combined choreography class: on Wednesdays I met with only the students: and one time a week the students and elders met without me at a self-scheduled time. This was one of the ways of insuring that social engagement! For the few weeks prior to the partnerships, UR students focused on their own stories and exploring the idea of translating stories into movement.  We utilized interview questions from Story Corps, and created movement studies to explore different aspects of narrative.  Bonnie came to visit UR one of the days the students were showing movement studies.  This gave her a little understanding of  the students’ personalities.  This helped Bonnie facilitate the pairing of the seniors and the UR students.  We believed it better to have Bonnie who knew the seniors so well, to be the ultimate match maker and she was simply spot on! In addition to these narrative-focused classes, the students participated in Ellen Tomer’s workshop and visited Marion House with Ann Diamond.  So that the first meeting wasn’t completely new, students wrote short note cards to their elder partners and they provided Bonnie with 2 sentence bios to give to the students.

On the first day, we went over the course schedule, so everyone could know the agenda.  Also, each elder was presented with a UR  choreography folder to use throughout the project.  In the folder they found the syllabus, the week to week schedule, and a chart containing the Elements of Dance.  The folders acted as small “gifts” and set a great tone for the opening day.

Regular choreography classes anchored the course; each week a new choreographic element was explored such as: Space, Time, Energy, Relationship, Body, Stage craft, etc.  The social-bonding events enable both student and elder to share in a mutually engaging experience to reflect upon and be inspired by as they develop their own work. The final projects are presented in fully produced concerts whereby participants see their ideas realized as a theatrical treatment and shared among their peers and community.

Using last year’s class feedback as evidence for students’ experience, I have learned that Moving Memories was incredibly valuable to all participants. In some cases, students stepped out of their comfort zone to work with seniors and found it profoundly meaningful.  The independent meetings were as critical to the success of the partnership as the regular class time.  Of the students that are still on campus this year, each one has told me that they continue to visit their partner and regularly communicate with them even though the class finished in May.  Other students who had prior experience in working with seniors, were able to expand their interaction by working with their partner, in a mutually collaborative and creative mission.  One senior told me that they had never done anything like this before and it was both scary and exciting.  Not only are the seniors regularly required to engage in creative skill building, but they also have the opportunity to give voice to a meaningful memory.  Sharing this memory and putting it into a dance context is the challenge and the thrill.

Lastly, I’d like to address the importance of the funding for this course.  The grant provided vital opportunities and practical needs of the class.  My research at Dance Exchange (and continued work with Dance for Parkinson’s Disease) provided valuable insight and experience with  intergenerational work . The funds also provided important transportation for students to River Edge in inclement  weather and for fieldtrips.  Another vital component of the funding was the costs toward producing two concerts for the final projects.  Both venues provided very different, yet important experiences for both students and seniors.  I am incredibly grateful to have had the opportunity to design and implement this course.  I have grown as an educator and a person so much, and I extend my sincere thanks to the RCCL Course Development Grant committee.

Moving Memories – A Community-Engaged Course

Moving Memories – A Community-Engaged Course

Ellen Tomer Baker facilitated a discussion on eldercare and practical aspects of engaging with senior adults with students in DAN 249 Moving Memories in early February. Ellen focused on issues related to aging such: language, social bias, health challenges, and well-being. As a social worker who has worked in eldercare for the past seventeen years, she was able to draw from the variety of experiences from personal home visits, VA care, hospice, and her current work at St. Ann’s. Ellen also has a background in dance as a performer and choreographer, so she was especially well-suited to help the students prepare for their choreographic collaboration with our River Edge Manor partners.

Learn more about Community-Engaged Learning. 

Student Spotlight: Rachel Tse

Student Spotlight: Rachel Tse

Hometown: Hong Kong

Class Year: 2022

Majors/Minors: Double Major in Business and English

Your UR activities other than working here? 1st Gen Society, Students Helping Honduras

What has been your favorite experience at UR so far? It has been a really great experience thus far that I get to explore and study what I genuinely am passionate for, thanks for the flexible Rochester curriculum! Also, everywhere I go, people have been really friendly and helpful to me, from faculty members to people that have the same classes with me! It’s great to know that there’s always someone to turn to when I have questions.

What are you most excited for this semester? This semester I am really excited about getting more involved in student activities and community service.

What advice do you have for newly arrived midyear students? I would suggest newly arrived midyear students not to afraid to go out and meet new people! Trust me, everyone here is super nice. You can start by looking into the clubs and organizations that you may be interested in and you’re off to a great start! It’s never too late to make new friends!

Breaking the Bubble: Refugees Helping Refugees

Breaking the Bubble: Refugees Helping Refugees

Learn about the Rochester refugee community through the work of the remarkable local organization Refugees Helping Refugees.

“I lived in a refugee camp for ten years where I promoted girls education and women’s rights. I came to the United States and formed Refugees Helping Refugees so that when refugees are most scared and in need, they have a place to turn to.”
–Sadiya Omar, RHR Co-founder

Refugees Helping Refugees (RHR) is a non-profit organization that serves refugees of Western New York. RHR seeks to foster the growth, self-determination, and self-reliance of Rochester’s refugee community by making them agents of their own advancement through education, English language skills, work training and attention to senior needs. Meet Ms. Omar, Program Director Pia Moller and Assistant Case Manager Pamela Kim Adams at Breaking the Bubble.

When/Where: Monday, February 4th, 7:30 pm at Brue Coffee, 960 Genesee Street

Breaking the Bubble is a community speaker series sponsored by UR’s Office for Residential Life and Housing Services in association with the Rochester Center for Community Leadership. This event is free and open to the public.

2018 Rising Leader Class Graduates

2018 Rising Leader Class Graduates

Congratulations to the 2018 graduates of the Rising Leader Class. First year students were competitively selected from a pool of 80 for this class, which allows participants to further understand themselves in relationship to leadership. Rising Leader Class graduates go on to hold many different roles in student organizations, student government, and campus employment. Please join us in congratulating this year’s graduates!

Mateo Alexander, Dokata Banchale, Daler Beisenbayev, Janna-Rayanne Benraiss, Luis Borja, Ahmed Boutar, Nathaniel Brunacini, Jorge Caje Zayas, Chastity Chavez, Yoo Choi, Caden Dowd, Junis Ekmekciu, Payton Elliott, Sydney Goldstein, Chloe Jones, Mitchell Jones, Kharissa King, Peyton Maccarone, Danielle Marouni, Hayley McGowan, Eleanor O’Neill, Fariha Raisa, Holly Rowland, Kadir Sahin, Helen Shammas, Rachel Snapperman, Mindula Suriyabandara, Yaocheng Tian, Brendon Tran, Liying Wang, Deon Willis

Student Spotlight: Deniz Cengiz

Student Spotlight: Deniz Cengiz

Get to know out new student employee, Deniz Cengiz!

Hometown: Istanbul, Turkey
Class Year: 2021
Majors/Minors: Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Archaeology

Your UR activities other than working here: Design Thinking Fellow at Barbara J. Burger iZone, Sihir Bellydancing Ensemble

What has been your favorite experience at UR so far?
The journey of exploring how I fit in to the new setting and community of UR and sharing it with people that have become my family away from home has by far been the best experience. A really great memory from last year is from the Scare Fair that the library hosts: I was organizing an event where we built fortresses to protect ourselves from the zombie apocalypse, and everyone from my hall showed up to the event and we ended up building a giant cardboard fortress in the middle of Q&I!

What advice do you have for students who want to get involved?
Don’t be afraid to fail or get rejected or be embarrassed! There are many things to do on and off campus, but it’s scary as a newcomer to sometimes step into new experiences or activities out of fear of feeling out of place or being less experienced in certain activities. We all fail or embarrass ourselves at one point or another, and there is nothing wrong with experimenting and trying out new things to see if they fit you or your interests. Finding out the right people and the community for yourself comes from trying new things and making connections!

What’s your favorite Rochester restaurant?
There’s a really good authentic Turkish restaurant called As Evi, it’s a great place for me for when I’m really missing food from home!

Intergenerational Fall Clean Up

Intergenerational Fall Clean Up

Spend a few hours raking and sweeping to help our senior neighbors prepare for winter. Refreshments, supplies, and everything you need for the day will be supplied. Get some friends together and spend the day enjoying the fall weather and making a difference!

Saturday, October 27th
Kickoff at 9:00am
Monroe Community Hospital
Transportation to and from the homes is not provided. Contact RCCL if you need help arranging transportation.

Student Spotlight: Justyna Gorka

Student Spotlight: Justyna Gorka

Get to know our new student assistant, Justyna Gorka!

Hometown: Chicago, IL
Class Year: 2021
Majors/Minors: Political Science and Philosophy

Your UR activities other than working here: 2021 Class Council, D’Lions, RHA, APO, GlobeMed, Students for a Democratic Society

What has been your favorite experience at UR so far? My favorite experience so far has definitely been Orientation Week for the Class of 2022. Being a D’Lion, I got the chance to interact with the first-year class and get them excited about the UofR. In the process, I also was able to inadvertently relive my own Orientation Week memories, smiling at how much I’ve grown as a person since then. It was great to have a role in the Class of 2022’s introduction into college life. Through my efforts and the efforts of other Yellowjackets, I hope that the class can come to love the UofR as much as I have.

What advice do you have for students who want to get involved? If you want to get involved, the first step is to be proactive and put yourself out there. Utilize the resources available to you on campus as well as online in the UofR domain. If you don’t know how, check out the CCC and find out where your interests lie. From there, it only takes an email, a phone call, an in-person visit, etc. to get connected. The hardest step is always the first. So voice your interests to the leaders of the group, and I assure you that they will appreciate your enthusiasm and help you integrate into a community just as passionate as you.

What’s your favorite Rochester restaurant? I am a big fan of Stromboli’s Restaurant on 130 East Ave by the Eastman School of Music. The food has an authentic taste, it is a quick buy, and it is inexpensive – the golden standard for a busy college student or anyone who appreciates good food. I recommend any of their boli dishes or specialty pizzas!