For those of you who don’t know, Cherry Hill is a community in south Baltimore. In 2005, Towson University partnered with the Baltimore City government, the Baltimore City Public School System, and neighborhood organizations to start the Cherry Hill Learning Zone (CHLZ). The CHLZ allows TU to work alongside community members to build upon the strengths of Cherry Hill and aid in its economic, community, and educational development.

Recently, I was able to collaborate with Katelyn Victor (among many others) to develop a new Cherry Hill section of TU in the Community. Katelyn has been the AmeriCorps VISTA, specifically dedicated to supporting the Cherry Hill Learning Zone, since August 2011 and has been instrumental in the development of new programs and continued success of existing projects.

I recently sat down with Katelyn, to learn first-hand about her role and her biggest “take-aways.”

What is your role as the AmeriCorps VISTA for Cherry Hill and what do you do when you are in the community?

Katelyn: My job as the AmeriCorps VISTA for Cherry Hill Projects is to work with TU faculty and Cherry Hill community members to develop and implement sustainable programs that improve that neighborhood and the lives of its residents. AmeriCorps VISTA is a national service program that is designed specifically to fight poverty. In Cherry Hill, I work toward reaching that ultimate goal by supporting programs that help students achieve academic success, enable residents to access healthy foods and make healthy choices, and more.

How has Towson University’s partnership with Cherry Hill grown since you started as the VISTA?

Katelyn: Since starting as the VISTA, I have had the opportunity to collaborate with faculty and staff from across Towson University’s divisions and departments to start and expand programs in Cherry Hill.

With Dr. Honi Bamberger of the Fisher College of Science and Mathematics, I developed and implemented an after-school program. After a few months of planning, the program launched in January 2012. It employed 14 Towson University undergrads and grads as tutors/mentors for small groups of Cherry Hill middle-school students. TU students tutored Cherry Hill students in mathematics twice weekly and we also invited guest speakers to talk about careers and everyday applications of science, technology, engineering and math. From January to May of 2012, the program served a little over 60 students from two schools in Cherry Hill.

I have also worked with Dr. Nadine Braunstein from our College of Health Professions on the Cherry Hill People’s Garden Project. With Dr. Braunstein and a committee of university and community leaders, I have helped that project to fund 4 new community and school gardens in Cherry Hill. I also developed and maintain a website for the project.

Lastly, I have worked to enhance communication about the partnership by teaming up with TU’s Division of Economic and Community Outreach to develop a new section of TU in the Community that is dedicated to Cherry Hill. The site allows interested individuals to submit their contact information through a ‘volunteer application’. I then work with those individuals to get them involved in projects and programs in Cherry Hill that match their interests.

What is your favorite thing about working in Cherry Hill?
Katelyn: My favorite part of working in Cherry Hill is all of the amazing people from the community who I have had the opportunity to meet and work with. Cherry Hill has a very strong group of community leaders who are passionate about improving their neighborhood. They are inspiring and energizing. Having the chance to work with them and learn from them has really been a pleasure.

What do you think is in the future for Cherry Hill?
Katelyn: The future of Cherry Hill is bright. In the short amount of time I have worked in the neighborhood, I have met so many passionate, capable, and committed individuals- from Towson University, Cherry Hill, Baltimore City Government, and other places- who are working to make it a better place. The programs that TU and others are currently operating in the neighborhood are already making positive changes. In the future, if all of these groups come together, I have no doubt that they will have an even greater impact in Cherry Hill.

Katelyn will be leaving her position at the VISTA in August, but there will be a new AmeriCorps VISTA for Cherry Hill projects to start right where she leaves off. TU’s programs have already grown so much and are sure to keep growing.

For more information about Cherry Hill and what Towson University is doing in the neighborhood, visit the Cherry Hill Learning Zone.

Katelyn Victor, left, and the tutors from the after-school STEM program in Cherry Hill


There have been a number of blog posts discussing the features of TU in the Community, as well as some of the projects that are listed in the database. But have you ever wondered about how the website was created and launched?

When I first started in my position, one of my tasks was to edit and expand a white paper about TU in the Community, that was started by my colleague, Lindsey Meyer. This paper explained how TU in the Community was conceived and how it is used.

Below, you can click on the picture to read the finished version of the white paper and learn about:

  • The history of TU in the Community;
  • The features of the website;
  • The management of the website; and
  • The future of TU in the Community.

This white paper was a great way for me to learn more about TU in the Community and its many uses. I think that users of the website, as well as other institutions looking to launch or revamp their own outreach websites, will also find the paper helpful.

If you have any questions about TU in the Community that have not been answered here, please contact me at 410-704-2678 or I would be more than happy to chat with you about the website and searchable database and how it can be of use to you!


As promised in one of my previous blog posts, there is indeed a new feature on TU in the Community!  The Funder Tool is an exciting new initiative that was launched about a month ago and since then over 25 users have added new profiles.

The purpose of the tool is to increase collaboration across the university and to support faculty and staff efforts in grants and contracts initiatives. In plain English, that means that the tool makes it easier for faculty and staff to gain funding for their projects and research. Users can log into TU in the Community and have a number of funding opportunities at their fingertips. They can also receive emails about opportunities as they become available. The list of grants is by no means exhaustive, but it represents the opportunities that the Development Office and the Office of University Research Services (OURS) find the most relevant to TU faculty and staff members.

The great thing about the Funder Tool is that it contains opportunities for the many interests of Towson University. A user is just as likely to find a STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) grant as a grant for the arts. Also, if users maintain contact with OURS and Development, the two offices will have a better idea of what kinds of opportunities to include in the tool.

To begin using this tool, users need to ensure that their profiles are up-to-date and that they include their administrative division/college, as well as their research and professional interests. Once this information is updated, users will be sent emails about opportunities relating to these interests as they are added to the database.

TU in the Community is working with members of Development and OURS to ensure that new opportunities are continually added. To begin taking advantage not only of the Funder Tool, but of TU in the Community in general, log on today!


This is my first blog post and it is coming at a pretty great time. I have been in this new position for about a month and a half and finally feel like I know my way around TU in the Community. I have begun meeting with faculty and staff members and have even been working on a new feature that will be debuting soon!

One of the most useful features that I’ve found on TU in the Community is the Community Project Map.

With this map, you can enter an address to find community engagement projects close to you. You can click on the markers to learn about each opportunity. You can also be taken to the project listing within the TU in the Community database to find information about the project, contact information, and more.

It is a simple way to see what opportunities are available where you live or work and it’s a great way to see how you can get involved. As more faculty, staff, students and community members realize how great of a resource the TU in the Community website is, they can start collaborating with others on community engagement projects. It’s a win for everybody involved! Look at the map and get connected today.

For more information about the map or anything related to TU in the Community, contact or 410-704-2678.


9:30 a.m. on a Saturday. The sky is gray, it’s a bit cloudy, and Towson University’s campus is filled with over 100 children, parents, and grandparents eagerly walking toward Smith Hall. Saturday Morning Science is about to begin.

Out front of Smith Hall Theatre is a delicious assortment of donuts, coffee, and juice to make anyone a morning person. Behind the tables are students from Towson University’s MB3 Club, who volunteer each week to set up and interact with community members. On the opposite side of the room are free books provided for kids of all ages.

Inside, before the show begins, I had the chance to meet a few community members who came to the show. Kierston, an 8 year old, and her Mother, have attended three sessions of Saturday Morning Science so far. Kierston wants to be an engineer, and finds Saturday Morning Science to be fun and entertaining. Daniel, a 12 year old, has only missed two out of 40 Saturday Morning Science sessions. His mother and grandmother stated that he is so dedicated, that he volunteers each week. When asked what keeps them coming, the answer was easy: “Dr. Thomas himself.” Dr. Donald Thomas is Towson University’s ‘Resident Astronaut’ and Director of the Willard Hackerman Academy. All morning I watched him enthusiastically interact with members of the audience, and it was easy to see that he has developed a great rapport with a number of them.


Before the show, I was lucky enough to meet the man himself, Albert Einstein. I found Mr. Einstein to be very outgoing, and of course, extremely intelligent. He began the show with energy, fun, and lots of audience interaction, themes which carried on throughout his presentation. While he talked about complex topics such as Physics and the Theory of Relativity, he made everything easy to understand and a great experience to learn. My favorite thing about the show was his singing and dancing, making difficult topics engaging and easy to remember. He encouraged learning and imagination, and while talking about his life, stated “I was not successful because I had more knowledge than anyone else; I was successful because I imagined.”

Following the show, families were encouraged to stay for “Hands on Science” where they got to choose from a variety of fun activities, including waves and motion. It was a great start to a Saturday.

I highly recommend Saturday Morning Science to kids and families of all ages. No matter your age, you will come away with a smile on your face and a new appreciation for science. Make sure to arrive early to secure a good seat as the program is very popular, and enjoy great refreshments before the show!


I have to admit, I was never much of a reader. I’d always opt to see the movie instead of reading the book, or go shopping instead of studying for tests. Once I began my graduate program at Towson University, however, my perspective changed as I stepped into Albert S. Cook Library. The library quickly became my friend, family, and primary source of sanity as I completed my Master’s thesis.

As a staff member, I have been privileged enough to learn about and experience first-hand the great community outreach that Cook Library takes pride in on a regular basis. Last week, I attended the opening reception for “Pride and Passion: The African-American Baseball Experience”, a traveling exhibition which examines the challenges faced by African-American baseball players as they sought equal opportunities in baseball beginning in the post-Civil War era.

Walking into the exhibition, I was enthusiastically greeted by Joyce Garczynski, Communications and Development Librarian. Joyce’s smile was contagious, and she stated “Cook Library is very much about community, we want to be known as the information center for Towson University students. faculty/staff, and the community.” She also filled me in with some of the fun, community friendly activities and services that Cook Library plans throughout the year:

  • Community Borrowing Program- Did you know that as a community member, you can borrow books from Cook Library for free, including ones from the children’s collection?
  • Monthly jazz series- Every month, Cook Library brings a jazz ensemble to perform, based around a theme
  • Book discussions- Each month Cook hosts a book discussion related to an on campus event. March’s book is “The Woman Behind the Curveball”, to coincide with a lecture by author Dr. Martha Ackmann
  • Many more! Check out TU in the Community events and Towson University’s Arts & Culture events calendar to stay updated

On any given day in Cook Library, there are students, staff, faculty, and community members enjoying the wonderful resources that the library has to offer. There’s even a Starbucks inside of Cook Library, making it an ideal spot for that much needed 2pm coffee break!


Snow.Ice.Cabin fever. Winter fights to keep us in our homes. Towson University’s Community Art Center (CAC) is braving the elements to cure you of cabin fever by offering fun and unique art classes during winter 2011.

According to the CAC website, “The Center encourages individual expression while teaching new skills, ideas and techniques. Small class sizes give individual attention while encouraging students to work on different ability and developmental levels. Courses range from drawing, painting and sculpture to computer graphics and animation. The CAC offers classes for children, teens and adults.”

Top: Young Artist Workshop Student Bottom:Ruth Pettus self-portrait

While writing this blog post, I had the pleasure of speaking to Bonnie Reynolds, Director of the Community Art Center, who filled me in with some of the exciting courses planned for this winter:

  • For Young Kids (Ages 5-7): The Young Artist Workshop encourages creative thinking through a variety of mediums. Ms. Reynolds emphasized that this is one of the CAC’s most popular classes, so register early as spaces fill quickly
  • For Teens (Ages 12-18): The Animation and Game Design courses allows students to express their creativity in a 21st century way
  • For Adults (Ages 17-Adult): The Adult Art Studio with Ruth Pettus gives students a fantastic opportunity to learn from an internationally renowned artist

Of course, the CAC offers even more art classes this winter and throughout the year including: Drawing and Design, Cartooning, Potter’s Wheel, and more. Check out the CAC website today for a complete listing.

Ms. Reynolds’ passion and genuine love of both the arts and people came through on the phone. According to her, “The arts open up wonderful ways to look at the world.” She hopes anyone interested will contact her for more information and to register for classes. Talking to Ms. Reynolds inspired me to get in touch with my artistic side this winter; of course the hard part will be deciding which class to take!


Most teachers I know chose their profession because they want to be a positive influence in the lives of their students, and make a difference every day through education. Teachers in Baltimore City may not have realized they’d also have the opportunity to partner with Astronomers in a unique way through a program entitled Project ASTRO.

Project ASTRO is a program managed by the Astronomical Society of the Pacific (ASP) to link astronomers with teachers in local schools. Towson University serves as the lead institution for the regional site, in cooperation with the Maryland Science Center and the Space Telescope Science Institute. The project focuses on elementary and middle school classrooms in Baltimore City and has produced 20 astronomer-educator partnerships over the course of the program throughout the Baltimore region.

As a Project ASTRO site institution, Towson University is responsible for recruiting educator and astronomer partners and for bringing them together for a workshop where they learn how to forge effective collaborations, how to make use of local Astronomy resources, and how to implement hands-on, inquiry-based Astronomy activities in their classrooms. The material supplied by the ASP is aligned with National Science Education Standards.

The specific goals of Project ASTRO are to bring direct benefits to both teachers and students by:

1. Promoting active learning methods in science classrooms that engage both teachers and students and improve student attitudes towards science

2. Offering role models for students by showing them working examples of who scientists are and what they do

3. Providing professional development for teachers through workshops, in-service training, and one-to-one partnerships with local content “experts”

The two contacts for this great outreach endeavor are Dr. Rommel Miranda and Dr. Jennifer Scott.  Dr. Scott was just recognized as a receipient of the  National Science Foundation’s (NSF) prestigious CAREER award.  Over the  next four years, in addition to her work with Project ASTRO, Dr. Scott will be investigating the effects of the intergalactic medium (IGM) and quasars on galaxy formation and evolution

It is clear that programs such as Project ASTRO build partnerships, enhance education, and create a fun learning environment for teachers and students alike.


By the title of this blog post, you most likely have no idea what I will be talking about. This blog will not be about plants, nor will it be about something produced from a factory. Let me explain. STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics, and is a term used for related education. STEM becomes STEAM when you add an A for Arts into the mix. One great example of STEAM is the Methods for Teaching Dance class offered on campus.

Every semester, Towson University (TU) Dance Majors prepare and implement dance classes that are geared to teaching the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) curriculum of Baltimore City. Through a TU Service-Learning Grant obtained with help from the Office of Civic Engagement, students are able to travel to the Baltimore IT Academy (BIT) to bring STEM to life in the classroom.

TU Dance Majors get the real world experience of designing and applying education through dance and the BIT students get a unique and fun learning opportunity mixed with physical exercise and a great social experience as they connect 1:1 with TU students. To benefit families and the community, a final performance of creative projects is shared at the end of the semester. Last year the course was able to reach 25 students and 15 dance education majors by teaching the Rock Cycle of the earth through movement.

With a Service-Learning Course such as this, the school wins by adding to their academic curriculum, the community wins by having a way to tie everyone together, and TU students win the real-world experience of applying their education.