UMBC Mic'd Up

Tools for Change: Building Community with Community Leadership

October 16, 2023 UMBC Mic'd Up with Dennise Season 3
Tools for Change: Building Community with Community Leadership
UMBC Mic'd Up
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UMBC Mic'd Up
Tools for Change: Building Community with Community Leadership
Oct 16, 2023 Season 3
UMBC Mic'd Up with Dennise

In this episode of UMBC's Mic'd Up podcast, we sit down with Emily Shrope, M.P.S. '23, a passionate advocate for community leadership. From her experiences in the Peace Corps to her transformative journey through UMBC's Community Leadership graduate program, Emily shares invaluable insights into the power of collaborative action.

Join us as we delve into Emily's capstone project, which focused on organizing a "Fix It Fair" with the Station North Tool Library—a fascinating initiative that encourages sustainable practices and community engagement.

If you're curious about the intersection of academia, practical application, and social justice, this conversation is a must-listen. Discover how community leadership is not just a program, but a catalyst for positive change.

🔗 Learn more about UMBC's Community Leadership graduate program:

#CommunityLeadership #UMBCPodcast #FixItFair #SocialJustice #UMBCGraduatePrograms #EmpowerChange #SustainableCommunity #PeaceCorps #ToolsForChange

Show Notes Transcript

In this episode of UMBC's Mic'd Up podcast, we sit down with Emily Shrope, M.P.S. '23, a passionate advocate for community leadership. From her experiences in the Peace Corps to her transformative journey through UMBC's Community Leadership graduate program, Emily shares invaluable insights into the power of collaborative action.

Join us as we delve into Emily's capstone project, which focused on organizing a "Fix It Fair" with the Station North Tool Library—a fascinating initiative that encourages sustainable practices and community engagement.

If you're curious about the intersection of academia, practical application, and social justice, this conversation is a must-listen. Discover how community leadership is not just a program, but a catalyst for positive change.

🔗 Learn more about UMBC's Community Leadership graduate program:

#CommunityLeadership #UMBCPodcast #FixItFair #SocialJustice #UMBCGraduatePrograms #EmpowerChange #SustainableCommunity #PeaceCorps #ToolsForChange

Dennise Cardona  0:00  

Welcome to this episode of UMBC Mic'd Up podcast. My name is Dennise Cardona from the Office of Professional Programs. Today we are joined by Emily Shrope. She is a recent graduate of the Community Leadership graduate program. And we're going to talk about her experience with the program and with her Capstone. And with the field of community leadership in general. I hope you enjoy this episode. Thank you so much for joining me here on the UMBC Mic'd Up podcast, Emily, it's wonderful to have you. 

Emily Shrope  0:29  

I'm excited to be here. 

Dennise Cardona  0:31  

So we are here to talk about community leadership graduate program and your experience with it. So can you tell me a little bit about your experience with the program, what led you to enroll and apply and enroll in the community leadership graduate program here at UMBC?

Emily Shrope  0:49  

So I initially found out about the Community Leadership Program through the Peace Corps Scholarship Program that they have. So I was in the Peace Corps. I served in Tanzania, I was an English teacher for one and a half years. And then COVID happened. And we were, all of the volunteers worldwide were sent back to the United States. But I was stuck back at home trying to figure out what I wanted to do with myself. And the Peace Corps has scholarships at different universities. So I just started looking through there to get ideas, because I wasn't quite sure what I wanted to study. And then I saw the Community Leadership Program through the Shriver peace workers. And I was immediately hooked on it just it had everything that I wanted out of grad school program, it had a lot of social justice aspects of it. It had actionable parts of the program built in, where you could practically apply some of the skills that you were learning in the classroom. And it just had an overall aura of trying to improve the world in some type of way, which is the eventual path I wanted to go on. And I didn't think I could find a grad program that was really about that. And, and the community leadership was and I just I loved it. And as soon as I saw it, I that was the only one that I wanted to really go for.

Dennise Cardona  2:01  

Hmm, well, we'd love to hear that. And before we even move on about talking about community leadership in general and your experience, I'm very curious about your experience with the Peace Corps. Can you talk a little bit about how you got started in that and what that actually entailed? What that will sound like,

Emily Shrope  2:16  

what led me to the Peace Corps was my mom, actually, I decided that I wanted to live abroad for a little bit, but I wasn't really sure how I could do that. I wanted to have a job that would have some sort of positive impact in the community in some type of way. And when I was saying this to my mom, she said, Well, why don't you apply to the Peace Corps? And I thought about it. And I said, Well, why not? I'm not really sure what it is I want to do, I don't want to go to grad school yet, because I don't know what I want to study, this hit some of the things that I want to accomplish. And so I applied, while at the same time doing a lot of research about the international development space, because I just wanted to make a really informed decision about if I was going to have a positive impact. Things are complicated as most things are in life. And like I said, I really appreciate being in the Peace Corps. But at the same time, I'm skeptical of international development work in general, I think if the Peace Corps it was like more reframed as a relationship building program, then that would be a little bit more accurate than some of the other messages they put out there.

Dennise Cardona  3:18  

Yeah. How would you describe your overall experience in the program, the Community Leadership graduate program here at UMBC? Like what were some of the highlights that you experienced?

Emily Shrope  3:31  

So many, I really enjoyed my time in community leadership. One of the things I really liked about it the most is the practical application. Like I mentioned earlier, I felt that I really had a chance to understand how to put into action, some of the things we were talking about in the classroom, like different social justice frames of mind, for example, and not just understanding how different systems of oppression affect people by reading books about it, but also by understanding like the local context of Baltimore particularly and how that affects our relationships with different people across the city. And putting that more into a context of what that means in everyday life was really helpful. Just making relationships with people across the city. I think one of the biggest emphasis points of community leadership is that relationships are the thing that make community action happen, essentially. And so the practical applications of things we're not only for us as students, I think, to understand how some of these concepts are working in a day to day work experience, but also making relationships with people who work in Baltimore, because it's not just for our own networking, networking options when we're done graduating, but also because just the relationships genuinely have are really important, not just for personal gain to try and get a job but just because if you want to make change in a community you need to understand people and connect with them on a genuine level. Yeah, community

Dennise Cardona  5:03  

is stronger than individualism, especially when it comes to taking action and making things happen within a community society. It's critical. Yeah. 

Emily Shrope  5:14  


Dennise Cardona  5:15  

What were some of the critical skills or knowledge that you've acquired in the program that has been particularly valuable for you in what you're doing currently?

Emily Shrope  5:27  

So I think it's really hard to parse out, I guess, I feel like my entire worldview is kind of shifted and be in, like, the ways that I relate to myself are different because of what I've learned in the program. And so that changes the ways that I relate to other people. And I think that's the biggest thing that I can point to, I could also go through my articles and books and point out like particular frameworks and ways of understanding folks that have been really influential with me. But I think, overall, the biggest thing that I've taken away is relating to myself in a more loving and caring way. And that helps me relate to other people in that way, like restorative practices, and Intergroup Dialogue really helped me understand that if you're going to try and affect positive change in the community, you have to look within yourself and try and understand how you relate to yourself, do you show yourself love? Because if you don't think you can't really show that to other people, do you show yourself understanding? Because if you don't, then you can't really extend that to other people. And so there were a lot of things I had to work on in myself, that I realized through the program, and and that's helped me with working with other people.

Dennise Cardona  6:40  

That's a strength, that's for sure. What are you doing currently? And how do you feel the master's program is helping you in your current role?

Emily Shrope  6:50  

Right now, I am an ESL teacher for Soccer Without Borders, that's English for speakers of other languages. And Soccer Without Borders is a Baltimore based organization. But it also operates internationally. And it's a program that helps different aged kids, they have kindergarten, I think it's like elementary school through high school, and they have programs throughout the entire year. But during the summer, they have a summer program where kids play soccer in the morning, and then they have a little bit of academic time in the afternoon, just to try and get some practice with English, maybe learn vocabulary, different sorts of things. So I'm doing that it's a temporary job. I guess what I'm trying to say is I'm in a transitionary period right now, I definitely have used community leadership, my the mentality I've developed after community leadership in my work as an ESL teacher, although I guess it's hard to exactly say how, because my awareness of different oppressive systems influences everything that I do, and the ways that I move through the world in a very holistic way. And it's hard to always pinpoint exactly how so I guess it's hard for me to answer that question. Because this is like also a temporary job at that.

Dennise Cardona  8:01  

What do you want to do, eventually? What is your ideal position in the world?

Emily Shrope  8:08  

Hmm, interesting. I don't really know I don't have one of one of the things that has also developed for me in the past couple of years is understanding that, like, we only live in the present moment, and it's not, I can't necessarily plan out what I want to do. And I don't want to have an idea of what I want to do eventually, because I want to leave myself open to opportunities that may arise. And so I'm gonna go traveling in the fall for a couple of months. And then when I come back in the winter, in January, I'll start looking for jobs in the government sector, Baltimore City Public Schools, I think would be really interesting. And then or nonprofits, and I'll just see what jobs are available, what sparks my interest and what caters to the skills I already have, and what can challenge me professionally as well. And I'll just see what I, what's there. That kind of is that the nexus of those things. So I'm open to a lot.

Dennise Cardona  9:12  

It's interesting. I really liked that tape being just keeping yourself open to letting the universe speak to you and find out like, okay, that's something that I've never really thought about. And if you are bogged down in a position that really wasn't speaking to your heart, you might miss that opportunity. So I think it's really a good lesson in how we progress through life is to be able to stay open, remain open to opportunities that we don't even know about, I think back to when I first started at UMBC 16 years ago. I started as a coordinator in the marketing department and social media didn't even exist. And now it's that's a big part of my position is managing social media plan. forums, as well as podcasting. In its rudimentary format, short probably existed, think back to radio and things of that sort. But in this format, as easy as this is hopping on to a platform that we use and having a nice conversation with somebody could be I've had conversations with people from just different countries, right here in my own home studio. So this didn't even exist, this was not an opportunity that I could have planned for. And it's really important to stay open to that. Because, yeah, you never know what's going to come your way.

Emily Shrope  10:36  

Exactly. You have to be flexible, and be open to those discovering those new opportunities, as you're saying, I do have ever like, like, no generally, some sorts of the goals that I want to accomplish. So I think there's an interesting balance between wanting to accomplish certain things, but not being too focused on the means by which you arrived there. And so I want to be a part of changing our cultural mindset about how we relate to the environment and to each other. And I think those two things are very related. And if we relate to each other in a different way, I think that automatically means we relate to nature and a different way and vice versa. And with the climate crisis that we're in right now, I think it's really important to, to work on this cultural shift. And it's not just about deciding to use a compostable fork over a plastic one, if you're a restaurant trying to buy materials like that choice definitely matters. But it's more than just deciding to buy different products. It's changing the way we completely relate to ourselves, each other and the natural environment and starting to see all of us as connected, interconnected, and interdependent. And I want to work on some sort of I want to further that cause in some type of way, I think you can do that in a lot of different settings.

Dennise Cardona  11:50  

Absolutely sounds like a great path forward, purposeful path forward, which is always really important to make sure that you're creating value in bringing purpose to your life and the lives of others. I would imagine that's a big focus area in the community leadership field is making sure that whatever your actions are, they're helping in some way to make the world a better place.

Emily Shrope  12:16  

Yes, exactly. We don't live in a vacuum, everything. Anything that you do affects something else. Yeah.

Dennise Cardona  12:23  

Can we talk about your capstone experience? Did you a capstone in this program? Could you briefly explain what your capstone project was and how it related to your studies in the community leadership graduate program?

Emily Shrope  12:37  

Absolutely. So I worked with the Station North tool library. It's up in the station, North neighborhood, it's like a library, but for tools, and so they have over 3000 different tools that you can check out for a week. And then you can also renew them for up to two weeks, lawn mowers or one in the summer I've heard. And they also have a lot of different skills courses where you can take a floor refinishing class, or a rewiring class woodworking and all of these sorts of really interesting things. And I helped to organize their annual fix it fair, I worked with some volunteers and some employees at the organization. And we organized the fix it fair. And then based off of that organization, I created a toolkit, which I think is either online their website right now, or would be shortly I know they shared it with all the volunteers. So that creating the organizing the fix it fair in the future is a lot easier because there are certain volunteer roles shifts that are lined out a list of materials advertising and outreach strategy. And then it's also open, open to the public. So other organizations in the area or in the state that want to hold their own fix it fares are welcome to do so using this guide. And I should say what fix it fair is, which is a couple hour free community event for community members to come in and bring fix broken items to be fixed by volunteers. So this is a part of trying to change some of our culture about how we relate to our objects and not having the trash bin be the first thing you turn to when something's broken, but trying to take it to get repaired should be the first thing

Dennise Cardona  14:17  

That is so fascinating. I so I recently discovered that my library Elkridge library has a tool library in it as well. And we needed to clean our gutters. And so we went there and we were able to take out on loan, a huge ladder that we can climb to be able to get our second floor, gutters cleaned, and it was just great. And then we brought it back an hour later and one of these big clunky things and keep it somewhere in our yard that we don't have space for so it was really nice to be able to do that. And then we discovered they had classes as well. And so we took a routing class learning how to use a router or to make, like coasters for drinks and things like that. So it was really cool. And it's a great way to meet your community, because you know, you're taking classes with other people. And so I love hearing that this is going on in different at different places around the state. And it's really great for, I think, just communities in general to be able to have that. Now, were you Did you run into any kind of challenges when you were doing this capstone or any light bulb moments, lessons that you learned that now you're able to take in, learn it, and then apply it in the world?

Emily Shrope  15:38  

Absolutely, I did for sure. The biggest takeaway, which might sound a little obvious, but it's that collaboration is the key thing, and doing any sort of project that involves a lot of people. And when I first started this project, I had this mentality that like, it's my capstone, like, it's everybody in the course, is doing their own capstone project. It's their students project, I was like, I'm in partnership with an organization. But it's still like my responsibility to do this project. And I think I was putting a lot of the weight on myself. And I had never planned an event before. And so I was feeling, I knew that I could do it. But I was also feeling like, a little overwhelmed. And but I was plugging away. And then a couple of weeks into the partnership, somebody at the organization suggested that I meet with one of the other volunteers that had organized it previously, and suggested that we make a group meeting to talk about the project together so that I could get some advice about planning. And then it just ended up being a routine meeting. And we got a couple of other volunteers who were interested in it. And we had this planning committee all of a sudden, and so then it wasn't my job to plan everything. It was my job to make the agenda for the meetings and help us direct the conversation and then follow up on certain things and keep like the information organized, but I wasn't the one that was shouldering all of it anymore. And that just, it just seems so obvious that of course, why wouldn't I just ask the people who had been a part of it before. And it wasn't until we started these meetings that I realized I didn't have to do it all by myself, but still my project, I can still claim all of these a bunch of things that I have done to contribute to the fix it fair, but it's not important that I have ownership over it. And if I did have ownership over it, then it's really not a community project. It was an interesting moment where I thought I had understood working with the community. And then here I was doing it and thinking about how to do it all myself. So that was huge.

Dennise Cardona  17:33  

That is huge. And that's a big, really important lesson for all of us. Because I tend to do the same thing I take on things myself very individualistic, want to do it all. And then I realized, gosh, I don't need to be an expert in every single area, I can rely on a team to be able to build this together. And then what I found is when you work with a team of people doing something for a common good common cause, gosh, the meaning of so much more purposeful, and such a rewarding experience when it's not just you, and it's a whole team of people coming together to solve something and to bring something into the world.

Emily Shrope  18:13  

Exactly, yeah, that's one of the biggest things also, I think is exemplified in the tool library in general, because one of the things that I think it represents is that when we share resources, we have more to use, because if we were all to buy individual tools, we wouldn't, it's unlikely that we would have the money to buy the 3000 tools The library has. But when we decide to share the resources with each other, we have access to more than we would if we were just trying to do it all ourselves. And I think that's also very representative of what happened in my project that when we share the responsibility of it, it becomes more than if it was just one person.

Dennise Cardona  18:50  

I love that. Wow. Hmm. Is there anything else that you feel that I didn't ask that would lend value to this conversation? For people who are listening in or viewing us on YouTube, that maybe they're considering community leadership? Or maybe they haven't even heard of community leadership? And now they're like, Should I do this?

Emily Shrope  19:13  

I would say if you're thinking about the program, absolutely do it. I think it's absolutely incredible. It is in a wonderful mix of academic and intellectual development mixed with practical applications. And that I think, is just so important. One of the reasons I didn't want to go to some other of the graduate programs that I had applied to was because I was worried I would be too much in a very academic space. And I really care about understanding how I can apply the things I'm learning in my daily experiences. And I just didn't want to talk about things theoretically. And so it is an amazing chance to understand things on a theoretical basis, but then also know what does it look like? like to apply certain frames of mind, in your daily experiences. It's incredible. And I think he should, I think everybody should at least develop some sort of social justice understanding of the world. And that's what the community leadership is all about.

Dennise Cardona  20:14  

So well stated. Thank you so much, Emily, for sharing your insights today with us. It's been a wonderful conversation. I've learned some really great things and have been reminded of some really important points as I make my way out, and they're there in the world. So thank you so much.

Emily Shrope  20:31  

Thank you, Dennise, I had a wonderful conversation. This was great.

Dennise Cardona  20:34  

Thanks so much for listening to this episode of UMBC's Mic'd Up podcast. I hope you enjoyed it. If you'd like to learn more about our offerings, do a Google search for Community Leadership graduate programs at UMBC or simply click the link in the description.