Michael Sherraden, PhD, the Benjamin E. Youngdahl Professor of Social Development at the Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis, moderated a panel discussion April 6 at the sixth annual meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative University (CGI U).
The session was titled “Poverty and Promise in America’s Rust Belt” and was held in Umrath Hall on the Danforth Campus.
Sherraden, founder and director of the Brown School’s Center for Social Development (CSD) and known for his pioneering work on asset building for low-income people, moderated a panel that included Karen Freeman-Wilson, mayor of the city of Gary, Ind.; Kailey Burger, a third-year student at Washington University School of Law; and Annis Stubbs, executive director, Teach For America-Detroit.
“This was an incredible opportunity for the university community and I was honored to be a part of it,” Sherraden said. “The energy on campus — both at this session and throughout the weekend — was palpable.”
The 75-minute session included some viable suggestions for the approximately 200 students who packed into Umrath Lounge. The CGI U partipants heard the panel talk about everything from how to inspire volunteers, to how they overcame challenges such as funding and working in a neighborhood that might look different and feel different than anything they’ve experienced before.
One suggestion came from Burger, who returned to the WUSTL campus from an internship in New York, talking about her project, the Marshall-Brennan Constitutional Literacy projects. Burger stressed to the students the importance of having a plan.
“You have to come up with a real plan that’s going to work,” Burger said. “The last thing residents want is to hear a few ideas, take them out to lunch, then you leave. … You need to say, ‘Here’s what I see us doing together.’ ”
Burger also said her group found focus groups helpful.
“You want to make sure you’re not just providing services, but providing them in a way they feel tied to it and are growing the community together.”
Wilson-Freeman addressed the question of inspiring a group to work together.
“It’s one thing for me to jump off a cliff, because my name was on the ballot, but it’s another thing for 15 people to jump off with you,” she said. “So I tried to create a sense of responsibility. I told them ‘all of us came from the city and we were able to build lives based on the fact we went to public schools here; we had adults who made investments in us and we achieved success. Who’s doing that now?’
“I need you to help me and create the same – or better – atmosphere that we grew up in so we can create the same opportunities.”
After the panel forum, students held table discussions to help put the ideas into action as Sherraden and the panelists circulated among them.
Prior to the session, two CGI U projects were honored,including a WUSTL-based project called D*Serves (Design Serves), in which Brown School student De Andrea Nichols was called out for her project.