Stanford funds community projects to address pandemic challenges

The Office of Community Engagement, in collaboration with the Bill Lane Center for the American West, has provided over $200,000 in funding to faculty-led projects co-created with community organizations in San Mateo and Santa Clara counties to accelerate solutions to pandemic impacts.

By Joel Berman

Stanford is concentrating on local impacts of COVID-19 in its latest effort to respond to the effects of the public health pandemic that has exacerbated systemic inequities and created new ones in surrounding communities.

The university’s Office of Community Engagement (OCE), in collaboration with the Bill Lane Center for the American West in the School of Humanities and Sciences, announced that eight faculty-led projects will receive a total of $228,000 to work with community-based organizations and government agencies in Santa Clara County and San Mateo County. Awardees were selected by a cross-campus faculty and staff selection committee through a competitive process.

The projects focus on addressing pandemic-related impacts in four areas severely affected by the virus: health, education, social services and the arts. Health-related projects include improving access to COVID-19 information and vaccines in under-resourced communities and supporting youth mental health through the convening of a diverse Youth Advisory Group. Efforts in the social services space aim to reduce pretrial incarceration rates by helping people make their court appearances, and advancing equity for predominantly minority and undocumented communities. Meanwhile, arts and education projects will seek to connect East Palo Alto youth to emerging creative practices and tools, develop a summer internship program for Foothill College students interested in pursuing humanities-adjacent careers or courses of study and provide in-person recovery learning opportunities for K-8 students in Sunnyvale.

“The Stanford community has stepped up in many ways to work with our neighbors and local leaders as we deal with the many difficult challenges created by COVID-19. The university is committed to supporting that continued engagement as we move into the next phase of recovery and ultimately beyond the pandemic,” said Martin Shell, vice president and chief external relations officer. “The pandemic has underscored the need for many vital services, especially for the most vulnerable residents of this area. The Stanford community has been active in helping many groups in our region, and we are grateful to the many faculty members who are leading the way to deepen collaboration with community organizations in service to the community.”

OCE received 45 proposals from across the university. Seventeen applicants were advanced to the final stage, where the selection committee determined the eight finalists, which span five of the seven schools with faculty representing Engineering, Law, Humanities and Sciences (H&S), Education and Medicine. Each grant recipient includes a community collaborator from San Mateo or Santa Clara counties who has co-created time-bound projects to accelerate results.

Bruce Cain, political scientist and faculty director of the Lane Center, said he is pleased to support OCE’s efforts by offering Lane Center funds to the research-practice partnership led by Stanford Impact Labs. The Labs are a new university model that connects academic expertise to pressing challenges. “Regional coordination and collaboration are critical, and OCE is helping connect our campus to those practitioners who see the greatest needs firsthand.”

Moving with community

Faculty are already working with their collaborators on the projects, with many planning to launch this quarter. The OCE grants offer a quicker infusion of funding to accelerate and deepen work by faculty in the community. In part, recipients were chosen by how quickly they could deploy OCE funding to support existing work to meet pressing needs in the community.

“Given the impact the pandemic has had on our region, it was important that we accelerate the community benefit of the grants by focusing on projects that can move quickly to help those in need,” said Megan Swezey Fogarty, associate vice president for community engagement. “These projects are addressing both challenges that existed before COVID-19 and were made worse over the last year, as well as some new ones that resulted from the pandemic.”

Grant recipients pointed to the timeliness of the funding in helping to scale their work and reach additional people during this period of increased demand for services and support.

“This funding will allow us to deepen our community of practice for local promotoras de salud or community health workers and expand our work to co-create culturally appropriate outreach materials for local Latinx communities,” said Patricia Rodriguez Espinosa, associate director of research in the Stanford Medicine Office of Community Engagement and instructor in the Department of Epidemiology and Population Health. “The grant will support both our on-the-ground work in Santa Clara County and capacity building for community health workers in neighboring Santa Cruz and San Mateo counties through the development and sharing of new trainings and resources.”

Said Tem Woldeyesus, clinical assistant professor in Stanford Medicine’s Division of Primary Care and Population Health: “We must support building digital capacity to potentiate ongoing efforts by our community partners, such as Roots Community Health Center, to address widening racial disparities due to the pandemic. OCE funding has been an essential first step in overcoming the tremendous challenges ahead of us in advancing health equity.”

Below is a list of the funded projects. For a description of each project, along with the collaborating faculty members and community organizations, click here.

Health and social services

  • Community Health Workers Promoting COVID-19 Vaccine Awareness and Public Health Guidelines in Latinx Communities
  • allcove Youth – Amplifying Youth Mental Health Services and Voices
  • Bridging Technological Divide in Pandemic Resources for Marginalized Communities
  • Local Impact Labs University Collaborative
  • Pilot Interventions to Reduce Pretrial Incarceration

Education and the arts

  • Emerging Creative Practices: Teacher Training and Curriculum Development for Youth Arts Education
  • Digital Humanities Research & Training for Foothill College Students
  • Co-Teaching Mentorship with Sunnyvale School District – Supplemental Teaching & Learning Experience for STEP Graduates

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