October 1, 2013 kicked off the beginning of the annual Hearts of Texas Campaign, which ran through October 31st. This is the largest community engagement initiative for DDCE, given its breadth and scope. As part of the State Employee Charitable Campaign (SECC), Hearts of Texas provides an opportunity for faculty and staff to contribute to more than 500 charities. Given the overwhelming contributions from UT in the past, the SECC has awarded UT with the Highest Per Capita Gift award for two years running.
Benefactors can choose which charities they wish to give to or they can provide an undesignated gift. There are also two ways to pledge: either online or paper. The Hearts of Texas website provides directions and information about the process. There are also department coordinators and representatives who can assist in answering questions or offering help in contributing to the campaign.
Dr. Vincent is the honorary chair of the campaign and encourages all UT employees to contribute, at any level.
Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA) is a long running program founded in 1965 to redress issues of poverty in the United States. In 1993, AmeriCorps integrated VISTA within its network. In addition, VISTA is part of the Corporation for National & Community Service (CNCS). Currently, there are more than 8,000 VISTA members nationwide working to alleviate poverty in their respective communities.
The UT Austin/Community Capacity Builders’ VISTA program, housed within DDCE, is the largest intermediary program in the state. VISTAs, as the members are called, are college graduates with a common goal: to fight poverty. This year, there are 28 VISTAs in the UT program. They hail from all over the United States and have diverse backgrounds, both educationally and culturally. In order to achieve the goal of alleviating the poverty cycle in Texas, the VISTA program engages with 12 service organization in 5 Texas cities.
2013-2014 marks the second year of a new three-year VISTA program within DDCE.
The DDCE Austin Community Advisory Council is an advisory group that meets annually to guide DDCE in enhancing educational initiatives and in building community engagement strategies. Given the complexity, innovation, and inclusivity of DDCE, it is important that the Council advances diversity of people, cultures, ideas, and viewpoints. At the end of August 2013, the Council convened to observe the achievements of the DDCE strategic plan as well as current community engagement initiatives. With over 50 members, the Council represents a wide range of partnerships with Austin organizations, companies, and institutions. At the meeting, the Council members had the opportunity to engage with one another as well as with DDCE staff.
Dr. Vincent began the meeting with welcoming remarks and highlighted the Council members who were present. Dr. Sherri Sanders, Mr. Ryan Miller, Dr. Stella Smith, Dr. Kenya Walker, and Ms. Erica Saenz presented the strategic plan and updates. Afterwards, Ms. Saenz, along with Dr. Suchi Gururaj, Mr. David Trussell, Ms. Cheryl Sawyer, and Dr. Eric Tang, discussed the community engagement goals and objectives of DDCE. One of the many positive outcomes of the meeting was the constructive feedback received from the Council.
Founded in 1995 as an event sponsored by The University of Texas at Austin, the Barbara Jordan Historical Essay Competition moved to its new home with UIL Academics in 2011-2012. Additionally, the Latino History Essay Competition, founded in 2011 by the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement also moved to UIL Academics beginning with the 2012-2013 school year. Both UIL essay competitions help further DDCE’s goal of providing opportunities for underserved and underrepresented students and communities.
The Barbara Jordan Historical Essay Competition provides students an opportunity to explore the contributions of African Americans to Texas history, as well as honoring the legacy of its namesake, Barbara Jordan. The theme of the competition is “African Americans in Texas: Past and Present.” Essays focus on individuals or groups who may not be well-known figures but who have made significant contributions to African American history or culture in Texas.
In its initial year, the Latino History Essay Competition was open to students in South Texas and beginning in 2012-2013, entries were accepted from students statewide. Essays focus on prominent or relatively unknown Latino individuals, organizations or movements in Texas history that have influenced the latino communities.