The Morgan Community Mile (MCM), an initiative conceived by Morgan State University (MSU) President David Wilson, begins to celebrate its two-year anniversary as an innovative model for the engagement of anchor institutions with neighboring communities in the City of Baltimore. The MCM initiative is the result of the goals set forth by the Morgan State University’s Board of Regents in its landmark document “Growing the Future, Leading the World: The Strategic Plan for Morgan State University 2011-2021”; specifically Strategic Goal 5: Engaging with the Community.
The Morgan Community Mile partners with neighborhoods, private and public entities, and nonprofits in Northeast Baltimore. This initiative engages community stakeholders, university students, faculty, and staff in an inclusive, and participatory process that results in mutually defined community plans and projects, measurable outcomes, and sustainable community impacts for the 141,000 residents who work and live in the 12.2 square miles surrounding the campus. In April 2013, MSU kicked-off the MCM initiative with the community at an event hosted by Dr. Wilson and attended by Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, US Senator Benjamin Cardin, and numerous elected officials and community leaders. “Both the faculty, students, and staff are really excited about this partnership with our neighboring community. It provides a unique opportunity to learn from each other towards building together a sustainable and healthy environment for us all in Northeast Baltimore” according to Dr. Wilson.
Since 2013, the MCM has achieved a number of milestones. It formed its governing board composed of community leaders and MSU faculty and staff and elected Dr. Catherine Evans, of the Northeast Community Organization (NECO), its board chair. Under her leadership and working with acting MCM director, Mr. Ellis Brown, much has been accomplished. The MCM Board has established five priority areas for projects endorsed and supported by the Board.
These areas are:
Promote Health and Safety
- Morgan received the Team Partnership Award from the Baltimore City Police Department for its efforts to reduce crime and increase public safety.
- Several Morgan professors have been awarded research grants to improve the health and wellness of the residents of the MCM, including Dr. Lorece Edwards, of the School of Community Health and Policy, received a $900K Federal grant from SAMSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) to increase HIV/AID awareness and promote substance abuse prevention, especially among youth. The MCM Board continues to encourage elements of Community Service Learning within the curriculum.
- Morgan professor Dr. Payam Sheikhattari, also of the School of Community Health and Policy, received a grant to implement CEASE (Communities Engaged in Advocating for a Smoke-Free Environment), a smoking cessation multi-faceted program in targeted areas of the MCM. The CEASE program held its first annual conference November 8, 2014. The conference featured scientists and health policy advocates from across the country.
Develop and Support Education and Youth Development
- Morgan was awarded funding to have an AmeriCorps/VISTA outreach to the four MCM area schools identified as year two schools under the Baltimore City Public Schools (BCPS) 21st Century Schools Initiative. The VISTA effort is housed in the MCM offices and coordinates input and assistance between the four schools, BCPS, and the School of Architecture and Planning, and School of Education, and Urban Studies.
Improve the Environment
- Morgan is a host organization for a Chesapeake Conservation Corps participant to work with the MCM to create a walking trail through the Morgan campus – the Stream Walk Project. This trail will connect the five parks in the MCM with the communities near the parks, allowing pedestrians to travel through green space, rather than along busy city streets. A presentation of plans was held in January 2015.
- In partnership with Civic Works and the Baltimore Energy Challenge, businesses in the MCM are learning about how to save energy as well as receiving products and resources to upgrade their facilities for energy efficiency.
Encourage Living, Working, and Spending in the Community
- Morgan has established a ‘Live Near Your Work’ program that provides employees with a grant to use towards purchasing a home in the MCM.
- Working with the Office of Student Affairs, the MCM is helping to identify businesses to accept the BEAR card, which would debit a Morgan students’ university account and allow them to easily purchase items in the community.
Strengthen University and Community Relations
- Morgan’s president, Dr. David Wilson, has held several “fire-side chats” with the community to discuss improvements and understand community concerns.
- Morgan received a $25K grant from the Meyerhoff Family Charitable Funds to fund a baseline study on the MCM.
“Northeast Baltimore has a wealth of natural, residential, educational, commercial, recreational, and community assets. Morgan Community Mile offers a means for our community organizations and institutions to come together to share our resources, strengthen our infrastructure, and plan for our future. Working together, we have made a strong beginning; we envision many more opportunities for additional collaboration and growth” according to Dr. Catherine Evans.
As the MCM approaches its 2nd anniversary, the initiative looks forward to the publication of data from Dr. Siddhartha Sen, professor and program director, of the MSU graduate program in city and regional planning, that baselines the MCM community and its economic impact.
March 19th – MCM will participate in Morgan Innovation Day, held in Annapolis, to showcase the value the MCM brings to its communities to Maryland’s delegates and state senators.
April 25th – MCM Summit will take place to inform and engage the community on the progress and benefits of this initiative. Dr. Wilson will address the community at this venue.