Digital Building Viewbook, UNO Barbara Weitz Community Engagement Center

Page 1



THIS IS EXCEPTIONAL COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT. Why here? It is one of the questions most frequently asked by people visiting the Barbara Weitz Community Engagement Center (CEC). There are hundreds of community engagement or outreach centers operated by universities and colleges throughout the country. Most are not located on their campuses; rather, they are located away from their respective campuses, sometimes miles away. Often, their resources are devoted to the needs of a specific part of a city or neighborhood. Some engagement centers offer an array of resources focused on specific content areas, such as economic development or educational outreach, while other centers focus on providing extended access to the arts, continuing education, and other community-building resources. At UNO, when we first explored the opportunity of creating our own, world-class community engagement center, we realized that our Dodge Campus would be an ideal location. Located at the very crossroads of our city, an engagement center placed here would be easy to find and access by public transportation, car, or bike. By placing it next to our spectacular library, performing arts center, and other well-known outreach facilities already at UNO, the new CEC would create an intersection for all campus based-community engagement, punctuated by UNO’s Henningson Memorial Campanile. Most importantly, there was terrific momentum taking place at UNO, and the energy was palpable. Faculty, staff, and student involvement in engaged teaching, research, and service were at an all-time high. We wanted to invite our community to our campus to experience this dynamic growth first-hand. Rather than limiting the center to a specific academic area or college, we envisioned a unique campus-based center that would be comprehensive both in scope and in focus, without physical borders or programmatic limitations. We wanted to make every visit to our center and campus a positive experience, characterized by easy access, adjacent visitor parking, and assistance finding campus resources. When we asked a wide breadth of stakeholders – existing and potential community partners, students, faculty, and staff – what they imagined the engagement center’s physical space would look like, they dreamed big. They described bright, flexible meeting spaces, big and small, where they could gather, collaborate, and learn together; cozy places for our students to engage in service learning projects; and well-lit, flexible office spaces where community and university building partners could work side-by-side to improve the quality of life for those they serve. These visionaries saw a building characterized by a welcoming atmosphere and civil dialogue, reciprocity, a commitment to diversity and inclusion, and collaboration. They envisioned a place where everyone and anyone in the community could come to contribute, learn, lead, and make a difference. They envisioned exceptional engagement. Today, thanks to our incredible donors and campus leaders, our community and university partners, and the thousands of people who walk through our doors every month, we think the CEC is meeting their expectations. We invite you to come visit the CEC, then let us know if you agree. Sincerely,

Sara Woods, M.P.A. Associate to the Senior Vice Chancellor for Community Engagement, Director of the Barbara Weitz Community Engagement Center


AREAS OF FOCUS The CEC has five interrelated areas of focus that tells the story of how we operate and whom we serve. UNO Service Learning Academy

Meeting Spaces • Free of charge

• University and community partnerships enhance student learning

• Available for public and campus events

• Mutual benefits to all partners

• Accommodates groups of up to 108 people

• Hands-on student learning

• Extensive visitor parking available

• Faculty and K-12 educator resources

• 25,000 sq. ft. of reservable spaces

UNO Service and Leadership Collaborative

CEC Building Partner Organizations

• Volunteer opportunities and resources

• Community and university organizations

• Service-driven internships

• Shared and private office spaces

• Days of Service

• Collaborative environment

• Maverick Food Pantry

• Shared values, resources, and benefits

Community Engaged Scholarship • UNO faculty as partners • Community-driven research • Student research opportunities • Reciprocal benefits

Community Engagement Resources Roadmap In 2018, the CEC, in collaboration with other UNO outreach departments, created an online tool called the Community Engagement Resources Roadmap. This tool connects anyone on or off-campus to community engagement resources including short or long-term volunteer needs, volunteer opportunities through campus, faculty experts, community-engaged research resources, access to student interns, internships, and more.




Meeting Spaces in the CEC The CEC is a place where people come together to influence positive change in our community. We provide a variety of flexible spaces to make this happen. We offer meeting spaces free of charge to university, nonprofit, education, governmental or grassroots organizations to utilize for non-partisan meetings and events that benefit the public good. These spaces range from small intimate meeting rooms to brightly lit workrooms and large flexible spaces that can accommodate up to 200 people in theatre seating. Our OPPD Community Dialogue rooms promote collaborative decision making through their semicircular design and seating. Some of the activities taking place in the building include nonprofit board meetings, volunteer-related events and projects, service learning or community-based learning projects, special interest events that engage the community, as well as other planning activities. Our spaces have also become a hub for special interest and public events in which both UNO and the local community can share knowledge and resources. Amenities include proximate parking with 147 free stalls dedicated to CEC visitors as well as convenient overflow parking as needed. In addition, the CEC meeting spaces are equipped with IT and video conferencing technology.



are hosted in the CEC each year on average by the university, students, building partners, nonprofits, and government organizations.



people attend events hosted in the CEC per year, on average.



in estimated space and IT services savings for organizations using our spaces for workshops, trainings, conferences, dialogues, and other meetings, special, and public events.

Submit a reservation request



UNO Service Learning Academy Service learning is a method of teaching that combines classroom instruction with meaningful, community-identified service. This method of teaching is a critical aspect of the academic and personal development of UNO students. As a high-impact practice, service learning is especially valuable as UNO continues to focus on retaining and graduating all of its students. Moving into the CEC has enabled the UNO Service Learning Academy (SLA) to amplify its work with UNO faculty, community-based organizations, and preschool through 12th grade (P-12) educators. Using the CEC as a launchpad, learning space, and a gathering space for celebration, the SLA continues to develop and support unique efforts critical to developing the leaders of the future. The SLA works with UNO faculty members to identify the learning goals in their courses that are best learned through experience in the community. As a result, traditional service learning courses (those with a UNO course and community partner), P-16 service learning courses (those with a UNO course, P-12 course, and community partner), and service learning courses taught in the Maverick Philanthropy Initiative (those with a UNO course that meet the learning and service goals while teaching philanthropic giving) are developed. By listening to opportunities to collaborate guided by community partner organizations, meaningful service opportunities connect to learning goals and service learning partnerships are created. The SLA is a vital component of the CEC as it supports strategic collaboration among UNO’s engagement resources, connects CEC building partners to enrichment and service learning opportunities, and links the community to campus resources. The integration of academic knowledge with a service learning experience prepares students to work and serve in an increasingly diverse and challenging environment. UNO students enrolled in Dr. Mitzi Ritzman’s Speech-Language Pathology class assisted students from Blackburn High School in interviewing the unsung women who work to make Omaha better. The same project connected UNO and K-12 students with Youth Emergency Services (YES), where both groups learned about young women and men who needed additional support in the community. Learn More



DEVELOPING STUDENTS THROUGH VOLUNTEERISM AND SERVICE UNO Service and Leadership Collaborative The Collaborative is dedicated to developing UNO students as engaged community citizens and leaders for positive social change through volunteerism and service projects. This program is part of the Office of Student Life which connects the UNO community with local volunteer opportunities, service projects, and internships. The Collaborative is home to a nonprofit student internship program, Maverick Food Pantry, and Signature Service Days and directly serves students, UNO and community volunteers, nonprofit and community organizations, and the greater metro area and beyond. These programs provide students with leadership, teamwork, effective communication, and critical-thinking skills, as well as social, emotional, and intercultural competencies about civic identity. Community-based organizations also benefit from volunteer support provided by UNO student volunteers. The Collaborative’s inclusive programming model brings students and nonprofit organizations together to create service projects that address one or more of the current social issue areas affecting our community. The Collaborative has grown in scope and size and continues to be dedicated to developing students as engaged community citizens and leaders for positive social change through volunteerism and service projects. The program also houses the Maverick Food Pantry, which contributes to UNO’s culture of caring by providing resources to those in immediate need. To meet these demands, the pantry has developed partnerships with the College of St. Mary and the University of Nebraska Medical Center to address food insecurity in the community, moved to a larger space in the CEC, bolstered their communication strategy, and partnered with Aldi to reduce cost-per request.

“The Pantry helped me spread my $50 a week that I had to get gas, buy food, and any other expenses. I am grateful for being greeted by a warm smile every time I visited the Pantry.” CHRISTINE CENTER UNO GRADUATE STUDENT

Learn More


A NATIONAL MODEL FOR CAMPUS/COMMUNITY COLLABORATION CEC Building Partner Organizations Since its opening, the CEC has been home to dozens of university and community-based organizations representing culture, civics, education, health, youth, and social justice causes, among others. While they are diverse in whom they serve and what they do, these organizations are united in their commitment to our community and the CEC’s shared values.


university and community-based building partners have called the CEC home, with the current number of partners at 38.


of which indicated that being in the CEC has contributed positively to their mission (CEC Annual Survey, 2019).

CEC building partner organizations go through rigorous selection processes. They are chosen for their commitment in how they serve their stakeholders, the resources they bring to this partnership as well as the benefits they hope to gain from it, and their commitment to the CEC’s shared values. Our university-based building partners focus on engagement in multiple ways and represent different departments from across campus. Our community building partners pay a rental fee for office space and have access to university resources and partnerships. Some organizations are small and local, while others are decadesold chapters of national organizations.

The Power of Proximity We have learned that the type of engagement that takes place among the CEC’s building partners is powerful, synergistic, and unpredictable. Co-locating diverse organizations results in creative and strategic partnerships that extend beyond the boundaries of our building and continue deep into the community. We are grateful that our architects included a mixture of workspaces in our “community/university partnership suites” because the variety of open and private offices and meeting spaces fosters natural collaboration. These relationships result in research partnerships, enhance programming, scholarships, internships, and mentoring for UNO students, and myriad other benefits. Each suite has its own distinct buzz and mixture of campus and community partners.

The CEC was created for a specific purpose. Not only was UNO intentional in how the CEC’s space was designed, but also how it is being used in the promotion of community engagement. I think the space and vision are wonderful. CURTIS HUTT, Ph.D. UNO FACULTY, SPIRITUALITY, RELIGIOUS STUDIES, AND PUBLIC HEALTH (SPHRS)

Learn More




Community-Engaged Research Through the CEC, faculty, staff, and UNO students can connect to opportunities for meaningful collaboration and communitydriven research that offers shared benefits. Engaged research means studying and solving real-life problems facing the community while allowing researchers to contribute to their fields of study. As a member of the Coalition of Urban and Metropolitan Universities, UNO is committed to engaged teaching and research that supports the needs and goals of our community. The CEC’s community/university partnership spaces offer competitive opportunities for UNO faculty-driven organizations to have dedicated, temporary office or workspace in the building to pursue applied and evaluation research projects. These projects allow faculty members to work with community-based organizations in mutually-beneficial ways.

STEPs Exemplifies the CEC’s Commitment to Engaged Research Since becoming a CEC building partner, the Support and Training for the Evaluation of Programs (STEPs) has collaborated with 29 community partners through 59 different projects. Led by UNO faculty member, Dr. Jeanette Harder, STEPs has engaged nine faculty affiliates, eight part-time program evaluators, and 19 graduate research assistants. STEPs has published two articles in peer-reviewed journals, completed 10 evaluation reports, and presented at a variety of conferences to share their work. Since June 2017, STEPs has hosted 18 professional development workshops that benefit nonprofits and individuals in our community. These workshops range in topics from how to work with logic models to collecting and cleaning data.

“Being housed in the CEC on UNO’s campus has provided credibility to STEPs’ work and has contributed to our positive reputation in the community.” DR. JEANETTE HARDER, Ph.D., C.M.S.W. UNO FACULTY, PROJECT DIRECTOR, STEPS


WE ARE IN A NURTURING, GROWING AND KIND ENVIRONMENT In the CEC, we embrace these seven organizational values that guide how we treat one another and our guests. Our building policies, partners, and programs are all direct representations of these values.









Collaboration Cultivating an environment to support organic partnerships that focus on shared goals. Partnership 4 Kids, a youth mentoring program, is a critical pathway to connect its youth to our campus. Partnership between UNO and P4K yields benefits that extend far beyond the CEC. It provides opportunities for over 1,500 Title I/first-generation UNO students each year to participate in career and college preparatory activities. P4K utilizes its CEC space to build relationships with over 100 former mentees who are now UNO students, developing connections with students and potential mentors. In the 2019-20 school year, P4K provided $127,000 in scholarship funds to 63 students; since 2014, P4K has provided over $500,000 in scholarship funding to students.

Diversity Reflecting the many diverse ideas, backgrounds, and cultures that comprise Omaha and the university community. Omaha Girls Rock and UNO Service and Leadership Collaborative Program Manager, Peyton Wells, mapped out strategies to target prospective youth, volunteers, and adults. Peyton used different communication styles, trending cultural values for each group, and a communication plan based on each. The value of diversity also means supporting an environment in which our community and campus partners can learn from one another, share perspectives, seek insight, and grow. CEC partner organizations, including the UNO Service Learning Academy, Inclusive Communities and Support and Training for the Evaluation of Programs (STEPs), provide workshops and trainings that explore the opportunities and complexities of a changing world.



Civil and Open Dialogue Ensuring a space that welcomes, respects, and encourages all opinions and ideas. Since the CEC opened, Inclusive Communities has hosted more than 40 Omaha Table Talks in the building. Omaha Table Talks cover an array of topics and provide strategies to learn and achieve constructive exchange, bringing UNO and the community together. IC strengthens UNO’s environment of diversity and empowerment in sustained dialogue, service learning projects, and student development.

A Welcoming Atmosphere Creating an environment that is easy to access, filled with friendly faces, comfortable for all, and meets people’s physical needs. When people walk through the CEC hallways on a Monday evening, they often hear the jubilant sounds of singing and laughter from Gotta Be Me’s Heartlight Choir. Gotta Be Me, a community organization that serves people who are intellectually diverse, contributes to the CEC’s welcoming atmosphere through its joyous use of CEC spaces. Tiffiny Clifton, founder and director of Gotta Be Me said “It’s awesome being in the CEC because every week we meet new people and new groups. We’re engaging students who are coming to volunteer with us. We’re making space for people to actually have true and authentic friendships.”

Communication Encouraging thoughtful, respectful, and transparent communication between all individuals. On a regular basis, CEC surveys building partners on multiple topics. Their feedback has resulted in several actions. First, the CEC Internal Advisory Committee was launched to improve our ability to utilize input from our building partners before decisions, identify issues, trends, and solutions, as well as building stronger connections for all who work here. We also host “All Hands” meetings to provide opportunities for networking and getting important updates. In addition, various committees enable our building partners to get involved. Building Partners and the community are also invited to sign up for emails covering events in the CEC and on campus.

Reciprocity Ensuring mutual benefit between community and university partners through respect, co-creation of knowledge, and recognition of the value each partner brings. In 2016 CEC Partner WhyArts? Inc. teamed up with UNO Art and Art History faculty Jeremy Johnson to create “Sensory: Please Touch the Art.” The event featured accessible art created by and for visually impaired individuals and provided an internship experience for a UNO student. Johnson says that “working with community partners such as WhyArts? is beneficial because they bring in their teaching artists to volunteer in the Sensory workshops, working with those who are blind and visually impaired, as well as the students involved. Everyone involved gains new insights and skills into working with the blind and visually impaired”.

Continuous Improvement Basing decisions for improvement on direct feedback and concrete data, ensuring that organizations can continue having positive impacts on the community. For Operation Youth Success, ongoing partnerships with UNO’s Nebraska Center for Criminal Justice Research allow OYS to track and evaluate their organization to benefit youth involved in juvenile justice and child welfare systems. NCJR director Ryan Spohn, Ph.D., says “the collaboration has led to new research opportunities and has been invaluable in building connections with Omaha/Douglas County juvenile justice professionals.” OYS then partners with organizations across the community to advance their ability to improve outcomes from youth and families.


CEC ART COLLECTION The artwork in the CEC includes more than 50 works by UNO students, faculty, and staff, as well as artists with connections to Omaha and Nebraska. The original collection was curated by a community/university panel who worked to select pieces with wide-ranging appeal, from textiles to traditional works to graffiti-style murals.



FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS How do I request meeting spaces for an event/meeting in the CEC? Go to and select the “Reservation Request Form” button on the home page. You may request parking for your event/meeting guests at the same time. General information about our meeting spaces can be found on our website at How do I park as a guest attending an event/meeting in the CEC? The CEC’s GPS address is 6400 South, University Drive Road North, Omaha, NE 68182. Additional transportation information can be found on our website at for directions. How do I find out about news/public events happening in the CEC? Go to for CEC-related news and events. Scroll to the bottom of the page if you wish to receive monthly email notifications for special interest and public events. How do I access community engagement resources on campus? Go to and select the department you wish to connect with. Click on the “Community Engagement Roadmap” to see if we can help connect you to the community engagement resources you are seeking. How do I locate facility hours and information? Go to for our hours of operation, information about inclement weather, and more. How do I make a financial contribution to support the CEC? Go to

STUDENTS, FACULTY, AND STAFF How do I access the UNO Maverick Food Pantry? Visit

STUDENTS How do I sign up to take a service learning class? Before you enroll, go to the UNO Registrar’s Class Search page at For the “Program”, select the drop-down option “Service Learning.”

FACULTY, STUDENTS, AND NONPROFIT ORGANIZATIONS How do I get involved in a service learning project? Go to or email the UNO Service Learning Academy at




CURRENT AND FORMER CEC BUILDING PARTNERS Thank you to all our current and former CEC building partners for bringing life to our mission through your energy, collaboration, and willingness to lift the community around you. Current and Former CEC Building Partners UNO Service and Leadership Collaborative

A Time to Heal

Omaha By Design

Black Police Officers Association

Omaha Community Foundation

Buffett Early Childhood Institute

Omaha Girls Rock

UNO Office of Latino/ Latin American Studies

Buford Foundation

Omaha Public Library

UNO Office of Sustainability

Campus Compact for the Great Plains

ONE Omaha

UNO Service Learning Academy

Operation Youth Success

UNO Sigma Phi Epsilon

Partnership 4 Kids

UNO Social Media Lab

Prairie STEM

UNO Spirituality, Public Health, Religious Studies

Civic Nebraska Coalition Rx Down Syndrome Alliance of the Midlands

Queer Nebraska Youth Network

Education Rights Counsel

The Simple Foundation

Girl Scouts Spirit of Nebraska

The Wellbeing Partners

Hunger Free Heartland

Tri-Faith Initiative

Inclusive Communities

UNL Nebraska Extension

Live Well Omaha

UNMC Munroe Meyer Institute


UNO Center for Urban Sustainability

UNO Tribal Management and Emergency Services

Metro Area Continuum of Care for the Homeless

UNO Every Bite Counts

UNO Volunteer Program Assessment

UNO Faculty Fellows

UNO William Brennan Institute for Labor Studies

UNO Interdisciplinary Behavioral Consultation Scholars

Urban Bird and Nature Alliance

UNO Juvenile Justice Institute

Urban League of Nebraska



UNO Nebraska Education Policy Lab

WhyArts? Inc.

Metro Omaha Educational Consortium Mode Shift Omaha Nebraska Civic Engagement Table Nebraska Shakespeare Nebraska Writers Collective Nonprofit Association of the Midlands

UNO Success Academy UNO Support and Training for the Evaluation of Programs UNO Sustainability Organizations UNO Transitions Program

UNO Nonprofit Leadership Alliance UNO Nebraska Watershed Network


BARBARA WEITZ COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT CENTER The University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO) Barbara Weitz Community Engagement Center (CEC) is a place where UNO and community programs come together to partner for the benefit of the campus and community. Here, we are all about creating and supporting mutually beneficial partnerships and community-engaged research, as well as academic and student programming that connects UNO students to their community and creates new leaders and agents of change. Our goal is to deliver more effective community engagement to students, faculty, and staff by supporting and enhancing UNO’s extensive outreach activities, student learning, service experiences, and applied research occurring on-and off-campus.

“The dream for this building is for the community to become all it can be. It’s for people to come together to work for the greater good of all of Omaha’s citizens—not my little neighborhood, not your little neighborhood, but for the whole community. And if the dream of this building can come true, and it did, so can the dream of a community for all of its citizens come true.” – Barbara Weitz, April 2014 Dedication Ceremony The Barbara Weitz Community Engagement Center is named after an individual deeply committed to her community and to helping others. Barbara Weitz is an avid supporter of local and national nonprofit organizations who, along with her family, gives back to the Omaha community through volunteerism, public service, and financial commitments. Barbara was a catalyst behind the development and extraordinary growth of UNO’s service learning programs—now being integrated into K-12 schools throughout the Omaha community—and the university’s emergence as a national leader in community engagement. She is a member of the University of Nebraska Board of Regents.

THE UNO COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT CENTER EXCELLENCE FUND The UNO Community Engagement Center Excellence Fund supports innovative student programming, scholarships and internships, faculty fellowships and engaged research, and nonprofit outreach. Please consider an outright or planned gift that will enable the CEC to broaden its impact throughout the campus and community for many years to come! For more information, contact the University of Nebraska Foundation 402.502.0300 |

CONTACT US Barbara Weitz Community Engagement Center 6001 Dodge Street, Omaha, NE 68182

The University of Nebraska does not discriminate based on race, color, ethnicity, national origin, sex, pregnancy, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, disability, age, genetic information, veteran status, marital status, and/or political affiliation in its programs, activities, or employment. 0260BKCEC1120


Turn static files into dynamic content formats.

Create a flipbook
Issuu converts static files into: digital portfolios, online yearbooks, online catalogs, digital photo albums and more. Sign up and create your flipbook.