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What would it look like for colleges and universities to invest in and begin creating community-based learning opportunities? Academics isolated in their “ivory tower” may be a stereotype, but, a lack of connection to communities outside of academia is a real dynamic that exists. Here to provide insight and expertise into the high-quality work of community-based learning is Johns Hopkins’ Gia Grier McGinnis.

Gia has over fifteen years of broad-ranging experience in program management and community outreach. Her academic and professional careers have developed her research and communication skills to a very high level – she can connect and collaborate with pretty much anyone, across areas and functions, to mobilize them toward a common goal.

Gia’s skill set applies to a wide variety of functions, but her interest is focused on civic engagement and public outreach. Gia’s specialty is building and supporting programs and initiatives and then expanding them for sustainability. She also excels at translating complex information into communication tools that are easy to use by the public.

Gia is the Associate Director for the Johns Hopkins Center for Social Concern. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Environmental Studies at Washington College, her Master's degree in Natural Resources and Environment at the University of Michigan, and she is currently a PhD candidate at Morgan State University.

What You’ll Hear On This Episode of When Science Speaks
  • [1:12] Mark introduces his guest, Gia Greer McGinnis.
  • [3:30] Why you need to understand your audience.
  • [5:50] Gia talks about her work with community-based learning opportunities.
  • [10:30] What is Baltimore Green Map?
  • [12:20] Challenges with communicating risk to the public.
  • [14:00] Discussing the role of women in politics.
Connect with Gia Grier McGinnis Resources & People Mentioned How academia can engage their communities

Imagine the world of possibilities that could be unlocked by mobilizing colleges and universities in the work of community-based learning. If you are unfamiliar with the term, community-based learning is a teaching strategy that bridges academic theory and real-world practice. The strategy promotes students’ academic learning and civic development while simultaneously addressing real-world problems, community needs, and interests. It is characterized by its emphasis on reciprocity and collaboration with community stakeholders.

Gia Grier McGinnis and her team at Johns Hopkins University have been engaged for several years with a program that focuses on community engagement and community partnerships. The Engaged Scholar Faculty and Community Fellows Program pairs faculty members and community partners to co-design and co-teach a community-based learning course for one semester. They also partner with a local Baltimore non-profit called Writers In Baltimore Schools (WBS). WBS’s mission is to empower the voices of Baltimore City students through in-school, after-school, and summer programming that builds skills in literacy and communication while creating a community of support for young writers.

Communicating risk to the public

If you had to communicate risk to the public, what would be your approach? How do you take a complex problem that might require a multi-faceted solution and convey that broadly to the public? One of the most important factors in communicating risk to the public is to do so without causing alarm, which sounds like it is easier said than done.

In her work on this subject, Gia Grier McGinnis had her students study the government’s response to the water crisis in Flint, Michigan as a case study in what not to do. Any way you look at it, communicating risk to the public is not an easy task. Officials really have to walk the tightrope of expressing the right amount of risk without alarming the public, but they do need to convey the level of danger accurately.

To hear Gia expand on this topic as her work with community-based learning, make sure to listen to her full conversation with Mark on this episode of When Science Speaks.

Connect With Mark and When Science Speaks

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