Divided Baltimore Engages Community in Solution-Finding
In the wake of last spring’s unrest in Baltimore following the death of Freddie Gray, a group of UB faculty and staff members wanted to find a way to engender meaningful change in the city. They turned to what UB does best as an anchor institution, tasked with contributing to the city’s progress: teaching through open discussion while involving the community. And the Divided Baltimore: How Did We Get Here, Where Do We Go? course was born.
Held Monday evenings last fall, the forum-style lectures—featuring UB faculty and invited guest speakers from all sectors of the community—were open to the public, streamed live online and recorded. The course, open for credit to both undergraduate and graduate students and to high-school seniors in a dual-enrollment program, covered topics that ranged from the government’s role in solving segregation problems to housing and transportation planning and focused on proposing solutions rather than on simply discussing the problems.
“Our city is great, but we have serious work to do to make it a more livable, viable environment in the years to come,” UB President Kurt L. Schmoke says. “Our home is the city, our classrooms are of and for the many communities around us. We believe in a bold future for the city, so you can count on UB to both lead the call and do the hard work for a better Baltimore—one Baltimore for all.”
The course gained national exposure when The New York Times covered it with a front-page story and an accompanying video on its website. Given the mounting positive response to the course, administrators decided to offer it again in slightly modified formats.
This spring, Divided Baltimore took the form of an after-school, dual-enrollment class for local high-school juniors, modeled on the town-hall version offered in the fall. “[The high-schoolers] were bringing their friends and other guests because they wanted to see what a college course is like,” says John Brenner, UB program manager, who oversees the University’s early college initiatives. To serve that same population, the Divided Baltimore franchise continues this summer during UB’s College Readiness Summer Academy. Local high-schoolers will attend the five-week course, which will focus on “Issues of Inequality in Housing in Baltimore City.” They will participate in a project in UB’s demonstration garden focusing on food deserts, and for their capstone project, they will draft a document to a government official advocating for change.