WOOSTER, Ohio – Carrying out projects on supportive employment practices and policies for returning citizens, two of The College of Wooster’s Applied Methods and Research Experience (AMRE) student teams and advisors were recognized with the Community Enrichment Award from the Wooster/Orrville chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).
Presented at the local chapter’s Freedom Fund Dinner, held Saturday night in Kittredge Hal, the Community Enrichment Award is an annual honor that goes to a group of people (or person) who have excelled and performed outstanding work in and for the local community.
The AMRE teams that were honored each executed a summer project, one in 2018 and one in 2019. A team comprised of sophomore Michelle Bryant, junior Maggie Dougherty, and senior Noah Plotkin in 2019 examined ways to implement a system of support for employees with alternative resumes, such as re-entering citizens and/or individuals with a history of substance abuse, homelessness, or mental health diagnoses, and the employers who hire them. The goal was to develop a model to help businesses in Wayne County maximize employee potential by understanding workplace challenges, and by the end, they developed a brochure with a series of bullet point statistics and ideas on how employers can benefit from supportive employment that could be distributed to local organization.
“The collaboration through this project on inclusive hiring and supportive employment has been an excellent opportunity for students to give back to the community in meaningful ways. This project, like many other AMRE projects, uniquely connects the College with (those) that care about important issues facing our shared community and finding solutions together. It’s only when we use this type of multidimensional approach to identifying solutions as important as finding ways to create a more welcoming labor environment for all individuals, acknowledging challenges they face and the ways in which there are structural barriers to their employment, that we can actually make progress,” stated Brooke Krause, one of the advisors of the project, along with Cameron Maneese ’78. Krause is an assistant professor of economics and global and international studies at Wooster, while Maneese is the former director of Wayne County Family and Children First Council.
In 2018, senior Emma Cotter and junior Halen Gifford worked with a number of different community clients, including the Wooster/Orrville NAACP, by collecting data on workforce reentry after a period of incarceration in Wayne County to help returning citizens more readily find opportunities in the workforce. After cold-calling hundreds of area businesses, they were able to identify 60 that were “felon friendly,” or willing to hire returning citizens, and on top of that, they compared reentry programming in nine other counties in Ohio and analyzed some profit and non-profit organizations that have successfully hired ex-offenders in an effort to find some common themes. By the end of the summer, they formed a series of recommendations and provided a comprehensive report to the clients.
“The ‘Returning Citizen’ and ‘Supportive Employment’ AMRE projects were a catalyst for a variety of community sectors to engage in solving complicated problems,” added Maneese. “With the help of focused student research teams our whole community gathered to both inform AMRE projects and to collectively learn from their recommendations. The long-term outcomes of this sort of synergy can be seen and felt long after the projects were completed. The work and conversations continue.”
Maneese also was an advisor on the 2018 project with Nate Addington, director of experiential learning and community engagement at Wooster.
For more than 25 years, Wooster’s AMRE program has been giving students the opportunity to apply classroom learning in the role of business and organizational consultants. Over an eight-week period in the summertime, students are paired with local clients to research an issue, thus taking their liberal arts education into a real-world setting. This helps students determine professional interests and develop professional skills, while potentially benefitting clients with an analytic-based solution at a low cost.
Grant funding for AMRE projects comes from the Wayne County Community Foundation, the Donald and Alice Noble Foundation, the Laura B. Frick Charitable Trust, and the Ralph R. and Grace B. Jones Foundation.
Pictured (left-to-right): Professor John Ramsey, Cameron Maneese ’78, Maggie Dougherty, Halen Gifford, Assistant Professor Brooke Krause, and AMRE Program Coordinator Vikki Briggs.