As part of its recent rebranding process, The Rochester Center for Community Leadership (RCCL) changed its name last month to the Center for Community Engagement (CCE) in an effort to accurately reflect what the Center does. The name change coincides with RCCL’s 15th anniversary.
According to Assistant Dean of Students and CCE Director Glenn Cerosaletti, the renaming process took about a year and involved input from faculty, students, staff, and community partners involved with the center.
“We have recognized that our name now lends itself to some confusion: [people think] that we are a stand-alone community organization, rather than part of the University; that we offer more leadership development education and training than we do; or that we are a grant-making organization that supports community development,” read an email intended to solicit feedback from RCCL stakeholders about the Center’s name.
“We considered different possibilities,” Cerosaletti said. “CCE was the preferred choice [and it] represents the focus of our work very well.” He pointed out that CCE highlights that they work in partnership with individuals, communities, and community organizations. The other choices in consideration were “Center for Community Partnerships” and “Center for Social Justice and Civic Engagement.”
Senior Christina Krewson appreciated the name change and agreed that CCE was more representative of what the Center does. “I think it’s better that the Center changed its name because it better reflects that we’re learning from our community, and from Rochester at large.”
Krewson said RCCL had different implications and can be misunderstood by students thinking the Center is only about leadership, yet from her experience, the primary focus is on engaging and falling in love with the Rochester community.
“Engagement doesn’t have to be leadership; it can be appreciating and [learning about] the environment you are in,” she said.
Senior Casey Ryu also agreed, stating that “[Rochester] Center for Community Leadership can be a little problematic, especially for an institution that many community members perceive as not upholding its role as a community leader.”
Involving stakeholders in the name change was pivotal for RCCL. “We want[ed] to embody the work that we do,” Cerosaletti said. “Embodying that approach of giving voice to people from the community, especially underrepresented voices, and students.”
Founded in 2005, RCCL has seen incredible growth over the years, according to Cerosaletti. It became the home of UR traditions such as Wilson Day of Engagement, the Rochester Urban Fellows program, the Medallion Leadership Program, the Rochester Youth Year postgraduate fellowship, Learning and Exploring at Play tutor program, community-engaged learning, and other initiatives.
Ceroselatti has been delighted with the Center’s impact over the years, be it watching students move on to prominent roles or seeing students experience transformative learning and life-changing experiences through engaging with the community.
“[The CCE] programs do a great job of […] highlighting all of the wonderful things happening currently in the 19th Ward and Plymouth-Exchange neighborhoods as well as the area’s fascinating history,” senior Madeline Bordo, Urban Fellows Program and Wilson Days of Engagement Coordinator, said.
For Ryu, CCE has helped her learn about issues within Rochester. “It has given me a better understanding of the community as a whole,” Ryu said. “I didn’t know about the July ’64 riots, then the gentrification issues within the city; I knew it existed but lacked the historical background of it.”
Bordo, who has been connected with CCE for the last two years, said the opportunities from the Center have changed her perception of the world, and she feels “empowered to work for change, especially locally.” “I got to work hands-on with the issues I really care about as an undergraduate, which gave me a lot of insight into what kind of job I want to get after graduation,” Bordo said.
Cerosaletti highlighted that they will be working to develop some new strategic priorities and goals over winter break. A current goal for CCE is working to change the racist perceptions of the South-West neighborhoods across the bridge.
Bordo hopes that as more students attend CCE’s Breaking the Bubble series and workshops, intended to deepen students’ understanding of Rochester, educating students will have a ripple effect and help dispel what she termed as false and racist narratives that are prevalent on campus about the surrounding communities.
For Ryu, it should almost be a responsibility for students to understand where they are living and not be stuck in the campus bubble, and she encouraged students to use the opportunities offered by CCE to learn about the impact the University has on the community as funders of its operations.