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Washtenaw United: U-M's Ginsberg Center Increasing Equity Through Partnership And Collaboration

Ginsberg Center
David Fair
89.1 WEMU

The United Way of Washtenaw County's 21-Day Equity Challenge is underway, and several organizations are doing their part to improve equity and social justice in the community.  Among them is the University of Michigan's Edward Ginsberg Center.  Two of the center's representatives, Dave Waterhouse and Dr. Neeraja Aravamudan, discuss their current efforts with WEMU's David Fair in this week's "Washtenaw United."

WEMU has partnered with the United Way of Washtenaw Countyto explore the people, organizations, and institutions creating opportunity and equity in our area.  And, as part of this ongoing series, you’ll also hear from the people benefiting and growing from the investments being made in the areas of our community where there are gaps in available services.  It is a community voice.  It is 'Washtenaw United.'


Neeraja Aravamudan, Ph.D

Ginsberg Center
Credit Ginsberg Center / ginsberg.umich.edu
Neeraja Aravamudan, Ph.D, Associate Director for Teaching & Research at the Ginsberg Center

Neeraja leads Ginsberg's work with academic partners, supporting faculty, academic program staff, and graduate students who want to integrate community engagement into their courses, research, and programs.  Neeraja has focused her professional career in higher education on helping students and faculty to make their teaching and learning more studentcentered, inclusive and equitable.  Her commitment to social justice education is rooted in her personal experiences as an immigrant from India and her work in anti-bias education.  Community-engaged learning brings together her interests in social justice, teaching and learning, and values-centered practices. 

Dave Waterhouse

Ginsberg Center
Credit Ginsberg Center / ginsberg.umich.edu
Dave Waterhouse, Associate Director at the Ginsberg Center

Dave provides strategic and administrative leadership to the Ginsberg Center which includes work with staff, students, and Ginsberg programs.  His primary goals focus on building sustainable infrastructure for equitable campus-community partnerships, staff development, increasing student learning, and building authentic relationships with community partners that lead to positive results.  He serves and has served on a variety of Student Life and University-wide committees, including as a planning lead for Student Life's Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion work; as collective impact lead for Community Engagement; and as a lead in the Community Engagement Consortium between U-M, MSU, and WSU, as well as tri-campus collaborations with UM-Flint and UMDearborn. 


Their mission is to cultivate and steward equitable partnerships between communities and the University of Michigan in order to advance social change for the public good. 

Based upon this mission, their vision is for inclusive democracy; thriving, diverse communities; and equity and social justice. 

The Ginsberg Center cultivates and stewards equitable partnerships between communities and the University of Michigan in order to advance the public good. 

They are committed to:


Edward Ginsberg Center

Neeraja Aravamudan, Ph.D

Dave Waterhouse


Inequities hurt everyone, United Way of Washtenaw County is focusing on removing barriers and increasing access so all people have the opportunity to thrive.  To that end, we are inviting the whole community to join us on a 21-Day Equity Challenge* kicking-off on Jan 6.  Participation in an activity like this helps us to discover how racial injustice and social injustice impact our systems, to connect with one another, to identify ways to dismantle racism and become better leaders for a more just, equitable community.  Sign-up online now: uwgive.org/equity or by texting UWWCEQUITY" to 22828. 

*The 21-Day Equity Challenge was designed by Food Solutions New England to replicate in communities throughout the country.

In 2017, we committed to equity as a core value and practice to advance our mission. We define equity as the presence of justice and fairness within our procedures, processes, and distribution of resources. 

In all our roles we will consciously work to eliminate injustice and inequity.  We aspire to live in a community where: 

  • Community members seek understanding and awareness using their own power and privilege and actively working to end poverty in our County;
  • Your zip code no longer determines your opportunity in life;
  • The academic achievement gap is eliminated;
  • Everyone in our community has a home;
  • Life expectancy is the same across all populations and communities in our County;
  • Poverty is not generational.  If it exists, it is intermittent and brief;
  • Everyone in our County is able to thrive and meet their needs-- housing, food, transportation, education, health expenses and childcare. 

Right now in Washtenaw County, the data show: 

  • The life expectancy of African-Americans is 13 years shorter than that of white residents, and it is 20 years shorter for Latinx folks. (Source: MDHHS)
  • The Infant Mortality Rate varies widely between white and black babies: black babies under one year still die at almost twice the rate of white babies in Washtenaw County. (Source: MDHHS)
  • While Washtenaw County boasts an average graduation rate higher than the state average (87%), economically disadvantaged youth graduate at a significantly lower rate: 72% (Source: WACY 2015 report card)
  • Good social-emotional and mental health is a key component of children’s healthy development. Poverty, trauma, and inadequate treatment are three factors that have been shown to have a sustained, negative impact on children’s social, emotional and mental health.  Recent surveys of Washtenaw County students revealed that 29% of middle school students reported being bullied on school property in the past year, while 68% of African-American students witnessed in-school physical abuse.  (Source: WACY 2017 report card) 

More data about opportunity and equity in Washtenaw County can be found on the Washtenaw Opportunity Index and Health for Allwebsites. 

We invite you to join us on this journey, learn more about Equity: uwgive.org/equity

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— David Fair is the WEMU News Director and host of Morning Edition on WEMU.  You can contact David at734.487.3363, on twitter @DavidFairWEMU, or email him at dfair@emich.edu

Contact David: dfair@emich.edu
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