Quarterly News from the Office of Community Engagement
Keeler's Korner
A message from the OCE Director.....
As we reflect on the previous semester and are deeply engrossed in the new year and semester, I would like to take a moment to remark on a few of the initiatives we have participated in or are actively working on. 
Our office, in collaboration with the Community Engagement Core for the Buffet Cancer Center and the Community Engagement and Outreach (CEO) Core of the Great Plains IDeA-CTR Network, is conducting a stakeholder analysis of numerous contacts both within the internal (U of N system) and external communities.  The purpose of this effort is to better understand if and how community-engaged research and support is valued from different perspectives, with an end goal to advance this type of work at UNMC. Over the past year, this collaborative team has met monthly to determine where synergies exist between the types of research and engagement UNMC offers, where there are unnecessary redundancies, and what gaps in services may exist. This activity has helped us to better understand the types of community-engaged research support that are important to our partners and will serve as a springboard to further advance this work at UNMC.

Another exciting project in progress for the OCE is the establishment of a formalized curriculum for community engagement activities for our students and faculty. This curriculum will include various topics related to the knowledge, skills, and attitudes needed to develop partnerships with community organizations and to address health equity challenges collaboratively with our community members, as well as tools to use in constructing engagement plan. We recently met with several internal stakeholders to determine how to harness our existing expertise across our colleges, departments, institutes, to take the best path to achieving this goal. We know that there is still a lot of work to do to make this vision a reality, and that there are many community engagement champions that have tremendous knowledge, expertise and experience that could help in this area. Please reach out to us so that we can include you in this interprofessional effort.
We are also working on several guidance documents that will help us further expand our community engagement infrastructure and chart a course for a culture of engagement that includes a place for any and all that desire to interact more with our communities. This culture values and provides support for any and all that wish to expand efforts into the community. We are at our best when we work together to achieve a healthier Nebraska!

Lastly, our office will be launching its community engagement survey on March 2nd with the release of a UNMC Today news story. We encourage completion of this survey to document the community and volunteer activities of our dedicated faculty, staff and students. Completion of the survey is critical to our ability to procure needed resources that will build more opportunities for engagement and partnership. Your voice can help us to connect with and amplify efforts to address identified health priorities. Please click on the button below to complete the survey.

The OCE would like to recognize several groups this quarter that have been especially helpful in working with us to build a more engaged UNMC:

HEAL program
CAHP OT Program
SLIDO and the Division of Student Success
Office of Strategic Communications
And all of the individual conversations and collaborations along the way!
Thank you for all that you do for our wonderful UNMC. Please reach out and let Brooke Fitzpatrick, OCE Coordinator, or I know if you have any ideas that can spark new relationships or sustain existing ones. We love hearing from you!
Until then, stay engaged!
Heidi J. Keeler, PhD, RN
Spotlight on Community Collaborations Council
The UNMC Community Collaborations Council (CCC) was established by the Office of Community Engagement (OCE), under the direction of OCE Director, Dr. Heidi Keeler. The Council is overseen by the OCE and housed under Academic Affairs. The Council's membership consists of faculty or staff of each engaged college, department, division, institute, center or unit.

The CCC meets on a quarterly basis to discuss all things community engagement. The purpose of the Council is to advise and support the creation and development of UNMC-level inter-professional and collaborative community engagement policies, processes, and actions. The Council plays a significant role in delivering community engagement best practice, policies, development of reports such as the OCE Community Report HERE. The Council has assisted in the creation of surveys like the campus-wide community engagement survey deployed two years ago. As mentioned above, this survey will be re-launched on March 2nd so please be on the lookout for any related communications. We appreciate your time in completing this important survey.

In future editions of the OCE newsletter, we plan to spotlight members of the Council. Dr. Keeler is the Chair of the Council and Kristin Mayleblen-Flott is the Co-Chair. One of the things Kristin is working on in her role as Co-Chair, in collaboration with the Office for Strategic Communications, is growing a community engaged communication network. While the COVID-19 pandemic has shone a light on existing health inequities, it has also demonstrated the need for a strong communication network in order to effectively communicate important information and resources to combat these inequities. Stay tuned for more information related to this initiative!
Fostering the Future is a student-led, inter-professional service-learning initiative dedicated to promoting resources and solutions to address the health challenges at-risk youth face in the Omaha metropolitan area. Their mission is to improve the quality of life for at-risk youth and the overall health of our community by providing a continuum of resources, education, leadership opportunities and impactful personal experiences to create healthy, positive, sustainable futures for children. In addition to hosting a successful blanket-making drive to benefit at-risk youth (read more about this in the article below), this energetic and motivated group of students have several initiatives in the works to include a possible mentoring program and personal hygiene drive. The organization just elected two individuals to advocacy chair positions to focus on legislative efforts to benefit foster youth, and they have been in contact with Nebraska Appleseed and Youth Emergency Services, Inc. to see how they can assist in advancing legislative efforts. If you are interested in becoming a member and being a part of the action, check them out on ENGAGE.
Thank you for sharing the warmth, UNMC!
Fostering the Future Blanket-making Drive
The UNMC community came together to make 150 blankets for at risk youth in need. The online sign up for volunteers opened on January 31st and closed just two days later with all 150 blanket kits assigned to motivated UNMC faculty, staff and students. Blankets were donated to two local non-profits, Project Everlast, and Project Harmony as well as the Omaha Police Department. Assistant Professor in CON and Fostering the Future advisor, Jessica Semin, DNP, MPH, RN remarked: "I am liking the happy spirit this drive is bringing - uniting faculty, staff, and students to do good for the community. I think it is a powerful message that we can come together to do good work outside of our typical roles in the midst of the pandemic." The students and faculty advisors of Fostering the Future give many thanks to the UNMC community for all of the enthusiasm and assistance in assembling the blankets and making the drive a success!
Voices from the Community
Juan Carlos Veloso
"Community engagement has been something that came out naturally after being in direct contact with Latino families in South Omaha for more than 21 years. It was in this environment that I noticed how the Latino community was underrepresented in so many instances that affected us directly. I felt that we didn’t have a voice about important issues affecting our community. For years, I have been able to advocate for issues like discrimination by landlords, by lawyers taking advantage of people paying them thousands of dollars. I know what it is to accompany a 6-year-old boy from Guatemala who presented by himself before an immigration judge. In my context, this is what community engagement is. Besides being a teacher, I am a United Methodist Pastor. In this capacity, I have been able to travel to congressional offices on more than one occasion, advocating for the dreamers, and for people who were losing their TPS (temporary protected status) status. In 2019, I made one of the most important decisions in my life, I decided to quit teaching to achieve two important goals: The first goal involved starting a full-time career as a pastor, and currently, I am starting a new Hispanic ministry in South Omaha. Our faith statement is: To serve God, is to serve our neighbor”. The second goal was to start a new community center. We have done that, and “Centro Comunitario del Pueblo” is a reality today. Last year, we were able to serve more than 500 families with our services of Food Pantry, Community Closet, ESL classes, and many more. As I said, this is what community engagement looks like in South Omaha, and I feel so honored to serve my community.

Juan Carolos Veloso
Pastor, Grace United Methodist Church
Upcoming Events:


  • CCC Q1 (2022) Meeting - March 3, 11:00 a.m.
  • EMPOWER cell phone collection (see details below) - March 1 - 31st.


  • Annual OCE Shark Tank Event - April 21

  • OCE/SLIDO Spring Award Celebration - Date TBD

Support a survivor of domestic violence by donating your old cell phone.

EMPOWER is collecting old cells, with chargers, for the Women's Center for Advancement. Phones will be distributed to survivors of domestic violence to provide access to emergency services (9-1-1). Collection bins for phones and chargers are in MSC 3021 (Dr. Schenarts office) and Williams Science Hall, Suite 2.0.106 (Office of Community Engagement) from March 1st - March 31st.
The UNMC Office of Community Engagement is revitalizing one of its Legacy Projects, Decreasing the Donor Deficit, through a partnership with the American Cancer Society (ACS) to form a new student organization, ACS at UNMC, and is seeking interested and highly motivated UNMC students to develop the student organization. As an active member of this organization, you will be connected to a national coalition to fight cancer right here at UNMC. We encourage you to join us and be a part of something bigger!
Opportunities abound with this national organization:

  • Research
  • Education and Prevention / Awareness
  • Advocacy
  • Fundraising opportunities such as Relay for Life, Making strides Against Breast Cancer, Bark for Life, etc.!

Please contact OCE coordinator, Brooke Fitzpatrick, at bfitzpatrick@unmc.edu if you are interested in this great leadership opportunity.
The Community Engagement and Outreach (CEO) Core of the Great Plains IDeA-CTR Network is pleased to announce an opportunity for Community-Engaged Research funding through an NIH/NIGMS grant. Earliest starting date will be July 1st, 2022. Applications are due March 21st, 2022. Click HERE to view the announcement.

The goal of this funding program is to achieve community impact and advance science through partnerships between community organizations and Clinical and Translational Research (CTR) investigators. Proposals that are responsive to this call will include community partners as active collaborators across the span of idea generation, proposal development, study implementation, analysis and interpretation of the results, and development of future directions—for both research and community impact. This will produce research that is relevant to communities, resolves local needs, and is generalizable to other community or clinical settings.

  • Community-Engaged Research Pilot Project Award: A total of $25,000 is available for one or two award(s). The applications must detail an existing or forming community-academic partnership and how the funds will be used to improve community health. The intent of this award is the generation of preliminary data for feasibility and acceptability trials.
  • Community-Engaged Capacity Development Award: A total of $15,000 is available for small awards averaging approximately $5,000. The purpose is to provide seed funding for investigators working to (1) develop or engage community partnerships for project design or planning purposes or (2) engage Practice Based Research Networks to identify local priorities and begin project planning. The proposal needs to explicitly lay out how funds contribute to the development of the project.
We encourage you to share these funding opportunities with colleagues and community partners to increase community-engaged research and collaboration across the state.
Wednesday Wellness Webinars
We continue to face many challenges in the COVID-19 pandemic era, including how we cope with multiple stressors as individuals, teams and campus communities. There is currently a mental health pandemic inside of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Big Ten/National Wellness Action Alliance, an action collaborative comprised of faculty from each of the Big Ten universities and the University of Kentucky, is bringing together national experts for the new Wellness Wednesday Webinar Series for Faculty and Staff.

This 13-week collection of 30-minute webinars is designed to help you build skills, knowledge and confidence to handle stress, optimize health and well-being in yourself and your students, and bring about meaningful change to promote cultures of wellness across your communities.

**College of Nursing faculty will be presenting in March and April. Registration is open to ALL UNMC faculty, staff and students, not just those in the College of Nursing.
Have a comment or an idea to share with us? We'd love to hear it. Please select the link to the OCE website above and the 'Tell Us!' button. Thank you for ENGAGING with us!
Office of Community Engagement
987110 Nebraska Medical Center
Omaha, NE 68198-7110