Center for Civic Engagement, St. Patrick’s Center team up against homelessness


Maryville University’s Center for Civic Engagement and Democracy has started a partnership with the St. Patrick Center, an agency in St. Louis that helps people who are homeless, where University representatives will support staff at the center by presenting to them on topics ranging from yoga skills to leadership techniques.

Associate Professor Michael Kiener, PhD, CRC, who directs Rehabilitation Services and Counseling Programs in the School of Health Professions, said the intent of the talks is to assist St. Patrick Center staff with “self care,” or how to make sure they’re looking after themselves as they work in a human services profession that requires a high degree of empathy. Some of the skills discussed-like meditation or breathing exercises-could be put into practice with St. Patrick Center clients, as well.

The hope is that St. Patrick Center employees and volunteers will avoid “compassion fatigue,” the kind of burn-out that can occur in environments where people are constantly giving of themselves. “These techniques could help people stay on the job longer, help people longer, be an effective practitioner,” he said. “You don’t want to just go through the motions,” Kiener said.

The talks are called the Maryville University Public Service Speaker Series. So far, Associate Professor Paul Mack will present on education on Oct. 26; Assistant Professor Soo-Jin Kwoun will present on music therapy Nov. 30; Associate Professor Elizabeth Buck addresses leadership on Feb. 24. Director of Instructional Technology Julie Bergfeld will teach about yoga on March 21, and Director of Social Sciences Carrie Ellis-Kalton will talk about skills for responding to people who have experienced trauma.

Maryville University’s Center for Civic Engagement and Democracy opened in 2009. It involves students, faculty and staff in programs promoting an understanding that citizens must be actively engaged in strengthening their communities and assisting the less fortunate.  Through service-learning, community partnerships, problem-based learning and action research, the center leads Maryville’s efforts to address issues of public concern.

The director of Maryville’s Center for Civic Engagement and Democracy Alden Craddock, PhD, said when he surveyed faculty and staff, they identified poverty and homelessness as issues the University could effectively help to address. He said the Public Service Speakers Series allows the University to become more engaged in the community, allows the St. Patrick Center to receive free professional development training for their staff and helps establish “what we hope will be a lasting partnership for the two of us.”

“This isn’t modeled after anyone’s program,” Craddock said. “To have real impact, you do that through partnership, not `consultant in, consultant out.'”

The Maryville University Public Service Speakers Series is just one of the three major efforts by the Center for Civic Engagement. The other two are a focus on Democracy Education, classes preparing students to be good Democratic citizens, an effort that’s done in partnership with school districts. There’s also a Coalition to End Interpersonal Violence, directed by Ellis-Kalton, PhD, who is an assistant psychology professor.

Craddock said the Center for Civic Engagement is interested in alumni participating in any of the Center’s programs. “For alumni engaged in the community, if they see a place where Maryville should be involved, they should contact me, and I’d be happy to explore that with them.” He can be reached at