Thomas Dutton talks about Miami University’s Center for Community Engagement in Over-the-Rhine, the importance of involving local residents in the redevelopment of their communities and his work to involve students in this design/build process.

In Fall 2006 Miami University’s Center for Community Engagement in Over-the-Rhine (CCE) inaugurated the Over-the-Rhine Residency Program in collaboration with leaders and organizations of Over-the-Rhine. A neighborhood in transition, Over-the-Rhine today is marked by the extremes of gentrification and homelessness. Now in its eighth iteration, the program has students integrate a full course load of 15 credit hours with a full-time living and working immersion experience in the “school of social life.”

In the late 1990s students requesting more substantial community engagement led to the institutionalization of the CCE (2002) and the Residency Program (2006). The Residency Program brings faculty and students from all disciplines to work collaboratively with neighborhood organizations to effect democratic, equitable development strategies for people on low incomes, workers, people of color, and families. The Residency Program engages with the Over-the-Rhine People’s Movement and other groups struggling for human rights and social justice. This distinguishes us from programs based upon charity and noblesse oblige. Unlike those models, by diving deep into analyses that reveal the systemic structures producing inequality and symmetrical relations of power, we challenge students’ sense of why charity is needed in the first place.

About the speaker

Thomas Dutton is an architect and Cincinnati Professor of Community Engagement at Miami University, Oxford, Ohio. His research has published in such journals as the Journal of Architectural Education (JAE), Designer/Builder, The Nation, The Black Scholar, Shelterforce, and Z Magazine.

Dutton is founder and director of Miami University’s Center for Community Engagement in Over-the-Rhine (2002), which offers opportunities for faculty, student, and community learning in that inner-city, Cincinnati neighborhood. He has been active in the Over-the-Rhine neighborhood for thirty-two years. He and his students, through the Over-the-Rhine Design/Build Studio, have designed and rehabilitated housing for people on low and moderate incomes there since 1996.

In 2006, Dutton, with community and university support, started the Over-the-Rhine Residency Program, which brings students to Over-the-Rhine for a full semester to work with community organizations.

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