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Center for Community-Based Learning

Purpose, Partnership & Progress



A partnership between the Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve (U.S. National Park Service), Talbot Islands State Park, and UNF's Archaeology Lab


As you cross the Buckman Bridge and look east down the St. Johns River toward the ocean, with all the development, it is hard to imagine the riverine environment when the French [1562], then the Spanish [1565], made contact with the Timucua peoples.  But, in an undeveloped environment where two or more habitats touch, it increased the variety of resources, which provided an ideal habitat for the Timucua who had lived in this rich environment for more than 1,000 years before the arrival of Europeans. Within 100 years they would all be gone: the Timucua peoples have no living descendants and the written record comes from the vantage point of Europeans. So it is up to archaeologists to discover the evidence of their story.


While an ideal environment for native peoples 500 years ago, the Florida jungle makes for a challenging environment for students, working in the summer heat and humidity. But they have been up for the challenge every summer for the past nineteen years. Professor Thunen keeps a machete with him to clear a path the first day of “Field School.” Hiking into the dig, students put up with deer flies and Banana Spiders; ticks are a daily hazard, snakes an occasional concern, the nature of the jungle itself.  One student, said, “We are lucky: we don’t have to live in a fly-infested jungle.  I think that grinning and bearing it is a learning experience in itself. It is extremely important.” Most students really enjoy being in the field, feeling that they are uncovering history in a tangible way—uncovering what no one has seen in hundreds of years, finding lost history and culture.


The purpose of both Parks is to preserve the environmental and cultural landscapes, which are national treasures.  UNF’s relationship with The Timucuan Ecological Preserve and the Talbot Island State Park has deepened our understanding of the lives of native peoples and those Europeans who made first contact. The practice of archaeology teaches students the scientific process in both fieldwork and laboratory analysis. During “Field School” the team of archaeologists, Robert Thunen, Keith Ashley, and Vicki Rolland, have carefully taught cohorts of UNF students to help the Parks better understand their history.


Imagine being the student who uncovered a “sacred heart of Jesus” ring in a shovel test—she was the first person to touch it since the 17th century, helping them to define the mission of Santa Cruz on Black Hammock Island on the National Park Property at Cedar Point. That Field School in 2005 was funded by the National Park to assist in defining cultural resources in the Park. The ring made the team realize this might be a big discovery. The survey revealed that this was the place to focus.
Archaeologists are detectives, striving to make sense of the past by finding evidence recorded in the land.  During an earlier Field School, in 1998, UNF students and the faculty leaders conducted work on Big Talbot Island, thanks to a State grant to do an archaeological survey. The State of Florida made this investment so that the Park could understand its cultural resources. This Field School uncovered both Native and Spanish potsherds that helped to define the historic Native village of Sarabay—long lost to the historic record of the areas. That year and the next, Field School excavated a small section of that native village.


What do students get from Field School when they participate in an on-going excavation?  The Search for Fort Caroline has been an ongoing research project with the National Park.  In 2004, the Field School surveyed the Fort Caroline National Memorial property.  In 2015, a much larger survey in Roosevelt Preserve and surrounding neighborhoods revealed no evidence of French or Spanish artifacts.  It helped to define the prehistory of the area, but no evidence for Fort Caroline was found. The field work was, as always, a rich experience for students. While the Fort remains elusive, students found plenty of earlier native material. This was an especially important opportunity for the students to evaluate the evidence—historical documents vs. archaeological evidence. This challenges the students to think about what constitutes evidence for the Fort.


The ongoing partnership is important because archaeology is hard, meticulous work—and it takes time. Even with 20 students excavating, on average each summer, it can take years to define the area of a Spanish mission.  The initial survey of Cedar Point on Black Hammock Island [National Park] took place in 2005 and discovered the location for the Spanish Mission of Santa Cruz y San Buenaventura de Guadalquini.  Field School returned in 2006, but it wasn’t until 2007 that they defined features associated with a building.  One of the last shovel tests came up with corn and dark soil.  The professors knew the potential of this discovery—Field School spent several years uncovering evidence of a big structure. Its purpose remains undefined: it is not the Church; it is probably a kitchen or multi-use building. Archaeologists must be content with ambiguity. The excavations revealed 2 crosses (1 broken) and gun flints. The latter was unusual, as the Spanish didn’t allow the natives to have weapons.  It suggests perhaps they got the guns from the British.

The collaboration between the National and State Parks [The Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve and Talbot Islands State Park] and UNF’s Archaeology Lab represents an ideal partnership as they have collaborated to build value together. Every summer for nineteen years, UNF students have helped the Parks by uncovering north Florida’s vibrant early prehistory and history. 

For more information about UNF's Archaeology Laboratory, please visit:

C.A.M.P. Osprey

A partnership between K-12 schools throughout the region and aspiring UNF student leaders


Professor Matt Ohlson is passionate about teaching leadership skills—both to college students and kids.  Our local NPR station, WJCT is honoring Dr. Ohlson as one of five of its 2017 American Graduate Champions (see video below). Since 2015 over 200 of UNF students have participated in the Camp, learning how to be a great mentor to middle and high school students in our region.  CAMP might bring to mind campfires and water sports, but this CAMP stands for the Collegiate Achievement Mentoring Program.  UNF students learn leadership skills and then have the chance to apply them to children in 9 schools in the region. This Program has received awards and recognition from the Community Foundation for Northeast Florida and SunTrust Bank as well as the PBS “American Graduate Program.”  


CAMP Osprey is truly a mutually beneficial partnership where collegiate students from the University of North Florida serve as mentors to elementary and middle school students. As you will see from the video, both the mentors and the mentees enjoy one another while they learn to be leaders.  It is a rare opportunity for these kids to have a college student pay attention to them, to make a commitment to help them become leaders. A school Principal the CAMP partners with put it this way, “Having support and guidance from someone that is outside of the teacher, parent, principal (role) who you think genuinely cares about you – that’s vital to the success of our students.” The video gives you a sense of the soft skills the mentees learn—including a proper handshake, public speaking, and working well with others.


To overcome some of the real challenges—Jacksonville’s vast geography as well as financial barriers faced by our high-poverty, urban, and rural partners—CAMP Osprey also uses of video conferencing to conduct weekly virtual leadership mentoring sessions. The success of the program depends upon Dr. Olson’s leadership, the commitment of his UNF students, the core leadership curriculum and an intentional adaptation of the mentoring sessions to the new platform, so that all the students are engaged.  Technology offers all kinds of wonderful enhancements. Students use their cell phones to let their mentee experience the life of a college student: a college classroom lecture, a science lab, sports, and art events. Over the course of the term, college becomes an appealing possibility to kids who had not dreamed it was for them. In either a traditional setting or a virtual one, mentors and mentees work together to solve problems; they have the opportunity to practice effective time management and focus the kids on fostering college- and career-readiness skills.

Camp Osprey is based on the previous initiative at the University of Florida (CAMP Gator), where mentors conducted virtual leadership mentoring sessions with more than 500 students in three states. Participants in both programs experienced increased academic achievement, increased attendance, decreased school suspensions and an increased awareness of diverse communities and cultures.  The CAMP has the ability to respond to sudden crises in the community: the Action News story shows UNF students working with Putnam County students who missed school because of Hurricane Irma.     

For more information on C.A.M.P. Osprey, please visit: Camp Osprey Webpage

United Way

A partnership between the United Way and the University of North Florida


University of North Florida and United Way of Northeast Florida have been partnering longer than many of the current first-year students at UNF have been alive.  Starting in 1997, UNF employees have participated in annual United Way Campaign; in the most recent campaign $32,000 was raised at UNF and is leveraged to double the impact. Recently, this partnership has expanded to two newer initiatives with curricular and co-curricular aspects to engage students in the relationship.


United Way’s Upstream Initiative supports ideas for positive social change in any one of United Way’s grand challenge areas which include Education, Basic Needs, Financial Stability and Health.  For example, one social innovation challenge solicited ideas on improving basic needs for those living in underserved communities.  In spring 2017, $30,000 in seed grants were awarded to UNF students, working alongside community partners such as Full-Service Schools and Downtown Vision Inc., to make their ideas a reality.  Through the Upstream Initiative, UNF students established a program addressing health issues (food scarcity and hunger) in the community with “Food Fighters.”  This initiative won $10,000 in funding to establish a food recovery program that eliminates food waste on UNF’s campus. United Way provides the finalists with mentoring workshops and networking with experienced leaders and coaches to help develop the idea and create a plan for implementation.  United Way also provides assessments of effectiveness and accountability for the programs once underway. This partnership’s dreams for future projects include collaborating with UNF’s Volunteer Center, Career Resource Center and Carpenter Library, among others, as we create new engagement opportunities for the entire UNF community.


The Upstream Initiative, described above, teaches students how to implement community projects. This program does a great deal to help develop civic-minded graduates who will impact communities near and far. Having gone through the rigorous process of developing a proposal and receiving funding can make a student feel she or he could accomplish anything. UNF students successfully launched a mentorship program for African American male students at Sandalwood High School with “Gents for Jax.” Two UNF students designed the curriculum and facilitate the sessions for the program. “Embedded Within,” a mentoring project to help at-risk high school students transition to college developed by a UNF junior, and “Mindful Friends,” an after-school program to educate sixth-grade students about mental illness presented by two UNF seniors, shared the first-place finish in the inaugural Upstream competition. The benefits to the students don’t stop at grants, but also include the networking opportunities and professional development described earlier. Students who participate in Upstream have the chance to identify their passion and work with like-minded professionals to achieve something great.


Lastly, UNF students collaborate with volunteers in the business community and high school students in increasing numbers during Days of Service such as the city-wide Martin Luther King Jr. Birthday Day of Service.  Students have worked on issues ranging from the environment to art in neighborhoods to beautification programs, education, and tax information in downtown neighborhoods.  Post-service, students convene over lunch to reflect on the day with other students to discuss their experience and what the day means to the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  In addition, UNF provides transportation, t-shirts, and lunch for students to decrease barriers to participation.  

After over 20 years of supporting one another in various ways, UNF and United Way of Northeast Florida are still exploring other initiatives to encourage this ongoing relationship.  Conversations around expanding co-curricular opportunities, include more Day of Service events and partnering on other existing programs and projects.  Overall, the partnership has been one of mutuality and through dedicated staff and employees at both organization, it is a model of sustainability.

For more information about the United Way of Northeast Florida, please visit:

Open Doors

A partnership between refugee families and UNF Honors students


Open Doors is one of UNF’s most long-standing and dynamic partnerships. It began in 1998 as one of the choices Honors students could take to fulfill a service learning requirement of the Program. At that time, it was a small seminar, capped at 20 students, facilitated by Heather Burk (then the Honors Service Learning Coordinator, now the Assistant Director of the Center for Community Based Learning). In 2010, under the leadership of Dr. Leslie Kaplan, (the Associate Director of the Honors Program—now the Hicks Honors College) collaborating with committed student leaders, Open Doors expanded into the first semester Honors colloquium, which involves every first-year honors student, approximately 200 students each Fall. 



“Want to avoid terrorism in the future?” Asks Dr. Kaplan. “Then take care of the kids now.” She says she stumbled into this area of work when she joined Honors, but it has “enriched her life beyond expectation and imagination.”  With a degree in Folklore from the University of Pennsylvania, she and her student leaders find this a way to engage in anthropology in our city.  It is more important now than ever before as partners UNF has worked with for decades—Lutheran Social Services, World Relief, and Catholic Charities—have seen so many of their services cut at the federal or state levels that UNF students are more necessary than ever to fill in the gap in services for children. Funding used to support K-12 school mentoring, but as of this year, agencies only receive funds to support high school tutoring.  Enter Hicks Honors students and Professor Leslie Kaplan and a new partner, Team Up, at San Jose Elementary School where 80% of the kids are refugees: so mentoring at elementary school continues.


In both iterations, the partnerships have been based upon a foundation of reciprocity.  Initially, Lutheran Social Services and the UNF Honors Program joined together to serve refugee families during their resettlement transition to Jacksonville. This initial partnership with Lutheran Social Services expanded to include collaborations with UNF’s Men’s Soccer team and other community organizations invested in Jacksonville’s refugee community: Catholic Charities, Community Connections, the Department of Children and Families, the Jacksonville Children’s Commission, and World Relief.  Because of dedication and passion for the work, UNF staff have built trust with the partners—an essential feature in a transformative partnership.  What does trust look like? The leaders know they can always count on one another.  Proof of this is the 20-year relationships.


The course benefits all by improving the transition of local refugee families, who struggle to rebuild their lives in a country in which they never intended to live by creating an experiential activity for UNF students to learn about leadership, critical thinking, diversity, immigration and national identity. Each fall, Hicks Honors College students spend eleven weeks of the semester assisting refugee families resettling in Jacksonville. These students often become the first friends the families make during the transition to living in the US. Students enthusiastically share language, help with homework (tutoring), play sports (soccer), and share American culture. In a given term, the students impact 8 – 10 families and almost 100 children through language and cultural exchanges and another 120 + children through soccer. This academic service-learning experience ties to UNF’s institutional commitment to engagement and serves as a foundational experience for our students to learn intercultural competency, a critical learning outcome preparing them to make significant contributions to local, regional, national and global communities.


Since its origin in the 1990s, Open Doors has been structured as a collaborative effort on campus. From the start, Honors student facilitators were essential to the course.  Since it became the required Honors Colloquium, the role of Honors student leaders and other volunteers have provided incredible contributions.  Every year, facilitators take each segment of the project and make it their own, and then provide feedback that is passed on to the next year’s facilitators. Open Doors succeeds because it is really as much a student creation as a faculty one. 

For more information about the Hicks Honors College First Year Colloquium Experience, please visit: 

Partnering for Progress:

A partnership between Crowley Maritime Corporation, Tote Maritime, Shoreside Logistics, the Jacksonville Port Authority and UNF's Transportation and Logistics Flagship Program


Crowley Maritime Corporation, Tote Maritime, Shoreside Logistics, and the Jacksonville Port Authority have been in partnership with UNF’s Transportation and Logistics Flagship Program for more than a decade.  The partnerships provide students with experiential learning opportunities through student-corporate interaction, and emphasizes the value of building professional networks early on in a student’s academic career.


UNF’s Transportation and Logistics Flagship prides itself on preparing a highly educated and effective workforce where students are ready for challenging careers in supply chain management; including international logistics, transportation, operations management, business analytics, and related customer service.  Lynn Brown, the Associate Director of the T & L Flagship Program, reiterates the importance of the community partnerships by stating, “Our partners are stakeholders in our success.  We know that a quality education prepares a capable work force [that] attracts new business to the region.  Our partners are providing scholarships, internships, mentoring, recruitment, experiential learning, guest lectures, and sponsorships.”


The T&L Program partners have grown their businesses and fueled the region’s economic engine all the while allowing students to work their way through college and gain valuable experience.  Lynn Brown again points out, “The partnerships provide opportunities for our students to stay in Jacksonville to pursue their professional careers.  The partners are helping us create a pipeline of talent which helps grow their businesses, [and] leads to outstanding opportunities for employment after graduation, in the region.”  Robert Peek, the Marketing Director at the Jacksonville Port Authority, expresses the importance of the partnership reciprocity through his lens by stating, “One of the things we do with the port is we try to attract new businesses. Port businesses to come to Jacksonville to open up facilities… and the number one question they always ask is about workforce. Does this community have the work force to supply workers if we were to start up a facility in Jacksonville?  We can answer, very confidently, we do - in part, because of the University of North Florida.”


The future looks bright for the T&L Flagship and its partners: Crowley Maritime Corporation; Tote Maritime; Shoreside Logistics; and the Jacksonville Port Authority.  The partners continue to help shape the future workforce through serving on the T&L Dean’s Advisory Council and are actively engaged in curriculum development and research. Partners are also consulted when the T&L Flagship adds programs and courses in order to determine demand and create relevance within content.  There has been discussions about creating more opportunities to engage with faculty to conduct research and publish findings, continue ongoing dialogue to establish mutually beneficial goals and objectives into the future, and invest more time, energy and resources in the T&L Program to cultivate professional talent and develop leaders for the future.

For more information about UNF's Transportation and Logistics Flagship Program, please visit:

The Adaptive Toy Project

A partnership between Brooks Rehabilitation Hospital and UNF


Imagine a class so extraordinary that the students’ work is featured as a truly inspirational story on CNN Christmas Day 2016. Professors Mary Lundy and Juan Aceros (of Physical Therapy and Electrical Engineering) have partnered together on this project for 4 years, and with Brooks Rehabilitation Hospital for 3 years as of Fall 2017.  

UNF students adapt toy cars to provide a disabled child the opportunity to engage in the kind of play other families take for granted. To see the joy on the family's faces, the ecstasy on the faces of the children who are able to move in space "on their own" for the first time in their lives, and to see the care and attention the UNF students give to the kids is inspirational.




It all started when students in the Doctorate in Physical Therapy program returned from community internships and approached Dr. Lundy about the need for accessible, affordable adaptive toys for children with motor disabilities in our community. When colleagues in the departments of Engineering and Physical Therapy got together to talk about opportunities to collaborate, Professor of Physical Therapy Mary Lundy talked with Professor of Engineering Juan Aceros and decided to investigate how to meet this need. The Go Baby Go program founded by Drs. Cole Galloway and Dr. Suni Agrawal at the University of Delaware served as a resource for adapting ride on toys through an engineering/ Physical therapy partnership. It was Dr. Acero’s idea to create the course to involve a significant number of students in this project. Dr. Lundy identified community partners through her relationships with area therapists: Wolfson Children's Hospital, Duval county schools and Brooks Rehabilitation Hospital became partners.   


The Project exists in 70 different countries, but the partnership at UNF is unique.  Here the courses function as two concurrent courses, enrolling graduate Physical Therapy students in PHT 79991 and undergraduate Engineering students in EEL 4930. Students attend lectures together on topics such as neuroscience and technology, developmental disabilities, and assistive technology principles including assessment, construction, and design.  The class is divided into teams that include both disciplines. Over the course of the semester the students redesign and personalize a motorized vehicle for a disabled child, learning from one another and from “their” family and child.

  • It is the only one in the world that relies on students rather than professional volunteers.
  • It is the only one in the world where the practitioners have an ongoing personal relationship with the families and the child

In some cases that “personal relationship” continues after the course is over.  The UNF students become part of the family with whom they have worked.


As the two professors began talking about co-teaching a course, it seemed the perfect fit for a University committed to community engagement. At the time, three years before CNN coverage, it seemed a complex and daring experiment.  The complexities in the community require effective communication, a dependable referral process, as well as the placement of non-clinical and clinical students in family and community settings. The courses are daring in that they put a lot of responsibility on the students; the project is daring because as these two very different disciplines began to work together, the students (and the faculty!) discovered that they “spoke different languages.” The National Institute of Health funds the program precisely because "It forces students from different fields to collaborate and solve a problem in the community," according to Dr. Alison Cernich, of the NIH.


Transformational learning is one of UNF’s defining features.  The Adaptive Toy Project is transformational in every sense of the word: Brooks is able to extend its commitment to patients and their families; the lives of children and their families are enriched; students become especially well-prepared to solve a real-world problem when the course consists of students from different disciplines.  This is an experience the students will remember for the rest of their lives. Surveys taken during the class suggest it changes their career/life planning. As one student put it, “This has made me want to work on an interdisciplinary team—I believe interdisciplinary work is the future in addressing health related impairments.” Pre- and post- course assessments find that these courses produce statistically significant increases in “concern and commitment to public welfare,” “civic responsibility,” and “ability and affinity to work together in inter-professional groups”; these outcomes align with the accrediting goals of both the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education and Accreditation Board to Engineering and Technology.

For more information about the Adaptive Toy Project, please visit:


A partnership between THE PLAYERS Championship and UNF's Fraternity and Sorority Life



Since 2010, THE PLAYERS Championship Golf Tournament and the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life (OFSL) at UNF have worked together (annually) to admit patrons to one of the most prestigious PGA Tour events.  Taking place at the storied TPC-Sawgrass, with the infamous and historic 17 Island Green, members of the fraternity and sorority community have opportunities to be involved with and participate in a first-rate international event, with an immense benefit to the Northeast Florida region on many levels. 




For eight years, UNF fraternity and sorority students constituted the majority of volunteers with the Admissions/Will Call Committee.  These student volunteers work at least six-hour shifts and are often the first faces patrons encounter upon coming to the tournament.  The students assist eager fans to enter the course by selling and scanning tickets, providing information, and being a welcoming presence.  The support of fraternity and sorority student volunteers slowly grew over time and because of their effort, the tournament has been able to merge two committees Admissions and Will Call into one area and spread out their remaining volunteer pool to other areas of the tournament.  In a pinch, fraternity and sorority students may also volunteer with another committee to help fill an opening in the volunteer schedule. 



Consistently, the tournament has anywhere from 50-75 student volunteers from the fraternity and sorority community, along with the staff members from the Office of Fraternity & Sorority Life.  Because the implementation of THE PLAYERS Championship is structured around volunteers and partnerships like the one with OFSL, the tournament has been able to provide $100M in charitable giving since 1977.  This money has been vital to many non-profit and community organizations that also have partnerships with UNF employees and students in a variety of ways.



Every year, THE PLAYERS Championship volunteer leadership donates money to local non-profits and charities throughout the northeast Florida area.  This amount has steadily climbed each year, with a total of $8.7M donated in 2017.  UNF is one of the beneficiaries of this philanthropic giving, where THE PLAYERS Championship earmarks an endowed fund of $1.5M to provide First Generation Scholarships that provide access to college for students who would not otherwise be able to attend.  Over the course of the partnership, THE PLAYERS  Championship has provided $125,000 in funding to the Office of Fraternity & Sorority Life, money that has been put towards educational programming and leadership development for students.  Thus, creating a culture of well-educated and trained leaders to positively impact UNF and become civic leaders after graduation.  Not to mention, students who have volunteered have been able to secure internships and full-time positions with the PGA Tour because of networking and relationships they developed through the volunteer experience.




As the tournament continues to grow and flourish, the partnership between UNF’s Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life and THE PLAYERS Championship will do the same in order to advance the philanthropic aims of the tournament and benefit the Northeast Florida region in immeasurable ways.


For more information on Fraternity and Sorority Life, please visit:

For more information on volunteering with THE PLAYERS Championship, please visit:

Volunteers in Medicine:

A partnership between Volunteers in Medicine Jacksonville and UNF




For fourteen years, UNF students from the Brooks College of Health, including nursing and nutrition, have seen patients weekly, with public health, health administration, and mental health counseling students assisting as needed.  They have been joining the health professionals—Doctors, Nurses, Pharmacists, etc.—who all volunteer their expertise and time at Jacksonville’s Volunteers in Medicine clinic. No one who “works” there gets paid, so students, alongside current and retired health professionals, are all giving of their time and talents.



“It is a unique and engaging place. It makes for a very special atmosphere," says Mary Pat Corrigan, Director of VIM.  The passion of the professionals (with at least 38% of volunteers having served five years or more) inspires the students.  It is a perfect mix for providing health care to the working uninsured. The professionals provide years, often decades, of experience, some continuing to volunteer even after retirement.  They report that the youthful energy of UNF adds to the dynamism of the free healthcare clinic.  It is a very special place that lives the value that everyone deserves quality healthcare.




This partnership is reciprocity at its best.  UNF students benefit because they learn in an interdisciplinary clinic; the non-profit benefits from the commitment of the students. With a special emphasis on providing health care to women, UNF students have enabled VIM to conduct 8,000 Pap smears a year.  VIM also provides specialty medical services, on-going health promotion, and disease prevention and awareness of how social problems impact health. 



Research has shown that even basic health care is often out of reach for more than 80,000 working Jacksonville residents.  That may seem surprising given all the attention Health Care has received in the news.  Licensed pharmacist and regular VIM volunteer Dixie Murphy put it into context, she has expressed seeing the need for prescriptions decline when the Affordable Care Act first became law.  However, the demand has risen in recent years, and the partnership between the UNF faculty, staff and students has assisted Volunteers in Medicine in advancing its mission. 




Two hundred thirty professionals volunteer at VIM each month. They and the UNF faculty assist students in a way that could never be simulated on campus.  Students get real time evaluation of their knowledge and skills, while sorting out the complexity of health factors in people’s lives.  Because of this partnership, VIM has been able to expand its future goals and track its research to improve the quality of care provided. 



For more information on UNF's Brooks College of Health, please visit:

For more information on Volunteer's in Medicine, please visit:



The Sulzbacher Homelessness Project:



When UNF faculty and staff participated in the Community Engagement Inventory in the spring of 2018, the institution discovered for the first time how many departments and other units have collaborative partnerships with the Sulzbacher Center. They include, but are not limited to, School of Nursing and Department of Nutrition and Dietetics in the Brooks College of Health, the Department of Management in the Coggin College of Business and in the College of Arts and Sciences, the following academic programs—Social Work, Psychology, and Public Administration. Co-curricular partnerships include Housing & Residence Life, the Interfaith Center, Food Fighters, and UNF Athletics.



Sulzbacher Center offers complete services to men, women, families, and veterans in order to provide immediate support as well as long term transitioning to permanent housing. Each day the Center provides safe shelter to 360 men, women and families, provides health care to more than 200 patients and serves more than 1,500 meals. UNF’s participation helps support Sulzbacher Center’s life-saving efforts. 



In this context, UNF students have opportunities to understand the complex societal factors that contribute to homelessness as they apply what they are learning with a particular focus on food security and mental health. Students gain an important perspective on socio-economic challenges that contribute to homelessness and realize how precarious financial security is for many individuals. Nutrition students assist in kitchen planning, preparing and serving lunch to residents and walk-in individuals. Social work students working under the supervision of Sulzbacher Center staff practice skills in case management, crisis intervention, and brokering of services. Other social science majors have their students work at the Center because an understanding of social problems unfolds in a dynamic way, as a deeper conception of poverty and homelessness develops. Students who volunteer with the Children’s Program learn about the harsh realities of children facing homelessness, the experience of life in a shelter, and develop self-expectations about the importance of giving back through community service.



One of UNF’s newest co-curricular groups, Food Fighters, a student-powered hunger relief team aims to fight for food justice by reducing food waste on campus and food insecurity within the Jacksonville community. This food recovery program collects leftover food from the Osprey Café, campus convenience stores and special events. Volunteers then use the donations to provide nutritious meals to be served through our community partners, including the Sulzbacher Center. 



This partnership is so central to so many at UNF, that President Szymanski in his first weeks on campus, spent time at the Center.  In addition to meeting Cindy Funkhouser, the CEO, the president, as he put it in the Fall 2018 UNF Journal, “had the pleasure to work alongside a number of our outstanding students serving lunch at Sulzbacher. It was a tremendous experience being with these dedicated young people, visiting with the amazing Sulzbacher staff and talking with grateful clients served by the Center.”


For more information about Sulzbacher Center, please visit:

The Seaside Sculpture Park  

When Seaside Sculpture Park first opened in Jacksonville Beach in the summer of 2016, it was the start of what has become a great public art program that has now spread to other communities.  Its success has sparked interest in other neighborhoods that realize that large sculptures can help define and “center” a neighborhood, offering a place for fellowship and fun. Professor Jenny Hagar and her students have placed more than 30 large-scale outdoor sculptures in Jacksonville—at the Beach, in Springfield, and on Amelia Island. Springfield calls it a “Museum Without Walls.” 



That first warm summer morning, UNF’s President, John Delaney and Jacksonville Beach Mayor Charlie Latham both spoke to highlight the importance of this new partnership between UNF’s Department of Art and Design and MountainStar Capital and the Lazzara family.  MountainStar Capital donated the land and under the guidance of Dr. Jenny Hager, students designed five large scale student sculptures.



The Sculpture Park, located in a commercial area of Jacksonville Beach, adds artistic creativity to the beauty of a beach neighborhood. Contemporary sculpture is interdisciplinary in nature; materials and process follow concept. Faculty teach students from initial concept through fruition. Students integrate technical and conceptual skill to create work that is engaging and well-crafted. Passionate, hard-working students create juried art that inspires the community and brings vibrancy to neighborhoods.



The idea for the project inspired Councilwoman Christine Hoffman to spearhead a change in zoning to make SSP possible; this was important public policy as it changed land usage, which had formerly prevented private parks. This is a reciprocal relationship because without UNF’s sculpture program and the funding from the Lazarra family, Jacksonville Beach would not have this remarkable park. This project is a model for what UNF and local neighborhoods have tried to do, in terms of creating sculpture parks in Jacksonville by means of public-private partnerships.



It is rare that undergraduates get this experience. For several years now additional students have the opportunity to work in metal, crafting huge sculptures. Sculptor student Oliva Warro said it is “very empowering to build something bigger than you are. She created a “Jumbo Shrimp”—honoring the Shrimp Festival on Amelia Island and Jacksonville’s baseball team. Students are going to graduate school with paid scholarships and working within the field of art post-graduation.  


Teaching for Equity, Achievement, and Meaning


These words greet those who enter the Tom and Betty Petway Hall on UNF’s campus, the home of the College of Education and Human Services. These words also greet those who visit the college’s website.  The faculty, staff and students live these words on a daily basis.


The College’s Professional Development School partnership has been working to make the world a better place for more than 25 years.  Its purpose is to recruit and prepare a diverse cadre of well-trained, knowledgeable teachers who are invested in providing equitable, high quality educational experiences for every student.  The curriculum prepares UNF graduates to positively impact PK-12 students’ learning, developmental growth, and academic achievement in order to prepare them to be engaged, responsible citizens within their community in an increasingly diverse world.


In 2017 Florida Campus Compact awarded this partnership second place among statewide partnerships; this is especially impressive, given that Florida Campus Compact has more than 50 institutional members.



Based on student data, the college is intentionally reimagining the PDS model to meet 21st century school needs.  Faculty are revising and updating programs for an even more cohesive learning experience for undergraduate students. Recent improvements to the curriculum include the revision of the Pre-K Primary Teacher Licensure program, leading to a bachelor’s degree in education for students who seek to work with children and families in non-school settings.


Those outside the College of Education and Human Services might think, “of course, education majors work in schools,” but UNF does not limit student experiences to nationally required “Field I and Field II.”  Students take four or five pre-service learning courses in Title I schools before they do their traditional field experience.  


In both breadth and depth, UNF students have a powerful impact. This partnership places on average 500 students in PK-12 schools throughout northeast Florida.  To focus on just one example, each semester 130 UNF students provide over 2,500 hours of extra human capital for one elementary school. That number does not include the impact of students enrolled in field classes or internships. This immersive preparation works and the data shows it. In 2013, state tracking found that approximately 50 percent of new teachers leave their jobs within the first five years, over 85 percent of UNF PDS graduates hired five years earlier were still teaching.


The Arc Jacksonville

A partnership between The Arc Jacksonville and UNF

For almost fifteen years UNF and the Arc of Jacksonville have had a profound impact on Arc students and the UNF campus. The OCT mission is to provide an innovative college experience for young adults with intellectual disabilities or differences, while providing transformational learning experiences to university students, college educators, and community leaders.


The Arc in collaboration with UNF students, staff and faculty create a community where disability is a distinction without a difference. The partnership provides an innovative college experience for young adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities, while providing transformational learning experiences to UNF students, educators and community leaders. Arc students participate in all aspects of college life by auditing UNF courses, joining campus organizations and clubs, and participating in recreational and leisure activities that are enjoyed by all UNF students.


The Arc Jacksonville On Campus Transition at the University of North Florida (OCT) was created to provide young adults with intellectual disabilities with vital missing services and supports that will assist them in successfully transitioning into adulthood and to live a productive life within the community. Students participate in all aspects of college life by auditing UNF courses, joining campus organizations and clubs, and participating in recreational/leisure activities that are enjoyed by all UNF students. Students are mentored in academic, social, and recreation activities through mentoring programs with UNF student peers.


The campus is deeply engaged in this process.  By 2018, almost 200 faculty members have had OCT students in their classes; more than 1.200 students have served as mentors; 10 AmeriCorps members support the partnership.


Individuals with disabilities have significantly higher rates of unemployment than others. The OCT program focuses on self-determination, independence and self-sufficiency, with an emphasis on developing skills that can lead to employability. It is difficult to measure the OCT students’ sense of accomplishment as they learn to adapt, thrive and "graduate" from the program. The program provides a stepping stone to quasi-independent living with respect to both skills and credentials. OCT students have been employed by 25 local businesses, including the Mayo Clinic, Baptist Hospital, YMCA, Publix, First Coast Service Options, New Step Community Home, Texas Roadhouse, W&O Supply Company, SAFE Management, UNF Fine Arts Center, UNF Human Resources, UNF Student Accessibility Services, Sam's Club, Mary Kay, Gerald P. Jones CPA, Winn-Dixie, XP Events, Starbucks, and McDonald's.


For more information on The Arc Jacksonville, please visit:

Johnson & Johnson 3-D Printing Center of Excellence


The School of Engineering at the University of North Florida provides hands-on learning in coastal engineering, or in material science research and, for the past three year, in the Johnson & Johnson 3-D Printing Laboratory.  This space provides cooperative educational and research opportunities for University undergraduate and graduate students as well as faculty researchers in the engineering, chemistry, biology and physics disciplines.


This partnership is an example of a public-private collaboration that helps meet northeast Florida’s need for STEM professionals.  It provides a cutting-edge education to UNF students, preparing them for careers in aeronautical, automotive and advanced manufacturing companies. Overall, the on-campus facility provides UNF students access equipment and processes that would not be available without the support of Johnson & Johnson and its employees.


An important additional resource comes from Johnson & Johnson professional staff on campus. Having cutting edge 3D printing and material analysis equipment and highly trained plus specialized J&J staff on campus expands the research capacity of UNF in this field.


Research from this partnership is unparalleled in the state and, perhaps, the nation. The partnership is integral to the University’s Advanced Manufacturing and Materials Innovation (AMMI) Initiative, which the state of Florida has funded at $855,000 per year. J&J has directly funded over $140,000 in research by UNF faculty. In addition, J&J directly contracts with UNF’s Materials Science and Engineering Research Facility (part of AMMI). In 2017-2018, alone this activity brought in more than $35,000 to CCEC.


This partnership allows our graduates to compete in the 21st century global economy, which requires a strong workforce trained in modern manufacturing techniques.  3D printing has the potential to transform manufacturing industries. Because of the J&J partnership, numerous supply-chain companies are now doing business in Jacksonville. It is anticipated that students graduating with experience from the J&J partnership will provide approximately 30 additional professionals during the next five years, ready for positions that are crucial to aeronautical, automotive and advanced manufacturing companies. 



For more information on the Johnson & Johnson 3-D Printing Center, please visit:

Florida Data Science for Social Good:

A partnership between local non-profits and UNF

Florida Data Science for Social Good [FL-DSSG] blends data science and technology design to solve important social problems. 


Five UNF interns worked throughout the summer of 2017 to help solve a “wicked” problem for 3 separate community partners: the Mayo Clinic, Changing Homelessness, and Yoga 4 Change. Each partner was interested in helping the community address health disparities. A “wicked” problem is a vexing, persistent social or cultural issue that is complex in nature, interconnected with other problems, and requires many people working together to affect change. For the Mayo Clinic, the interns were tasked with helping to develop a process to decide which neighborhoods to serve with focused health resources.  Data analysis included creating neighborhood profiles of health outcomes, community assets, demographic factors, and environmental factors for their Rx Wellness Program. The students assisted Changing Homelessness by generating profiles of individuals experiencing chronic homelessness to identify effective interventions to achieve functional zero (more homeless being housed than households becoming homeless) on a monthly basis. The Yoga 4 Change interns analyzed the impacts of the yoga curriculum to determine whether it helped individuals overcome stress.


What is especially remarkable about this partnership is the rich collaboration among faculty from 5 different departments and leadership from 7 different Jacksonville agencies. Dr. Karthikeyan Umapathy (School of Computing) and Dr. Dan Richard (Department of Psychology) were the Program Directors.  The Nonprofit Center of Northeast Florida funded the project. Students received mentorship from within UNF and from the business community. Faculty from the School of Computing, the Departments of Public Health, Mathematics and Statistics, and Political Science and Public Administration  mentored students as they worked with the data. Two businesses—the Jacksonville Jaguars and EverBank provided industry “Sherpas.”  In addition the Advisory Board, including members from NLP Logix, Fidelity Investments in Florida the Jacksonville Jaguars, provided direction to the overall project.

The differences among the clients—The Mayo Clinic, Changing Homelessness, and Yoga 4 Change—in themselves reveal a feature of “wicked” problems: health disparities are connected with other problems. The depth of the commitment—participants from 10 professional perspectives highlights the final characteristic of a "wicked" problem: they require many people working together to affect change.


Over 100 people attended “The Big Reveal”—the results of the students’ work—at the Nonprofit Center of Northeast Florida on August 7, 2017 at 5:30 pm. Dr. Umapathy introduced the audience to the process: 1] identify a nonprofit with a wicked problem; 2] gather data and formulate a plan; 3] analyze the data; 4] improve decision-making process for the nonprofit client.  With the support of industry mentors, called “Sherpa’s” because of the challenge of the work, psychology majors Evan Copello, Rachel Carpenter and Gregory Rousis collaborated with Computing majors  Hinal Pandya and Jason Smith. Rena Coughlin, the CEO of the Nonprofit Center of Northeast Florida, who had advance notice of what the students’ work would show told the crowd, “Some things we will hear today are way bigger than I anticipated.  We need to tell this story.”


  • The Homelessness team worked with data from the Homeless Management Information System to identify the most vulnerable populations. They developed a Dignity Index, which measures Safety, Respect, Control, and Meaningful Daily Activity; this data seems essential in solving homelessness.  
  • The Mayo team drilled down in their data and found different health problems—diabetes, heart disease, and stroke—were not found across all marginal areas. Each was clustered in three different low-income Jacksonville neighborhoods.  
  • The Yoga team, while working with blood pressure data from four populations (those incarcerated or in re-entry, those with substance abuse problems, Veterans, and vulnerable youth) found that at the end of the yoga curriculum, individuals in the Hypertension Stage 2 category had moved to either Hypertension Stage 1 or Ideal BP, and the number of people in the Ideal BP range increased from 55 to 117, as indicated in the chart on the right. 


What was the impact on the three clients?  Yoga 4 Change CEO Kathryn Thomas watched the students present their findings and exclaimed, “Oh my gosh: it works! We started it because we knew it worked, but to see this impact gives us hope. It's hard to find donor support. This is huge for our next steps: we will make drastic changes in how we approach donors. I want to thank you because you have blown my mind.”    

Ann Marie Knight, of the Mayo, said to her, “We need to talk.” Perhaps another partnership is blooming.  Ms. Knight turned to the students and said, “You have created a tool we can use across the region and I thank you for that. We will use it for our future good; we can see where to focus” on specific neighborhoods.  [Tool: Jacksonville Community Health Neighborhood Comparison]


One of the students, in thinking back at the start of the internship said, “I didn't know I had the mental capacity to do this large of a project.” He said, “this project is genius –using data to solve real-world problems.” Another student said, she “loved the opportunity to work with problems that were so important.”  And a third commented it was “the perfect way for me to give back.”


Dan Richard, one of the professors who created Florida Data for Social Good, told the audience at the conclusion of the Big Reveal that those involved are “social trustees of knowledge. “We have an obligation as a public university to give back our knowledge." Provost Earle Traynam affirms Dr. Richard's point saying, "I have always been impressed by the quality of work that our students accomplish, especially under the direction of Karthik and Dan.  It is such a great combination of student learning, community engagement and improving our community."

For more information about the FL-DSSG program, please visit:

The Northeast Florida Coastal Research & Education Corridor

The partnership among the following partners--the Guana Tolomato Matanzas National Estuarine Research Reserve (GTM-NERR), the National Park Service (NPS)and North Florida Land Trust (NFTL) collaborate to conduct research of vital importance to our region. The Reserve is one of 29 in the country, a result of a partnership between the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Florida 

The State with the Greatest Number of Miles of Coastline

For twelve years, this partnership has provided unparalleled access to research and educational opportunities for UNF faculty, undergraduates, and graduate students to benefit the citizens of the state that has the greatest number of miles of coastline. The availability of nearby coastal estuarine conservation areas that are supported by partner staff and facilities creates incredible opportunities for multi-disciplinary research and scholarship, geared toward improving the ecology of our coast.

Everyone in the Region should Visit!

This is a place the residents of northeast Florida should visit—and bring their out of town friends when they visit. The 21,000-square foot Visitor Center includes interpretive exhibits, aquariums, classrooms, teaching and working laboratories, an auditorium and an outdoor amphitheater overlooking the Guana River Aquatic Preserve. The Reserve offers a stunning, pristine beach access point south of Mickler’s Landing in Ponte Vedra Beach. The GTM Research Reserve has over 200,000 visitors per year from all over the world. It is a fabulous community resource as a beautiful, interconnected ecosystem from the ocean to the forests. Education staff offer programming for all ages on the importance of the estuary; summer camps run for kids seven and older.

Faculty Research

Over the past several years, this collaboration has provided more than 40 important publications by UNF faculty as a result of this partnership. It allows for long-term ecological research, investigations that track ecological changes over many years and requires continuous access and dependable on-site research infrastructure. It is truly multidisciplinary: faculty in biology, chemistry, engineering, archaeology, history, and art and design, among others, have been involved in projects that advance knowledge of coastal communities and ecological resilience from both contemporary and historical perspectives. One of the most important projects is measuring the impact of climate change on mangrove estuaries

Student Research

The partnership features an Environmental Education Center that includes classrooms, seminar spaces, and wet labs used to teach UNF students. Both undergraduate and graduate students benefit from opportunities to work on projects sponsored by federal and state agencies.