Michelle Garner’s community engagement efforts blur the lines between her work as a faculty member of Social Work and her life as a resident of Federal Way, Wash. Her professional training and prior research on homelessness inspired her to become a leader of the Reach Out Federal Way homeless shelter. It was started as a grassroots effort to provide shelter, meals and case management for people without shelter during the winter months. The program has grown: it’s celebrating its fourth year of operating a men’s shelter, and the second year for a women’s shelter. It is now a program of Catholic Community Services.
Based on that experience, Michelle was asked to join a new effort called City Vision Federal Way, sponsored by the city of Federal Way, which hopes to pull together the many social service organizations in the community. She has helped write grant applications and serves as the higher-education liaison for the group.
As she’s built relationships within the Federal Way community, she’s been able to be a mentor. For example, she was invited to serve on the doctoral dissertation committee of Lynnette Hynden, who was at the time the director of human services for the city of Federal Way. With Michelle’s advice, Lynnette was able to parlay her dissertation work into a $1.6-million grant of federal housing funds to the city.
Michelle has also been instrumental in getting UW Tacoma involved in water-quality monitoring efforts at Lake Killarney, a small fresh-water lake on the Federal Way border. She’s a board member of the Lake Killarney Improvement Association, and she has encouraged the board to support UW Tacoma’s Dr. Jim Gawel in using Lake Killarney as a location for research funded by the UW Superfund Research Program.
“Community engagement is a key aspect of good faculty citizenship in an urban-serving public university. I value our campus’s mission to partner with and benefit those near us.” says Garner.