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Ashley Valis, MSW, Executive Director, Strategic Initiatives and Community Engagement

Ashley Valis, an alumna of the University of Maryland School of Social Work, became the university’s first executive director of community initiatives and engagement in 2014, strengthening UMB’s commitment to the communities in West Baltimore that border its campus.

Among UMB’s many successful efforts has been the establishment of the UMB Community Engagement Center (CEC). At the CEC, University faculty, staff, and students provide neighbors with vital programming, such as job search and placement services, after-school activities, free legal advice, a fresh food market, and health and fitness classes. With the current 3,000-square-foot center at capacity — logging more than 38,000 neighbor visits in under four years — UMB has purchased a 20,000-square-foot historic building on Poppleton Street to renovate and become the permanent CEC home to meet growing demand.

As an anchor institution in West Baltimore, UMB prides itself on establishing meaningful ways in which to integrate with and strengthen the neighborhoods west of its downtown campus. Valis, a UMB neighbor herself as a resident of Hollins Market, is integral to all of this growth. “Proximity almost always improves partnership,” says Valis. “The Community Engagement Center puts us within closer reach of West Baltimore’s residents and makes meaningful collaboration easier.”

University of Maryland, Baltimore
Office of Community Engagement
870 W Baltimore St, Baltimore, MD.

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