A blue cloth covers a table in Joanne Troha’s office in St. Joseph Hall, hiding boxes of papers and other items compiled through 43 years of service at UD.
What’s inside those boxes is far from junk.
“Underneath that table is four decades of very fascinating ways that we’ve connected UD to the community,” said Troha, director of community service learning at the Fitz Center for Leadership in Community.
Troha will retire May 31. A month later on June 30, Brother Ed Zamierowski, S.M., senior community service advisor at the Fitz Center, will retire from UD after 39 years of service. Both have seen the evolution of UD’s involvement in community-building initiatives and civic engagement, from the glimmers of ideas planted in the 1970s to the work of the Fitz Center today.
Troha, who graduated from UD in 1970 with a degree in secondary education, began working at the University that same year. Troha worked in a newly established department, the Center for Interdisciplinary Studies, under what was then called the assistant provost’s office. The center was a response to student protests for curriculum additions to better reflect a changing world, and UD began offering “mini-courses” in fields such as environmental studies, peace studies, Black studies, women’s studies and future studies.
It was UD’s first approach to interdisciplinary studies, and Troha is proud that many of the initial mini-courses are now a regular part of the UD curriculum, and that the idea of interdisciplinary study is an encouraged part of college education.
And then, in 1975, the office was disbanded. Troha found herself unemployed for six weeks.
“That was the longest time I was away from UD,” she says.
Brother Ray Fitz, S.M., soon offered her a job at Strategies for Responsible Development, a precursor to the Fitz Center. The office often applied Fitz’s engineering-related systems approach to solving community problems, whether that community was in Dayton or halfway around the world.
UD made more forays into civic engagement, and Troha can recount them all, from the development of community gardens in west Dayton to the operation of Ohio’s first AmeriCorps program.
While staffers in SRD were seeing the impact of their work, the question of how to integrate faculty and students into civic engagement remained a quandary. The opportunity finally presented itself in the late ‘90s, when UD formed a partnership with nearby Patterson-Kennedy School. Although the school closed in 2011, UD’s partnerships have shifted to Dayton’s Neighborhood Schools Centers, where students are a constant presence in the halls of five schools.
And, through the Fitz Center, faculty and students continue to work in partnership with the greater Dayton community.