Spotlight on Stella-Over the Rhine Residency Program

Congratulations and great work to our students who completed the fall 2015 Over-the-Rhine Residency Project as a part of their Social Work Field Experience: Lauren Gould, Stella Norris, Maggie Botts, and Sarah Busemeyer. This unique program allows Social Work students to live for one semester in the Over-the-Rhine community and to complete the first part of their Senior Field Experience at local social service agencies. The program also counts fully toward the thematic sequence requirement. Applications are accepted in October for the following Fall term.

From Thomas Dutton, Director of the Miami University Center for Community Engagement in Over the Rhine:

“Offered through the University’s Center for Community Engagement in Over-the-Rhine, students from many walks of life moved to Over-the-Rhine for a full semester, living together, taking courses, engaging in reflection, and serving deep community need with neighborhood organizations, residents, and organizers… a primary goal is for students and community members, through the relationships and trust they build, to come to see the humanity beneath the narratives that circulate about Over-the-Rhine. Too often these narratives dehumanize; we come together to develop empathy.”

Today we spotlight a reflection from Stella Norris from the Family Studies and Social Work Department:

“As the semester comes to an end and I look back on my time here in Over-the-Rhine I have a mix of emotions. This semester was a roller-coaster and full of experiences that have forever changed me. There will be parts of the semester that I will miss immensely and parts that I am happy to leave behind.

I think back to the first day, I was like a deer in the headlights and completely unsure of myself to become successful and integrated into the community of Over-the- Rhine. I walked into buddy’s Place for the first time and looked out to Vine Street. I was at a loss for words. I couldn’t start to imagine what was in store for me over the next sixteen weeks. The first week was hard. I recalled an interaction with myself and my journal, questioning everything. I couldn’t decide if this Program was right for me. I felt like an outsider and I was worried I would spend sixteen weeks in a place where I felt out of place and uncomfortable. Would I ever feel at ease? Then uneasy feelings became frustration. I told family and friends about my experiences and my truths but all I felt was judgment and lack of empathy. When would these horrible feelings end? The first month was hard to say the least. I had more days than not going to bed frustrated and unsure of the days ahead. I would tell myself it’s just a semester and it will be over before I can even realize it started. Little did I know that is exactly what happened.

Now I have days that brings tears to my eyes because of the joy and beauty of this world. I struggle to understand how the semester went by so quickly. Over-the-Rhine has etched a spot in my heart. It’s not the location or the new buildings but the people in Over-the-Rhine and the experiences that have taken my heart. I will never forget. My journal entries went from questioning my decision to be in Over-the-Rhine to enjoying my days and experiences in it. I would be lying if I said all my days are good now; I still have bad days from time to time but they are few and I know how to handle them. The injustice still breaks my heart and it forever will. But I know that my experiences in Over-the-Rhine have helped solidify my abilities in social work. I am a better social worker because of those good and bad days.

My favorite, most impactful memory had to have been when I saw my first client sign his lease. This moment brought more happy emotions to me than Christmas morning. As I watched as my client was explained the rules and regulations of his apartment the gratitude and excitement that was radiating around him were incredible. I was honored to be a part of his journey to housing. He had never had a place of his own and now he just signed his first lease. The pride he felt was something unexplainable and so intense it created butterflies in my stomach. I walked away from that experience over-joyed. That will be a day I will never forget.

I am forever thankful for my experiences and the people I have met being a part of the Residency Program. I will look back on the good and bad days and know that I have been forever impacted. I also know that I will be a better social worker because of my internship through the Program. My hope is that one day I will be able to come back to the community and continue fighting the injustices.”

For more information about our Social Work Program, please visit:


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