Misti McKeehen has been executive director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Social Concern (CSC) since 2018. The CSC offers programming in civic engagement that combines education, action, and reflection.
What is a typical day like for you?
There isn’t a typical day. Most of my days include planning with my staff; student engagement, whether that be a coaching meeting or speaking to one of our programs or interacting with some of our interns; and engagement with Baltimore organizations that are working with our students in a community service capacity.
Why is community engagement important for undergrads?
Everyone is going to be part of a community, no matter where that community is in the world. I encourage students to think about what experiences shaped who you are, and how can you use those passions to find something that might be related to your major or your future profession— but also might not? Civic engagement allows you to be a good neighbor to people who are not just living next to you and who you’re working with; thinking about your role in the larger context is so important.
What is a key message you hope to give students?
Listen first. Always listen to the community; the community knows what they need. The organizations know what has been done and what will be impactful. So never assume you have the answers. Even if you have a great idea, it might not be the answer for the community.
What role does community engagement play in your own life?
I spent my early career in civic engagement and experiential leadership at a nonprofit, looking at how the sectors intersect around community development. I really enjoy the opportunity to identify how to help build capacity around a city’s systems and services. Here, I feel very fortunate to have been welcomed here in Baltimore and to have joined this community that is passionate and talented and has so many great organizations. I see the development of our students as one win of doing this work, while also helping an organization move toward its mission.
What is your favorite part of your job?
It’s the moment where students find their passions, when they have an experience with a community partner where they’re connecting with one another and excited about the work that’s being done. I really enjoy helping students navigate what it means to be part of a community and to understand how that will play a role in their life moving forward.