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Five Questions with Misti McKeehen at Center for Social Concern

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.