One of the perks of his job, as Carlton Craig sees it, is meeting and forging relationships with people across Southern Nevada who are benevolent and genuinely want to help others. It's what gives him hope for the future and the conviction that UNLV is a critical part of improving the well-being of our community.
Could you describe your role at UNLV?
I’m the director of and professor in the UNLV School of Social Work and have served in these roles almost six years. As the lead administrator for the School of Social Work, I supervise more than 40 full-time and part-time faculty and staff. I am also responsible for collaboratively generating the vision and strategic plan for the school and supervising the field office. I manage the budget for the school and supervise hiring, and I play an active role in curriculum development and community engagement, both in the school and for the college and university.
Describe the work you do in the community.
I have been a member or have had representation on the Continuity of Care (COC) for Homelessness Board for five years and sit on the Homeless Policy Council for Southern Nevada. I network with many community partners, including nearly 100 agencies that provide practicum placements for our students.
Because of my involvement with the homelessness issue, the School of Social Work hired two homelessness research scholars in 2019 as well as a child welfare researcher (last academic year).
This year, the school has targeted hiring regarding interpersonal violence. As result of our hires, numerous research projects on homelessness are being implemented as part of a Top Tier doctoral grant and fellowship in collaboration with the School of Public Policy and Leadership. These projects were developed in direct collaboration with our community providers.
The School of Social Work has also collaborated with psychology and educational psychology to produce four videos on trauma-informed care for the Clark County School District in partnership with PBS. Another collaboration has resulted in the School of Social Work housing a new UNLV program for veterans. Another collaboration with UNLV Health has enabled Social Work to provide practicum students to work in a low-cost public medical clinic. Several graduate assistants have been working on an app for food insecurity and a number of white papers and systematic literature reviews are either published or in process.
And what is the impact of this work for the university? Students? Community partners and those they serve?
- The university has benefited from a number of research collaborations, grants, and services to the homeless, veterans on campus, and for individuals without medical insurance.
- Social work students provide more than 100,000 hours of service annually to the community as part of their practicum, and the agencies give back in the form of supervision. We have increased our number of agency collaborations that provide nontraditional social work sites, including such locations as the coroner’s office, UNLV dental, Las Vegas police, UNLV police regarding homelessness, and emergency rescue.
- The community has seen significant increases in services and research collaboration from UNLV.
- Our partners have reported benefiting and wishing for more collaboration with UNLV.
What does “community” mean to you?
Community can mean so many things, but ultimately it should be a safe, inclusive, and open environment for its members to develop and reach their full potential, whether it’s local, regional, or national. We should be emphasizing human strengths and resilience in order to constantly improve the community’s safety, inclusiveness, and openness.
What makes a great community? In other words, what are the attributes of a community that has a strong quality of life?
It is inclusive of all and prioritizes safety and well-being of its members. A great community should not only focus on equality but also equity for its members and should be intolerant of its membership’s suffering.
During your work in the community, was there a specific moment that inspired you? Please describe what happened.
One summer I was rating grant proposals for funding homeless programs in the Southern Nevada community and had to make a vote for one homeless program that serves many homeless individuals over a program that serves a small special-needs group. It was not only an eye-opener but heartbreaking for me and for the community. This made me more determined than ever to serve and develop ways to assist individuals in need that are often overlooked.
What can UNLV do to improve our community in general? And the neighborhood around the main campus specifically?
This could be a book-long answer. Ultimately, it comes down to what we prioritize in the community. For instance, there are numerous problems in the neighborhood around us that need to be addressed. The university should become more engaged in developing translational and transdisciplinary research networks that develop their research agendas in collaboration with the community members who are directly working on the specific problem being addressed. Grant writing will benefit all parties involved.
If you could wave a magic wand and fix one community issue, what would it be and why?
If it’s magic, I would love to see poverty and racism disappear at a local, regional, national, and global level and for the word “genocide” to never have to be uttered from someone’s lips again. Maybe more realistically at the local level, it would be for there to be sufficient affordable housing for Southern Nevada’s community members.
How have UNLV’s community engagement efforts grown over the last five years?
In the area of addressing community problems, I think our efforts have increased a great deal around helping providers address homelessness, developing research projects that are transdisciplinary and translational in nature, and in focusing in on a problem and then trying to make those efforts sustainable. There is beginning to be a deeper investment in interpersonal violence in the next couple of years. I can only speak of a few contributions; I know there have been many more across the campus.
Why is your service on the UNLV Community Engagement Council important?
The UNLV Community Engagement Council has been very useful for networking with the community and with members of the university community. We have developed several partnerships at the school and have created several new field practica for our social work students through these connections, and we’ve also developed some potential research collaborations and opportunities for our faculty.