The Fall 2023 semester flew by instantly as I joined the Engage Dallas team as a Program Assistant and began my junior year at SMU. Through the Meadows School of the Arts Corporate Communications and Public Affairs (CCPA) 2375 – Communication Research & Analytics class, I could connect my course work with my service learning.
Alongside 30 classmates, we had a phenomenal opportunity to work with Engage Dallas community partner Dallas Furniture Bank (DFB) to conduct a case manager perception study on DFB programs. DFB provides furniture that meets the basic living needs of families and individuals transitioning from homelessness to others in need. Under the supervision of our professor, Assistant Provost Dr. Dustin Grabsch, and counsel of DFB Managers, our class conducted a mixed-methods research study, using interviews and statistical data to find common themes and areas of development for the furniture bank. Early in the research process, three classmates of mine, Gracie Holder, Addison Shaw, and Abby Walker, participated in #1Day4Dallas this year at the Dallas Furniture Bank, helping arrange furniture at their Carrollton warehouse. This gave us an opportunity to see the work of DFB first-hand.
Throughout the semester, we contacted case managers who partnered with the bank and received continuous feedback on our work. Our focus questions were:
- Describe the experience with Dallas Furniture Bank’s programs and services as perceived by partner agency case managers.
- What strengths and challenges do Dallas Furniture Bank partner agencies experience when rehousing their clients within the first year?
This four-month study concluded with a presentation in the Hughes-Trigg Student Center, where community stakeholders from Engage Dallas and Dallas Furniture Bank attended to hear from the class about our research findings. Recommendations included streamlining case management communication channels, areas for expansion, and ways for DFB to market its opportunities to college students.
This experience was rewarding in many ways, including having a product to give to a community organization to increase their abilities to better serve the Dallas community. Through research and comparison of programs in other metropolitan areas, we are lucky to have organizations like Dallas Furniture Bank who assist in providing necessary community resources. Alongside my fabulous grade and gratitude from DFB, I take away the reaffirmed importance of data-driven research and exploring new ways to do things.
Learning about community service in the classroom is an experience uniquely possible at SMU. Faculty and staff interested in working with Engage Dallas or our partners in their classrooms should visit smu.edu/EngageDallas or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also stay updated on Engage Dallas by subscribing to our blog.