Partnerships with the U.S. Census Bureau come in all shapes and sizes. This story is the latest in our Connecting With Partners series of Q&A profiles of 2020 Census partners.
For an inside look at the growing roster of 2020 Census partners, the census partnerships team asked the University of Maryland, College Park, what motivates the academic and research institution to support the 2020 Census.
Here’s our Q&A with Gloria Aparicio Blackwell, director of the University of Maryland’s (UMD) Office of Community Engagement.
“An accurate census count is essential to ensure communities receive the funding and resources they require. Inaccurate counts may lead to underserved communities, which may lead to inadequacies in schools, infrastructure and potential redistricting.”
— Gloria Aparicio Blackwell, director of the University of Maryland’s (UMD) Office of Community Engagement
University of Maryland
College Park, Maryland
The mission of the University of Maryland, College Park (UMD), is to provide excellent teaching, research and service. The university educates students and advances knowledge in areas of importance to the state, the nation and the world. UMD is committed to being a preeminent national center for research and for graduate education, and the institution of choice for Maryland’s undergraduates of exceptional ability and promise.
Read the entire mission statement on our website.
Census Bureau Partner Since: 2018
UMD staff from the Office of Community Engagement and the Academy for Innovation and Entrepreneurship join representatives from the United Way of the National Capital Area and the U.S. Census Bureau.
What motivated the university to collaborate with us?
Innovative collaboration was necessary to increase response rates for the upcoming decennial count.
According to the 2020 Census hard to count map, both the College Park area and the corresponding county, Prince George’s County, had low response rates during the 2010 Census. Only 49% of the tract that includes UMD’s campus responded to the census in 2010. Prince George’s County had a response rate of 76.5%.
Certain local populations have also been identified as hard-to-count, including college students, foreign-born residents and low-income households. Twenty-one percent of Prince George’s County residents are foreign-born, as are 23% of College Park residents.
Does the university use Census Bureau data? If so, how?
In addition to analytics used by university administration to evaluate student demographics, there are many researchers on campus who use census data on a regular basis to conduct research projects with numerous applications to public policy. Areas of study range from social inequality, to public health, to labor economics and beyond.
Why is an accurate census important to the university, your employees and your students? What impact will it have?
Speaking from a research perspective, findings are only as reliable as the data from which they are derived. Inaccuracies in data require adjustments in research methods, and this can add many hours of work, or in extreme cases, make data unusable. Our data are most accurate when everyone participates in the census, which leads to stronger, more informed research and decision-making.
An event sign greets guests at the “Be Seen, Be Counted in 2020” workshop hosted by UMD on Nov. 10, 2018.
What would an accurate census mean to your community?
An accurate census count is essential to ensure communities receive the funding and resources they require. Inaccurate counts may lead to underserved communities, which may lead to inadequacies in schools, infrastructure and potential redistricting.
In November, the University of Maryland hosted a Census Solutions Workshop that brought different arms of the university together to generate ideas for community engagement leading up to the 2020 Census. How will those ideas and relationships be leveraged going forward?
In November 2018, more than 50 university and community stakeholders gathered at UMD in support of a fair and accurate 2020 Census at the “Be Seen, Be Counted in 2020” workshop. The event brought UMD’s Academy for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, UMD’s Office of Community Engagement, and UMD’s College Park Scholars together with the United Way of the National Capital Area and the U.S. Census Bureau.
Participants learned and applied the design thinking process as they examined how to address hard-to-reach and undercounted populations.
We continue to collaborate with the event organizers to ensure everyone at UMD and in Prince George’s County is counted in 2020, and we are discussing the development of a bilingual census workshop to engage local Spanish-speaking residents.
Have any new collaborations or plans to support the 2020 Census developed since the workshop?
College Park Community Development Coordinator Kacy Rohn, who was a participant at our 2018 workshop, is leading the city’s 10-member complete count committee in developing an outreach strategy designed to raise awareness of the 2020 Census and increase resident participation. The City of College Park has received a $34,385 grant from the Maryland Department of Planning that will support this outreach effort.
Will the university be participating in a complete count committee?
The University of Maryland has representatives, including myself, involved with the complete count committee established by the City of College Park. The city’s council also recently voted to add a student to the committee due to the student body’s unique perspective on issues facing the city.
Gloria Aparicio Blackwell, director of UMD's Office of Community Engagement, talks with participants about how to engage hard-to-reach communities in the 2020 Census at the “Be Seen, Be Counted in 2020” workshop.
Census Solutions Workshops use design thinking to inspire creative ideas for census engagement, and the University of Maryland is a leader in design thinking. How has design thinking shaped the university’s involvement in the 2020 Census?
UMD’s Academy for Innovation and Entrepreneurship has developed a “Design Thinking for Community and Civic Impact” workshop and course that allows our students to discover new ways to meaningfully engage in civic action.
Through collisions of creativity, civic engagement and design, this experiential course empowers students to support a fair and accurate 2020 Census.
Participants will learn and apply components of the design thinking process to examine how to address hard-to-reach and undercounted populations in the community — starting on campus — in advance of the 2020 count.
What advice or suggestions would you give to other organizations interested in, or considering, supporting the 2020 Census in their communities?
Clearly identify the ways in which you can work with the Census Bureau to accomplish your goals. There are specific things you can bring to the effort, and it's best for all to know what they are from the start.
Shira Cavanaugh is the National Partnership Program's communications manager at the Census Bureau.