Working Together to Protect our Community and Advance our Academic Mission

Community Programs and Engagement

This group will analyze new guidelines and timelines for the return of University personnel and related research and education functions, and determine how this will affect the University’s community-facing programs, community engagement, and associated communications strategies, all while working to protect the health of our surrounding community.

Community Support 

The University of Chicago is committed to supporting the vitality and strength of Chicago and the South Side in particular.

When the COVID-19 pandemic began, the University quickly adapted and reimagined existing community programs to continue supporting its neighboring communities and residents at an uncertain time. To learn about civic engagement programs and initiatives that have moved to virtual formats to continue serving the city and South Side, visit

The University also launched several new initiatives to support our extended South Side community during the pandemic.  Starting in March, the University’s Community Support Initiative helped address the urgent food security needs of South Side residents and provided emergency and later, ongoing, support for small businesses and community-based nonprofits navigating a landscape shaped by the ongoing pandemic and growing economic challenges. 

In partnership with the Greater Chicago Food Depository and, later, local caterers and catering companies, the University funded and oversaw the preparation and distribution of more than 300,000 meals to residents in need across the University’s nine-community footprint on the South Side. UChicago additionally provided more than $800,000 in emergency bridge grants to help more than 200 South Side small businesses, including 27 University tenants, and $400,000 in emergency bridge grants and capacity-building assistance to help 79 local nonprofits. Through virtual programming from the University’s startup hub, the Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, the Community Programs Accelerator, and other initiatives, local small businesses and nonprofits also received ongoing support to help them adapt to a new reality.

In August, the University launched the UChicago Stand Together initiative which builds on the University’s work to help Chicago students gain admission to, pay for, and thrive in college. The initiative offers specialized help for students from Chicago Public Schools and area charter schools as they navigate the college search and application process virtually. 

There will be a variety of upcoming opportunities for community residents to tap into University programs.  To stay informed about those opportunities as well as online events, subscribe to University’s civic engagement newsletter here

Return to Campus

The University held a community update on our campus reopening plans on September 17.  University leaders shared information on campus safety protocols designed to contribute to a successful, healthy, and safe return to campus, as well as the safety of the broader South Side community.  They also shared how lessons learned from other higher education institutions influenced UChicago’s planning, highlighted key metrics that will be monitored and shared publicly, and described how community programs have been and will be adapted to operate safely throughout the coming school year, among other topics.

Please revisit this webpage for future updates.

 Frequently Asked Questions

Who is in the Community Programs and Engagement planning group?
Name Unit
Derek Douglas (lead) Office of Civic Engagement
Alicia Berg Facilities Services
Amar Parikh (staffing) Office of Civic Engagement
Caroline Grossman Rustandy Center
Chris Skrable Chicago Studies/The College
Christina Angarola Office of Civic Engagement
Cynthia Okechukwu Office of Legal Counsel
E.J. Reedy Polsky Exchange
Franklin Cosey-Gay Chicago Center for Youth Violence Prevention
Gretchen Crosby Sims Institute of Politics
Jackie Stewart Arts + Public Life
Julie Krause University Events
Kenton Rainey UChicago Police Department
Michael Harvey (staffing) Office of Civic Engagement
Mike Hayes Campus & Student Life
Neli Fanning Physical Sciences Division
Rob Chaskin Social Service Administration
Shaz Rasul Office of Civic Engagement
Tristé Smith Office of Civic Engagement
Veronica Hauad Office of Admissions
Wendy Williams Office of Civic Engagement
Will Howell Harris School of Public Policy

If you have been exposed to or test positive for COVID-19, promptly report to, even if you have not been on campus.