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Prof. Criss selected for Health Care Foundation Leadership Academy

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The Health Care Foundation of Greater Kansas City (HCF) has announced that Shannon Criss, associate professor of architecture, will be one of 15 participants in next year’s Healthy Communities Leadership Academy.

The yearlong academy will help participants deepen their knowledge, understanding, and practice in civic leadership, policy and system change, community collaboration, and resource leveraging

HCF developed the Leadership Academy to build field capacity and develop local expertise to effect changes in policy and community environments. These result in making the healthy choice, the easy choice for the uninsured and underserved.

"Our organization has a long history of funding activities related to healthy eating, active living and tobacco prevention," said Adriana Pecina, HCF Program Officer. "Recently our funding has shifted to support equity-focused efforts that mobilize communities to change their policies, systems and environments to improve access to healthy eating, active living, and prevent the use of tobacco.

Criss often uses healthy living issues as a starting point for design studio projects. For example, one semester students designed a culinary incubator to promote healthy food through a grocery store, community garden and demonstration kitchen in New Orleans.

This past fall, Criss and her students developed other healthy eating and active living, or HEAL designs in the Kansas City, Kans., downtown area with a focus upon revitalizing public spaces and underutilized and abandoned buildings in support of HEAL activities. 

In the spring semester students developed Healthy Campus proposals in support of Kansas City, Kans., Mayor Mike Holland’s initiative with a focus on program elements that include a gymnasium for exercising, demonstration kitchen and gardens, and spaces to support cross-generational activities.

“I've developed a couple of hypothetical projects in in collaboration with Kansas City, Kan., governmental and non-profit organization. Getting my students involved has proven to an effective means of mobilizing a community's interests and capacities for change.”

“I think that the leadership academy will help me strengthen my connections between the diverse KU community and Kansas City’s community partners.  There's a lot of talent here at KU that can be engaged in support of policy and built-environment projects.  

“I'm confident that this program will help me be more connected and improve my ability to engage communities, and hopefully show my students how powerful and important it is to be involved once they are practicing as architects.

"Although the Focus of this Academy is on the individual, participants are expected to bring what they learn back to their organization and community," said Brenda Calvin, HCF Program Officer. "Those selected have the full support of their organization and we look forward to seeing how their communities will reap the benefits of the wisdom gained through the academy."

Criss received her Master of Architecture from the Harvard School of Design in 1992 and began teaching at KU in 2001.   She is currently a faculty fellow for the Center for Civic and Social Responsibility, where she works with the CCSR staff and faculty advisory board on programming and new initiatives.