PROFILE: UC Staff Member Gets Applause As One Of The Area’s Most Outstanding Young African Americans
Stacy Downing will be one of 10 recipients of Applause! Magazine’s “Reach for the Stars” Award.
Date: 2/2/2004 8:00:00 AM“I didn’t know that my path would lead to higher education, but I’m glad it did. I enjoy it every day.”
By: Dawn Fuller
Phone: (513) 556-1823
Photos By: Peter Griga
Stacy Downing’s dedication as an educator at the University of Cincinnati is bringing her recognition as one of the area’s most outstanding young African American leaders. Downing, the assistant director for the UC African American Cultural and Research Center (AACRC) and doctoral student in the Urban Educational Leadership (UEL) program, will be one of 10 people honored by Applause! Magazine’s “Reach for the Stars” Award. The award recognizes Greater Cincinnatians who are leaders in their professional achievements, community service, and in their commitment to having a positive impact on the African American community. Recipients of the award were selected by a national panel.
“Stacy Downing is a winner in every sense of the word,” says P. Eric Abercrumbie, director of UC’s Ethnic Programs and Services and director of the AACRC. “She is an outstanding educator, community activist and scholar. Currently, she has the distinction of having the greatest positive impact on the largest number of black students at the University of Cincinnati.”
Downing is a former Darwin T. Turner scholar who first came to UC to earn her bachelor’s degree in psychology. She graduated in 1996, earned a master’s degree in criminal justice from Xavier University, and returned to UC in 1998 to begin working for the AACRC.
Downing was one of the key developers of the AACRC’s Transitions program, which uses a rites of passage curriculum to build a higher retention and graduation rate for African American students. “Two of UC’s Student Body presidents, Darren Tolliver and Ron Ricks, were both students in our Transitions program. We take pride in their accomplishments, because not only do we tell our students to get involved in what’s happening at the AACRC, but we encourage them to spread their talents and get involved in other UC organizations,” Downing said.
Downing also serves as a role model to younger children through her dedication to community service. As a member of Sigma Gamma Rho sorority, its philanthropy, “Project Big Book Bag,” raises school supplies for the children at Cincinnati Public’s Vine Elementary School and Chase Elementary. She has also worked as a volunteer at Talbert House, a Cincinnati mental health and substance abuse treatment agency. Most recently, her sorority was at Joseph Beth Booksellers publicizing the seat belt safety campaign, Buckle Up America.
“Any time that I can set aside, I feel that it’s important to give back to the community. I especially love working with the children. That’s when I feel I have the greatest chance of making an impression, because they’re still developing into who they want to be,” Downing says.
The doctoral student also is looking forward to not only planning, but participating in her own Tyehimba, the AACRC’s Afrocentric graduation celebration. Downing is hoping to complete her doctoral degree in the Urban Educational Leadership program by 2005. The program is based in the College of Education, Criminal Justice and Human Services.
“This is a unique program, one of maybe six or seven of its kind in the country to prepare educational leaders for urban settings,” she said. “The program fits my needs because you can build it around your professional interests. For me, that’s working in higher education. I hope to one day hold a job in administration, but I also want to teach.”
“Stacy shows us what it really means to be an urban educational leader,” says Mary Brydon-Miller, UC associate professor for educational studies. “She is committed to being an agent of change, both here at UC and within the broader Cincinnati community. We’re very proud of her and we’re excited to see her receive this recognition for her fine work.”
Downing will be honored as one of Applause! Magazine’s “Reach for the Stars” award recipients at a reception Feb. 4 and a luncheon Feb. 5 at the Xavier University Cintas Banquet Center. As part of Black History Month, she will also be featured as an emerging leader in a series of vignettes that will be airing on Fox 19/WXIX TV in February.
During Black History Month at UC, Downing is looking ahead to the AACRC’s Kuamka Week Feb. 2-7. Later, when winter quarter ends, she’ll be traveling with students over spring break to visit historically black colleges across the south.
“You know, my biggest award comes when a student says, ‘Thanks, I’ve had a great year.’ Those are my biggest achievements – when people value what you do,” Downing says. “Awards are great, but it’s the human contact that makes it all worthwhile.”