Lynn McUmber Advocates for Mental Health Awareness in Crawford County

Allegheny College graduate Lynn McUmber has helped transform the Crawford County Mental Health Awareness Program (CHAPS) from a small drop-in center more than two decades ago into a countywide agency that now serves more than 800 clients annually.

McUmber, Allegheny Class of 1978, has served as the executive director of CHAPS for the past 22 years. After graduating, she began work in various social work positions, with focuses ranging from intellectual disabilities to child welfare to Active Aging. It was when she transitioned to housing and homelessness that she found a greater passion for her work.

“When I returned to Meadville, in working at the county office, I saw how many individuals who experienced mental illness here were in very, very poor living conditions, and really had very little community support,” McUmber says.

“I was able to convince the county office to allow me to focus on that issue, of housing and decent affordable housing for persons with disabilities, especially mental illness,” she says. “That was the beginning of a career of exploring what opportunities are out there, and looking into a system and starting to develop a network of an array of services that would help individuals who have experienced mental illness, and/or individuals who are homeless or near homeless, access affordable housing and be successful in maintaining that housing.”

CHAPS was initially founded in 1988 as a small drop-in center that opened one evening a week for receiving services as a peer-support group but away from clinical oversight.

McUmber joined the program in 1990 and was able to bring her work with the county to CHAPS to begin to focus on housing opportunities. At first it was led by a board of equal members, but by 1995 McUmber was voted into the executive position.
CHAPS has since expanded to offer a range of services that still include the drop-in center, although now it is open daily.

There is also the Community Education and Outreach program (CEO) which hosts various peer- or family-support groups and education programs; Mobile Psychiatric Rehabilitation, which assists members in accessing resources and building skills to be as independent as possible; Housing Solutions, which connect homeless individuals with affordable, permanent housing, and help them develop skills and resources needed to maintain that housing; and the Journey Center, where both staff and members collaborate on projects in jobs such as receptionist work, outreach, publication or data collection. In addition, every year the organization holds a Walk-A-Thon, its fall fundraiser in which volunteers complete a three-mile walk and are sponsored by local businesses who donate monetary pledges.

“Lynn is continually dedicated to the growth of CHAPS,” says Amanda Burke, program coordinator for the Psychiatric Rehabilitation Program and Peer Support Program, and a CHAPS employee for the past 10 years. “She remains open-minded and mission-driven when seeking new funding sources and new programming opportunities. She has worked tirelessly to increase the number of services CHAPS can offer the community. She has a true passion for this work as evidenced by her continued efforts to advance the agency’s mission and goals.”

“We always look at ‘what is the need?,’ and then we try and meet that need,” McUmber says. “We always made sure not to chase programs. We are a consumer agency, so everyone shares in identifying what’s needed and decision-making.”

CHAPS’ primary mission has been to provide support for individuals with mental illness, but the agency has been able to expand that to a secondary mission — providing opportunities for individuals and families who are homeless or near homeless, because the two often occur simultaneously.

Burke says the variety of services offered is what makes CHAPS especially successful and vital in Meadville. “We pride ourselves on being a safe and accepting place for people to come and receive the support they are in need of,” she says. “We highly value the many community partnerships we have with other agencies and providers as well.”

McUmber graduated as a psychology and speech major from Allegheny, but says the experience and understanding she gained from the community service are what led her to CHAPS. “The skills and gifts I received were not so much in social matter, but the ability to collaborate and think outside the box,” she says. She has been able to implement those skills in a different approach to mental health care, one intended to address all areas of a person’s life, and focus on recovery and the individual’s gifts.

“If you think about a person’s life and all of the areas of their life that they’re about, mental illness has been thought about as how an individual needs to go to a doctor and get medication. We try and address all the other areas of a person’s life, which includes their housing, what your income is, do you have friendships, do you have a purpose in life, be it a job, volunteer work, somewhere you’re needed? Do you have the skills that you need to manage your home and your finances? Your spirituality, your family, your friends. Mental illness brings a lot of loss in different areas, and we try and create opportunities through programming so people can regain those things.”

McUmber’s work can be clearly seen in CHAPS’ impact today. Last year, the group served 810 individuals; helped 187 households establish permanent housing; had 114 members actively volunteering; and through the Journey Center, helped 40 members gain employment in the community. Many of the workers at CHAPS have experienced some form of mental illness as well or came to CHAPS in a time of need, and through their programs have made great strides and are now trained in administering those same programs.

“Lynn is an excellent leader and director,” Burke says. “She has made it her life’s work to improve the lives of those who come through CHAPS and the community as a whole. She has the ability to find the good in every situation and identify the gifts and strengths of those around her. She is kind, caring, funny and empathetic. It is my honor to work alongside her as well as learn and grow from her experience.”

Says McUmber: “This has been a wonderful life. As far as a job goes, it’s been an incredible opportunity to be a part of this movement. CHAPS evolved in a slow process, but blossomed out mindfully. And I’ve developed so many long-lasting friendships and have seen such amazing and great things happen in people’s lives.”

Source: Academics, Publications & Research

Wilson’s ‘Neoliberalism’ Published

Associate Professor of Communication Arts and Community and Justice Studies Julie Wilson published “Neoliberalism,” an introductory textbook designed to engage students in addressing the pressing and interconnected issues of our day. The book was written in collaboration with many Allegheny students with support from the Andrew W. Mellon Collaborative Undergraduate Research in the Humanities grant.

Source: Academics, Publications & Research

Student-Athlete Silas Garrison Brings “Great Promise and Endless Potential”

Silas Garrison

On a January evening, Silas Garrison ’20 stood before 150 people at Meadville’s 2017 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration and Fellowship Dinner, captivating them as he expounded on five of Dr. King’s quotes. Garrison, a broad-shouldered football player, spoke at the annual event with a practiced ease that seemed at odds with his youth.

Darnell Epps, assistant director of Allegheny’s Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Access (IDEAS) Center, suggested Garrison speak at the dinner because of the first-year student’s “great promise and endless potential to change the world for the better.” Epps was also struck by the expansiveness of Garrison’s vision, by “his ability to build bridges between diverse groups of people while helping them find common ground.”

Others have recognized Garrison’s strengths. The first was his grandfather, a church pastor and later a traveling pastor. Garrison characterized his grandfather, who died last year, as “stern, strict and fair” and credits him with his speaking skills. “My upbringing was the absolute reason why I was able to do it,” Garrison said. “It starts at home, seeing him speaking at different churches.”

Garrison also spent four years under the aegis of another inspirational speaker: Joe Pargano, his high school football coach. “He could motivate anyone; see someone (who) needed that spirit brought up, and always had the right thing to say,” Garrison said of his coach.

Silas Garrison

Silas Garrison ’20

Garrison’s love for football and his intellect carried him to Allegheny College, with initial plans of becoming a teacher. He also chose Allegheny because he felt an affinity for the college’s tradition. Tradition is important to Garrison. His grandparents, who live in DePew, New York, a suburb 15 miles east of Buffalo, infused in Garrison a “powerful sense of tradition,” rearing him in the overlapping spheres of the church, school and football.

During his first semester at Allegheny, Garrison took a philosophy class with Associate Professor Steven Farrelly-Jackson and found the class, as well as the professor, exhilarating. Said Garrison of Farrelly-Jackson: “He doesn’t make himself seem important, but you know he is, and so does everyone else.”

Apparently it was a meeting of minds. “I was immensely impressed with the quality, energy and depth of his thinking,” Farrelly-Jackson said of Garrison. “He seems to have the ability to cut to the real heart of an issue. He has genuine intellectual integrity; he doesn’t try to impress; he tries to get to the/a truth about an issue.”

Garrison also took a course in multicultural education with Heather Moore, assistant professor of community and justice studies. In 2016 she spoke with impressive verve at the MLK dinner. “Professor Moore might be the biggest role model I have on campus,” Garrison said. “I heard her speak so many times; if I could implement anything from the ways she does it, I would.”

Moore noted how receptive Garrison was to new ideas. At the end of his first semester, he confided to her that he didn’t want to be a teacher anymore. “I tried to fight it, but I’m starting to realize I want to do activism work,” Garrison told Moore. “That’s going to be my career goal.”

Moore thinks Garrison certainly can do that work. “He listens and responds,” she said. “He has the ability to accept constructive criticism. That will make him a better community worker.”

Allegheny Head Football Coach B.J. Hammer also has seen Garrison’s determination and drive. Garrison had a solid first season as a Gator, contributing as a backup in the defensive backfield and on special teams. And Hammer said Garrison is looking to be a three- year starter beginning next season and a key figure in the program’s continued growth.

“He has done a great job in the offseason to really improve him- self physically with his work in the weight room,” Hammer said of Garrison. “He’s continued to do a good job in the classroom, and he’s the perfect example of everything a student-athlete at Allegheny College should be.”

This article appeared in the Spring 2017 issue of Allegheny magazine.

Source: Academics, Publications & Research

Heard, Dodge, Moore present on “Critical Citizenship”

Delaney Heard ’17, Sophie Dodge ’18, and Assistant Professor Heather C. Moore in the Community & Justice Studies program presented on a panel at the 2016 Curriculum & Pedagogy Conference in Cleveland. The panel was titled “Critical Citizenship: Critiquing Methodologies of Action in Curricular and Co-Curricular Service-Learning and Community Engagement.”

Source: Academics, Publications & Research

New Courses

COMJ 190: Social Justice in Black America
An analysis of the relationship between social justice and black American identities. Over the past 20 years, social justice movements have become commonplace in mainstream America. Various forms of activism are seen in every facet of American life through television, film, journalism, and even social media. Class participants critique scholarship across disciplines and question the role of social justice in 21st century America. Throughout the semester, students investigate the role of hash tag activism in social media, examine activism in popular culture, and ask what can be learned from public reactions to major social movements.

COMJ 290: Multicultural Education
A study of introductory theories, themes, and guiding concepts that frame scholarship in Multicultural Education. Seminar discussions focus on critical race theory, global diversity, privilege, socioeconomic status, and hip-hop pedagogy. In addition to the course materials, students participate in a community engagement component where they question whether theories of multiculturalism are present in actual classrooms and share their expert knowledge with community partners in Crawford County. This course is useful for Allegheny undergrads who are interested in M.A.T. graduate programs, students interested in social justice issues in K-12 education, and those considering a career in teaching.

Five Questions: Kazi Joshua


Kazi Joshua, associate dean and director of the Center for Intercultural Advancement and Student Success (CIASS), answers our questions. Since 2009, he has been a part of many initiatives to promote diversity and civic engagement at Allegheny. He teaches courses in the FS program, Values Ethics and Social Action (V.E.S.A) and Black Studies. His academic interests are in the interdisciplinary study of contemporary social movements for change and their potential for creating a just society.

  1. What is your favorite spot on campus?

The Gator Quad because it is in the center of campus, and you can never miss anyone. It combines the beauty of the outdoors, with an inside feeling. It is really the village green that speaks to Allegheny’s sense of community.

  1. What in your opinion makes Allegheny a unique place?

It is the kindness and generosity of the people here. Often people remark how different the college is from others, and it always boils down to the fact that people really care and they are genuinely nice without fakeness.

  1. What is the coolest thing that Allegheny has made possible for you?

I teach a number of courses across the disciplines having to do with service, civic engagement, social change and social justice. These are not easy topics to deal with. They both challenge the students and bring out the best of what Allegheny students are. Outside class, students have been committed to creating the kind of community that can embrace a great deal of diversity. They are thoughtful in navigating challenging conversations, and seeking to be the kind of persons who would inhabit the sort of community they hope Allegheny to become.

  1. What goal(s) have you set for the next three years?

I would like to make Allegheny more diverse and more consistent with our values. It is clear that we have to go beyond the usual places for our recruitment. We have to reach beyond the usual schools and areas. A change in our curricular offerings that also includes study in diverse areas, as currently proposed by the curriculum committee, is another way. Of course the presence of faculty, staff and administrators that mirror the diversity of the student body is absolutely invaluable. If we do all these things and we act decisively when actions inconsistent with the values of inclusion and community occur, we will be well on our way.

  1. You are seated next to President Mullen at dinner. What do you strike up a conversation about?

Diversifying the highest levels of administrative leadership at Allegheny. We know that when you have a diverse group of leaders, you have a more thoughtful outcome of complex issues and policies. President Clinton spoke of his cabinet as “looking like America.” That should be our aspiration and our practice.

Source: Academics, Publications & Research