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Engaging with the city

Engaging with the city

Leslie Picca June 05, 2019
Marianist Educational Associate Leslie Picca discusses inclusivity, which is one of the manifestations of the Marianist charism.

Marianist Educational Associate Leslie Picca is concluding her service as chair of the Department of Sociology, Anthropology and Social Work; in August, she will become the first woman to be the Raymond A. Roesch, S.M., Chair in the Social Sciences. We asked her about her work with inclusivity, which is one of the manifestations of the Marianist charism.

The Office of Diversity and Inclusion organizes the Inclusive Excellence Academy Learning Series where faculty and staff participate in workshops aimed at understanding diversity, equity and inclusion through a Catholic and Marianist lens. In April 2019, Tiffany Taylor Smith (executive director for inclusive excellence education and professional development), Kelly Bohrer (director of community relations for the school of engineering) and I organized the first of a three-part series on “UD and the City of Dayton: The Stories We Know, Tell and Don’t Tell.” Participants shared what they know about our city and how that differs from what they were told about it.


The narrative of the city of Dayton often focuses on a vibrant booming city of invention in the early 20th century, followed by an economic decline featuring poverty and addiction. That, however, is only part of the story. We shared timelines of Dayton beginning with the nomadic Paleo-Indians in 13,000 B.C. to the 2019 revitalization downtown at the Arcade, highlighting the themes of migration (forced and voluntary), opportunity, segregation and reinvention.

Beyond a narrative of growth, decline and revitalization, the story of the city of Dayton is complicated. And the University of Dayton plays a critical role. President Eric F. Spina calls for the University of Dayton to be an anchor institution in Dayton; many faculty and staff are examining what this means. This past year, students of historians Caroline Merithew and Todd Uhlman engaged in an oral histories project of the Arcade. Assistant professor Molly Malany Sayre taught a Community Practice class downtown.

Our Marianist values call for a commitment to inclusivity, social justice and community. And this extends beyond the boundaries of campus.

Read more from Marianist brother Kip Stander ’73.