Oxford partners with UM’s MPartner to better serve Spanish-speaking community members

Published 1:42 pm Friday, March 1, 2024

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, cities worldwide faced unprecedented challenges in effectively reaching all segments of their populations.

The city of Oxford confronted a similar issue: inadequate outreach to its Spanish-speaking community during vaccination efforts. This realization catalyzed a series of proactive measures that led to a dynamic partnership with the University of Mississippi’s MPartner program.

During the early stages of the pandemic, the city of Oxford encountered a significant barrier in its vaccination efforts: language accessibility. Spanish-speaking residents were left underserved as essential forms and information were exclusively available in English.

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Recognizing this disparity, city leaders swiftly translated materials and arranged for bilingual assistance at vaccination sites.

Led by the University of Mississippi, MPartner aligns academic resources with municipal priorities to address pressing community needs. Through collaborative discussions, the city and MPartner identified key areas for intervention, with a particular focus on engaging the Hispanic/Latino community.

“When Laura Martin, who is the director of MPartner, reached out to discuss the possibility of partnering, I was thrilled,” said Mayor Robyn Tannehill. “We sat down and discussed and identified community needs and areas where we needed help. One of the first areas of need that I mentioned was conducting outreach to the Spanish-speaking community to determine how we can better serve them.”

According to Tannehill, the MPartner project will translate the city of Oxford’s website into Spanish and create Spanish-language versions of the brochures available through Visit Oxford. They will create sample bilingual itineraries for visitors to Oxford, as well. MPartner will also conduct bilingual outreach and provide interpreters at community events such as health and resource fairs.

“The university is grateful to call a place as special as the city of Oxford home, and we’re committed to partnering with the city to leverage our resources, share our talents, and unite in efforts that benefit our community,” Chancellor Glenn Boyce said.

Boyce and Tannehill signed a formal partnership agreement on Feb. 12.

In Oxford, other proposed project areas include strengthening food security organizations such as LovePacks and the Oxford Community Market and creating marketing materials for Oxford-University Transit.