Students Kelsey Balzli, Jacquie McMahanon, Benjie Ladrillono, Julia Gardial and Haley Flanagan stand with Dr. Samory Pruitt, left, and Acting Provost Joe Benson with the certificate acknowledging their award winning ant-bullying project in the student-initiated engagment project category.
Students Kelsey Balzli, Jacquie McMahanon, Benjie Ladrillono, Julia Gardial and Haley Flanagan stand with Dr. Samory Pruitt, left, and Acting Provost Joe Benson with the certificate acknowledging their award winning ant-bullying project in the student-initiated engagment project category.

7th Annual Awards Program Concludes Highly Successful Engagement Scholarship Year at The University of Alabama

(Graduate student uses pen pal program to increase cultural competency on two continents)

By Kirsten J. Barnes
CCBP Graduate Assistant

The Center for Community-Based Partnerships celebrated its big day on Friday, April 26, at Hotel Capstone on the UA campus, recognizing the year's top projects and scholars, while taking a look back on the University's most successful year ever in the engagement scholarship field.

Here are some of the accomplishments and current and future plans outlined by several speakers at the seventh annual awards program, including Dr. Heather Pleasants, CCBP director of Communty Education (Pleasants gives highlights of 2013 academic year):

"¢ UA became the first non-land-grant institution to host the National Outreach Scholarship Conference, the most important international conference dedicated to engaged scholarship (now known as the Engagement Scholarship Consortium "” ESC), setting records for overall attendance (613, twice the previous conferences' average), for student attendance (145, 115 of whom made presentations), number of states represented (39), colleges and universities (84), and community organizations (47).
"¢ Dr. Samory T. Pruitt was named vice president of the ESC Board of Directors.
"¢ The Parent Leadership Academy was one of only 15 school leadership programs to receive the National School Board Association's Magna Award. Dr. Heather Pleasants, CCBP director of Community Education, is the director of the program.
"¢ The Teacher Leadership Academy, an initiative that will provide professional development for teachers invested in building strong family-school partnerships, will be launched in the coming year.
"¢ Beginning this summer, STEM/Entrepreneurship Camp, which blends the science/technology/engineering/math fields with entrepreneurship will be launched this summer and will include in-service training for teachers.
"¢ Eleven seed fund awards (click here for seed fund award announcement) were announced, up from four last year, aimed at positive change and tangible benefits for schools, organizations and communities across the state and nation and even around the globe.

Dr. Edward Mullins, director of research and communication at CCBP, introduced the various speakers and program segments. "When you see students, faculty and members of the community working together to improve schools, athletic facilities, health, water supplies, to stop bullying, produce more scientists and engineers, those are just a few of the signs of engagement scholarship. But there's more to engaged scholarship than "˜doing things'," he said.

"There is also the research component. Just conducting these projects is not sufficient to qualify as engagement scholarship. Only when teaching, research and service are integrated does true engaged scholarship occur. Only when scholars have collected and analyzed the data and reported the results, i.e. presented and interpreted the evidence, have we closed the circle on engagement scholarship."

Pruitt began the awards portion of the program by announcing an award that surprised the recipient.

"It is an absolute honor and a pleasure for me to present the Distinguished Special Achievement in Engaged Scholarship Award to my friend and colleague, Dr. Joe Benson," Pruitt said. "Joe has been an outstanding advocate for engaged scholarship. He's been here every year to help us give out the awards. In addition to that, over half of the dollars for the seed funds each year have come from Joe's budget."

In accepting his award, Benson said: "I did not see this coming. It's a good thing I came today. I very much appreciate this award and the thoughtful presentation, but the real award goes to you all because this effort started very, very small and there were many, many questions as to whether this [engagement scholarship as an academic movement] was something that could actually succeed.

"Through the hard work of people like Samory (Pruitt), Ed (Mullins), Janet (Griffith), Heather (Pleasants) and all of you, this has grown into a real honest to goodness research effort on this campus," Benson said. "I think The University of Alabama has to be very, very proud for the accomplishments that this initiative has brought. And in my mind this initiative is still in its infancy. I think the really good things are still to come. So, I am very, very pleased to be here today to recognize you for what you do."

Pruitt expressed appreciation for the early critiques and suggestions Dr. Benson made with regard to what is now the leading journal in engagement scholarship, the UA-published Journal of Community Engagement and Scholarship, but in the beginning had some rough edges.

Janet Griffith, assistant provost, as she has done each year, presided over the awards presentations. Following is a summary of those awards:

Distinguished Achievement in Engagement Scholarship "” Faculty/Staff

Dr. Karl Hamner wears many academic and engagement hats. He is the Assistant Dean of Scholarly Affairs for two major campus academic programs, the Capstone College of Nursing and the School of Social Work. He is the person behind the initiation of the UA-Veterans Administration Collaboration, begun in 2007 to increase collaboration and expand research, education and training, including the VA-funded Rural Health Training and Education Project that trains nursing, medical and social work students to serve rural veterans. There is the 2008 Walker Area Transformational Coalition for Health (WATCH), a rural health network addressing health in Walker County. WATCH has received local, state and federal funds to improve health and is now becoming the Health Action Partnership of Walker County, partnering with the United Way of Central Alabama and the Health Action Partnership of Jefferson County. Finally, there is the Holt Community Partnership, which Hamner helped found in 2009. The partnership is dedicated to making Holt a vibrant, healthy and safe community. After the 2011 tornado, the partnership has taken on helping rebuild the community. Hamner co-chaired this year's Holt Community Festival. In addition to his administrative and teaching duties, Hamner is a health researcher, evaluation consultant and a training specialist and has conducted many multicultural health and social research studies. He received his Ph.D. in sociology from the University of California, Los Angeles in 1993.
(Click here to read Dr. Hamner’s acceptance remarks.)

Distinguished Achievement in Engagement Scholarship "” Student

Jackie Brodsky, a Ph.D. candidate in Communication and Information Sciences, got her start in community-engaged scholarship while a master's student helping senior citizens become fluent in information technology at a local senior center. The project sparked her interest in the research/evaluative aspects of engaged scholarship. Today, she is the graduate research assistant for Project ALFA (Accessible Libraries for All), helping prepare 30 master's students to facilitate information access for people with disabilities by creating partnerships with community agencies serving these populations. Brodsky is the author of several peer-reviewed journal articles on accessibility and plans to continue to conduct research in this field as a fulltime faculty member. Brodsky's mentor is Dr. Laurie Bonnici, with whom she has worked on several projects throughout her master's program and whom she credits with inspiring her to concentrate her research in the community-engagement field. They have co-authored one peer-reviewed journal article, and Dr. Bonnici is her dissertation committee chair.
(Click here for Brodsky’s remarks.)

Distinguished Achievement in Engagement Scholarship "” Community Partner

Friends describe Mason Bonner as the ultimately dependable partner for any project, the kind of partner all organizations want on their team. He has worked closely with CCBP on the entrepreneurship education component of the Workforce Innovation in Regional Economic Development (WIRED ) Initiative. He has helped CCBP organize workshops in several rural counties in West Alabama, and he has developed a business plan workshop and competition for students in Lowndes County. He has participated in a teacher-training institute hosted jointly by Alabama and Mississippi REAL programs in which teachers from these states and Georgia received activities-based training and curriculum resources. In addition to his partnership work with CCBP, Bonner is one of the founding members of A Few United Men, a 501(c)3 organization that provides mentoring and tutoring for at-risk youth in West Alabama.

Outstanding Faculty/Staff-Initiated Engagement Efforts

"¢ Dr. Marcus Ashford, associate professor of mechanical engineering. Project title: Rockets and Race Cars. This hands-on approach heightens students' interest in and mastery of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
"¢ Dr. John Giggie, associate professor of history. Project title: Religion and Civil Rights. Students explore the role of religion and African-American churches in the civil rights movement.
"¢ Dr. Jeffrey G. Parker, associate professor of psychology. Project title: Practicum in Positive Youth Development and Civic Engagement. Students learn civic engagement principles to help improve the community of Holt in areas ranging from schools to law enforcement, from courts to at-risk youth.

Outstanding Student-Initiated Engagement Efforts

"¢ Jackie Brodsky, with Dr. Laurie Bonnici, School of Library and Information Studies. Project title: ALFA "“ Accessible Libraries for All. A professor and her protégé developed this program that enables individuals with disabilities to access information in the digital age.
"¢ Fan Yang, School of Social Work. Project title: Heart Touch. This project builds cultural competency for children in the after-school program of Tuscaloosa's One Place. Among the activities was a pen-pal exchange between children here and in China.
"¢ Kelsey Balzli, Jacquie McMahon, Benjie Ladrillono, Julia Gardial, Haley Flanagan, graduate students in advertising and public relations. Project title: "I Can" Anti-Bullying Campaign for Tuscaloosa City Schools. Tuscaloosa middle school students received training in strategies to prevent bullying. They created posters, newsletters, and other means of communication to reach parents, students and faculty to combat the problem.

Outstanding Community Partner-Initiated Engagement Effort

"¢ Rev. Larry W. Corder, Alberta Baptist Church; Rev. Kelvin Croom, College Hill Baptist Church; and Dr. Chandra Clark, instructor in telecommunication and film. Project title: Alberta City History Project. Alberta City ministers formed a partnership with UA's Dr. Chandra Clark to preserve the history of the area following destruction by the April 27, 2011 tornado that devastated the Alberta City community.
"¢ Rev. Richard L. Morgan, Mary Rogers Brooks, Georgia White, Linda O'Rourke and Jane Wells, First African Baptist Church; Rev. Tyshawn Gardner, Phyllis P. Rogers, Erica Walker and Rebecca Hood, Plum Grove Baptist Church; Rev. Kelvin Croom, Marcie McMullen, Jahnese Hobson, Regina Hughes, Rena Heard, Willie Robinson and Jessica McCaskill, College Hill Baptist Church; Dr. Rebecca Kelly, Dr. Pamela Payne Foster, Dr. James King and Dr. Martha Crowther, The University of Alabama; and Marvin Wilson, the Joseph and Lauretta Freeman Foundation. Project title: Saving Lives, A Community-University Faith-Baed Initiative for Health and Well-Being. University health researchers combine forces with local churches to combat illness using faith, scripture and health science. A five-month pilot study completed with three local churches addressed key health concerns such as cancer, obesity and diabetes.
"¢ Rev. Tyshawn Gardner, Plum Grove Baptist Church, and Dr. Karen Baynes-Dunning, associate professor, Human Environmental Sciences. Project title: West Side Scholars Academy. Pastor Gardner and his church collaborated with Dr. Baynes-Dunning to enrich the scholarship of middle school students in Tuscaloosa city and county schools. The students study various academic disciplines and will travel to Costa Rica this summer.

A research poster session, organized by Tommie Syx of the CCBP staff, preceded the awards program. Veteran attendees agreed that it was the largest and best poster session of any of the ones held in conjunction with the awards luncheon. More than 20 posters were on display.

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