In recognition of their extraordinary community outreach initiatives, four APLU member institutions have been selected as regional recipients of the 2023 W.K. Kellogg Foundation Community Engagement Scholarship Award. As regional award winners, North Carolina State University, The Ohio State University, the University of Pittsburgh, and Texas A&M University will compete for the national C. Peter Magrath Community Engagement Scholarship Award, which will be announced during the APLU Annual Meeting in November. In this post, APLU spotlights Texas A&M University.
Since 2014, Texas A&M University (TAMU) has worked alongside the Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services, a non-profit in Houston, to jointly investigate and document persistent vulnerabilities stemming from chronic pollution, natural hazards, as well as chemical and non-chemical stressors. Engaging local high school students and teachers, the partnership has collected data on a range of complex environmental issues, educated residents on risks, and developed solutions to reduce exposure and contamination. The project, which was initially sponsored by university start-up funds, allowed TAMU and Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services to build trust, engage the community, and explore community needs before developing proposals for additional funding.
Additionally, the university invested in a community engagement program, Texas Target Communities. The research validated community concerns by revealing increased risk of exposure to heavy metals in drinking water and standing surface water, as well as reduced general physical health scores. To address these risks, classes of TAMU students and community members codeveloped landscape architecture and green solutions based on environmental and health assessments and community desires.
This collaborative work eventually resulted in a federal Superfund Center and $32 million in research on the health impacts of toxic pollutants.