Washington, D.C. — In recognition of their extraordinary community engagement initiatives, the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) today announced that four of its member universities have been selected as regional winners of the 2021 W.K. Kellogg Foundation Community Engagement Scholarship Award. As regional winners, the University of California, Los Angeles, the University of Minnesota, University of North Carolina at Greensboro, and Virginia Tech will compete for the national C. Peter Magrath Community Engagement Scholarship Award, which will be announced in November.
The C. Peter Magrath Community Engagement Scholarship Award includes a sculpture and $20,000 prize. The three other regional winners will each receive a $5,000 prize to further their work.
Since 2007, APLU and the Engagement Scholarship Consortium, with support from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, have partnered to honor the engagement scholarship and partnerships of four-year public universities. The award recognizes programs that demonstrate how colleges and universities have redesigned their learning, discovery, and engagement missions to deepen their partnerships to achieve broader impacts in their communities. The national award is named for C. Peter Magrath, APLU president from 1992 to 2005.
The community engagement awards also include a class of exemplary designees. East Carolina University and Texas A&M University are exemplary designees receiving recognition for outstanding efforts. Both exemplary projects and Magrath Award finalists will be showcased at the virtual 2021 Engagement Scholarship Consortium’s Annual Conference in October.
“Congratulations to the winners of the 2021 Kellogg Community Engagement Awards and our exemplary designees,” said APLU President Peter McPherson. “Public research universities have a unique role in addressing the challenges facing their communities and we’re pleased to highlight the excellent work of institutions on the leading edge of this work. They are harnessing the immense talent and assets to tackle complex challenges in their communities.”
A team of community engagement professionals from public research universities judged this round of the award. A second team will pick the national winner following presentations at the 2021 National Engagement Scholarship Conference.
University of California, Los Angeles
UCLA’s Congo Basin Initiative (CBI) engages 12 academic units across seven divisions and schools to advance research and education engagement in the Congo Basin. Founded in 2015, CBI also serves as a regional nexus and innovation hub in Africa for interdisciplinary research and education, focused on developing solutions to critical issues facing the Congo Basin. The initiative cocreates programs with African academic institutions and local communities, providing an equitable model to the historically extractive approach to scholarship in Africa. CBI works with farmers to develop agroforestry systems to reforest degraded land, increase food production using native species, and provide new sources of income. In response to a request from an indigenous community that the initiative has collaborated with for years, CBI worked with elders to develop a School for Local and Indigenous Knowledge to ensure their living knowledge of the rainforest is passed down to younger generations, and is used to protect the forest they have called home for millennia. Additionally, CBI research has advanced the state of knowledge on the region, producing 40 peer-review articles in the past five years.
University of Minnesota
The University of Minnesota’s Robert J. Jones Urban Research and Outreach-Engagement Center (UROC) advances place-based, collaborative scholarly activities to cultivate untapped assets in North Minneapolis neighborhoods. Though these neighborhoods are asset-rich, they have been disproportionately impacted by systems and practices fostering a lack of investment, violence, out-of-home children placement, mass imprisonment, historic trauma, and lost human potential. Working with stakeholders in the community, UROC advances community-identified areas of community health and wellness, education and lifelong learning, and community and economic development. All UROC projects are action-focused and required to be initiated in collaboration with community partners. UROC is currently home to 62 academic projects involving 100 faculty from 14 colleges, 398 students, 202 staff, 370 community partners, and over 8,200 community members.
University of North Carolina at Greensboro
UNCG is recognized for its multipronged approach to increasing access to culturally responsive scholarship and community engagement. Through initiatives such as the Immigrant Health ACCESS Project (IHAP), part of the UNCG Center for New North Carolinians (CNNC), UNCG has helped create multi-directional pathways of health care access to marginalized communities. IHAP reaches over 700 uninsured immigrant and refugee adults in Greater Greensboro each year. CNNC is transforming refugee and immigrant services as it also transforms understanding and scholarship about the issues facing these communities. CNNC students, faculty, and community research fellows have contributed 25 peer-reviewed publications and over 20 practitioner-oriented publications and reports.
Seeing a gaping void in autism services in the rural southwest part of the state, Virginia Tech created the Virginia Tech Autism Clinic & Center for Autism Research (VTAC/CAR) and partnered with Mount Rogers Community Services (MRCS) to extend Autism Spectrum Disorder assessment, intervention, and education to underserved populations via a mobile unit and, later, telehealth services. The clinic, one of the only autism specialty clinics and research centers in this region of Appalachia, empowers individuals touched by autism through access, education, evidence-based services, and research. Annually, the Blacksburg clinic serves about 60 individuals with autism, and their families, with psychotherapies and support and provides diagnostic assessments to about 50 more. Since 2018, the mobile clinic traveled more than 7,600 miles and served more than 40 families.
East Carolina University
Anchored and administered by East Carolina University, the North Carolina Agromedicine Institute is a partnership between North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University (NCA&T), North Carolina State University (NCSU) and numerous other community stakeholders. NCAI leverages ECU’s strengths in medicine, nursing and allied health with expertise in agriculture and Extension led by the state’s land-grant campuses. Community partners include rural healthcare providers, state and federal agencies, commodity associations, insurance companies, and faith-based organizations. The institute identifies issues relevant to fishers, farmers, and foresters, provide feedback on programs, and are boots-on-the-ground for NCAI. More than 10,000 individuals are served annually through the effort, including students, agricultural workers, and families as well as employees of organizations providing services to agricultural communities. NCAI convenes conversations and disseminates community-engaged scholarship relevant to fishers, farmers, and foresters. Community partners laud the institute for success in bringing people together and building bridges between universities and communities.
Texas A&M University
The Texas Target Communities (TxTC) program partners with rural cities, counties, and underserved neighborhoods in urbanized areas to expand leadership and planning capacity. TxTC’s partnership with Nolanville, Texas began in 2014 to assist in developing their first comprehensive plan. With little staff and financial capacity, the small city with roughly 3,500 residents implemented 96 actions, which they attribute to the participatory planning process and set a precedent for inclusion and action. The planning process sparked a cascading effect of community participation, leading to new grant awards, action, and success. Partnering with the university, the city then launched an initiative named ENDEAVR to re-envision “smart” city solutions in small towns with students from a wide range of disciplines. To take one example, TxTC implemented an effort to bring a mobile telemedicine facility to support low-income and disabled residents. Through service-learning and engaged research opportunities, TxTC has facilitated more than 100 community meetings in almost 50 courses with nearly 100 faculty members and 600 students since 2013 alone.
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