Washington, DC – 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 2022 W.K. Kellogg Foundation Community Engagement Scholarship Award. As regional award winners, the University of Georgia, the University of Texas at San Antonio, the University of Vermont, and the University of Wisconsin-Madison will compete for the national C. Peter Magrath Community Engagement Scholarship Award, which will be announced at the 2022 APLU Annual Meeting 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 and achieve broader impacts in their communities. The national award is named for C. Peter Magrath, APLU president from 1992 to 2005.
“Congratulations to this year’s regional winners of the Kellogg Community Engagement Scholarship Awards and our exemplary projects,” said APLU President Mark Becker. “Community engagement is a critical part of public universities’ mission and we’re pleased to highlight the work of institutions that are engaging communities in need. From the underserved areas of their communities and states to overlooked regions of the world, public research universities are engaging communities to solve the most pressing problems they face.”
The community engagement awards also recognize universities with exemplary projects. Michigan State University, Texas Tech University, the University of Louisville, and West Virginia University are receiving recognition for outstanding efforts in Community Engagement Scholarship. Both exemplary projects and Magrath Award finalists will be showcased at the 2022 Engagement Scholarship Consortium’s Annual Conference taking place this week in Athens, Georgia.
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 2022 National Engagement Scholarship Conference.
Background on regional winners
University of Georgia
The Archway Partnership is a University of Georgia (UGA) public service and outreach unit through which faculty members are based in communities to help stakeholders address locally-identified critical issues. The faculty member, called an Archway Professional (AP), facilitates meetings where community members agree on and prioritize their needs. The AP then reaches out to UGA schools and colleges for expertise the communities need. Often UGA faculty and students work with select communities to address their challenges. Eight communities are active at any one time over a period of years. These partnerships have led to the involvement of over 200 university faculty in Archway communities since the program began in 2005 and over $20 million in community and research grants since 2009, including a USDA grant of nearly $1 million to improve management of chronic health conditions in rural Georgia through telemedicine. The partnership has helped tackle community challenges such as high rates of diabetes and hypertension, increasing access to mental health care, and small business development in rural areas.
The University of Texas at San Antonio
The University of Texas at San Antonio’s (UTSA) Westside Community Partnership is an effort aimed at improving the lives of residents on the Westside of San Antonio, a community that was redlined, faces economic, health, educational and housing disparities, and is now the target for displacement and gentrification. The partnership connects UTSA faculty with Westside nonprofits, schools, and small businesses to jointly work to improve the wellbeing of residents. Working with community stakeholders on community-identified challenges, the Westside Community Partnership has spearheaded efforts to preserve affordable housing availability, bridge the digital divide with small and microbusinesses, and uncover unmet estate planning needs of residents and help fill those needs. Faculty have worked to create models for rehabilitating affordable housing in a cost-effective way, helped bridge the digital divide facing businesses as they applied for urgently needed pandemic-relief funds, and provided research data to the community to inform policymaking in the areas they’re facing. UTSA also created the Westside Scholarship, a scholarship program exclusively for students from the Westside, to boost student success.
University of Vermont
The University of Vermont’s Agroecology and Livelihoods Collaborative (ALC) is a community of practice working to help transform current food systems with ecologically sound and socially just practices. The ALC engages with small- to medium-sized diversified, organic farmers and nonprofits in Vermont, smallholder coffee farmers in Mexico, and others around the world, through in-depth participatory action research. This approach has been used to support farmers and their organizations to engage with transformative agroecological research in projects across Latin America, Africa, and the United States. The ALC has worked collaboratively with a network of Vermont farmers, food producers, and non-profit organizations, conducting critical research on ecologically viable farming practices and just food systems. Through a transdisciplinary approach, the ALC has integrated science and scholarship from a wide range of disciplines—ecology, sociology, agronomy, entomology, soil health, economics, and others – to advance ecologically sound and socially just practices.
University of Wisconsin-Madison
The University of Wisconsin-Madison’s UniverCity Year program partners with communities across Wisconsin to tackle community-identified challenges with expertise and resources from the university. The UniverCity Year program is a three-year partnership, starting with the community identifying challenges they want to work on and priorities to move forward, followed by university-based experts designing research-to-practice approaches for addressing community needs. Because problems are community-identified, projects span a wide array of challenges including transportation, housing, health, agriculture, childcare, economic development, and the arts. Green County, for example, asked UW-Madison to help address a host of challenges in areas such as enhancing government operations, community and economic development, health, and environmental sustainability over a three-year period in cities, villages, and towns across the county. Thanks to its partnership with the university, the county developed a dashboard for tracking opioid use, launched a navigator to improve residents’ access to mental health resources and care, helped start a business development center, and drastically improved energy efficiency in the area’s schools. Over the last six years, the UniverCity Year effort has engaged 20 communities across Wisconsin and completed over 200 projects with more than 1,500 students and 80 faculty.
Background on the exemplary projects
Michigan State University
Michigan State University has partnered with civil society organizations to address stigma and discrimination against LGBTQ people in the global south and provide urgently needed access to HIV-related medical care. Co-led by MSU Professor of Psychology Robin Lin Miller and MPact Global Action for Gay Men’s Health and Rights, the partnership’s objective is to fill gaps in knowledge on effective community-led strategies to address the stigma, discrimination, and violence that impede gay and bisexual men’s and transgender women’s access to HIV prevention and care and contribute to unchecked infection rates in middle- and low-income countries where lack of access to care has contributed to the largest – an increasing – share of new HIV infections worldwide among at-risk populations. The signature project of the partnership, Project ACT, was a transnational effort to challenge barriers to access to HIV care in Africa and the Caribbean. Project ACT included LGBT-led civil society organization co-collaborators in Burundi, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, the Dominican Republic, Ghana, Jamaica, and Zimbabwe. Miller and her partners have made notable achievements, including the establishment of a national sensitivity training calendar in the Dominican Republic, creation of community-led healthcare stigma monitoring systems in Burundi, Cameroon, Ghana, and Zimbabwe, and community-healthcare provider partnerships enabling expanded access to affirming HIV care in Ghana, Cameroon, and Zimbabwe.
Texas Tech University
In 2014, the Lubbock Independent School District identified a lack of writing skills as a significant barrier to high school students’ future opportunity and success in higher education with a disproportionate impact on students from underrepresented groups. The district reached out to Texas Tech for help addressing the persistent challenge of writing skills facing students. Texas Tech’s College of Education created a partnership with the district to co-develop a sustainable, evidence-based solution to help teachers better meet their students’ needs. Each year, faculty, an instructional coach, and teachers co-develop research, analyze data, and leverage their findings to improve learning outcomes. Researchers have shared the learnings from this work widely, publishing manuscripts with findings from their work and papers in peer-reviewed journals. Now in its fifth year, the project has gained critical insights on helping teachers better serve students struggling with developing writing skills and closing equity gaps. In all, the partnership has impacted 20 teachers and over 2,500 students, leading to steady gains in student writing.
The University of Louisville
Seeking to improve access to healthcare, the University of Louisville partnered with the Kentucky Racing Health and Welfare Fund to provide healthcare to uninsured workers in the Kentucky horse racing industry. Many workers are non-English speaking with little access to and support finding healthcare. The partnership provides primary care, women’s healthcare, and mental healthcare to workers and their families as well as care focused on preventing costly chronic diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, and asthma. The university engages students in its Latin American and Latino program to help with translation, its dental students to provide care to patients with medically complex cases, and its nursing students in providing care alongside nurse practitioners who manage the program. During the pandemic, the program also played an indispensable role in addressing vaccine hesitancy among the population it serves.
West Virginia University
Seeking to increase access to education for people in prison, West Virginia University and the Appalachian Prison Book Project (APBP) have partnered for over 18 years to create new opportunities for learning. Higher education contributes to a sense of purpose and generates life-long benefits. For those in prison, higher education increases the likelihood of employment post-release and, according to a RAND Corporation analysis, reduces recidivism by 43 percent. West Virginia University English faculty member Dr. Katy Ryan led the development of credit-bearing courses and a degree pathway for people in prison. Her research focuses on the history and literature of incarceration in the U.S. To date, APBP has mailed over 50,000 books to people in prison and showcases the work of writers in prison. Over 150 West Virginia students have participated in and received credit for courses taken in prison and more than 300 students have volunteered in the program.