CCBP Recognizes Top Engagement Scholars, Awards Seed Funds
- May 1st, 2014
- in News
By Kirsten J. Barnes
CCBP Graduate Assistant
The University of Alabama’s efforts to engage communities and change lives, the motto of the Center for Community-Based Partnerships, was evident during the Eighth Annual CCBP Community Engagement Awards Luncheon held April 18 at the Bryant Conference Center.
“We all know that to change the world you have to start the change in your part of the world,” said Dr. Samory Pruitt, vice president for the Division of Community Affairs. “I think what we’ve seen in the projects that have been recognized today are efforts to change our part of the world. I want to congratulate all of the people who received awards, all of those who presented posters and all of those who have received seed funds. You are indeed engaging communities and changing lives.”
The annual luncheon is a celebration of engagement scholarship, which involves public universities providing educational support to community organizations and municipalities as a means to create sustainable solutions to real community problems in partnership with the communities, which play significant roles in the collaboration.
Before lunch, researchers who will receive seed funds for their projects for the upcoming fiscal year were announced. Three awards were presented. The first was to Adriane Sheffield, an educational psychology doctoral student. Sheffield partnered with University Place Elementary School to create a program called “Developing S.T.A.R.S.: Strength, Talents, and Resources in Students.”
Another doctoral student, Calia Torres, in clinical health psychology, was awarded funds for “A Cultural Adaptation of Pain Management Treatment for Hispanics with Chronic Pain.” Torres partnered with Whatley Health Services to help their workers gain a greater understanding of the pain needs of Hispanic patients.
The last award was presented to Drs. Michelle Montgomery and Paige Johnson, both assistant professors in the Capstone School of Nursing. The two partnered with Belinda Craig in Pickens County to create “Assessing Community Readiness for and Attitudes to Health Promotion and Disease Prevention in Pickens County,” which focuses on obesity.
This year’s Seed Fund Committee Chair was Dr. Laurie Bonnici, an associate professor in the School of Library & Information Studies, who knows first-hand the power of a seed fund. “Dr. Bonicci is the poster child for this program,” said Dr. Ed Mullins, emcee of the awards program. Mullins is a retired dean of the School of Communication and Information Sciences and currently CCBP’s director of research and communication. “A few years ago we gave her a few bucks – and I mean a very small number of dollars – and she turned them into almost nine hundred thousand dollars.
Bonicci received her award five years ago, after reading about the Seed Funds Program in a university announcement. She applied for the initial grant to fund a program targeting senior citizens for computer literacy training.
“Let’s face it, at 40 it all starts going downhill,” said Bonnici who took her $5,000 and evaluated the disconnection between seniors and technology. “My students went out into the community and taught seniors computing. This allowed them to stay connected with their children and grandchildren.”
Bonicci took her data and turned it into a proposal for a larger project and her efforts were rewarded with the 2014 Association of Library and Information Science Education Research Grant.
“We would not have been able to do that had it not been for the seed funds,” Bonicci said, adding that several of her former students have since graduated and begun similar projects in their individual communities, all of which proves that “My university believes in me and is investing in me.”
In addition to the award presentations, one of the highlights of the event is a keynote speech from an expert on engagement scholarship. This year was no exception, featuring Dr. Katy Campbell, dean of the University of Alberta Faculty of Extension, where the 2014 Engagement Scholarship Consortium Conference will be held.
“Much of what we characterize as engaged scholarship is really supported by units or department or faculty or continuing education,” Campbell said, explaining how her university operates.
However, unlike many American universities, the first president of the University of Alberta, Henry Marshal Tory, redefined the purpose of his public university in 1912. “Tory was a passionate Methodist minister, and for him access to higher education was a matter of social justice,” Campbell said. “Access not just for the sons of the wealthy or the political elite, but for the whole people. He said the modern state university is a people’s institution. The people demand that knowledge shall not be a concern of the scholars alone, but the uplifting of the people shall be its final goal.”
Campbell said that at Alberta the faculty has always been charged with “creating knowledge for the people to help the people” and has operated under the premise that educators should go to the people with information instead of waiting for the people to come to the university for knowledge.
She said proof of the value of the movement started by Tory can be seen throughout the province, because the university’s knowledge has been used to solve problems in exploited fishing and farming communities and in many other ways.
In Alberta, Campbell said engagement scholarship does more than share information and teach people to start and manage crops; it is the engine of a social movement.
“The most difficult task (the first educators) found was to peacefully resolve local conflict and to persuade people about the benefits of working together toward a common goal, breaking with the old patterns of passivity and independence,” Campbell said.
This is why she knows that engagement scholarship can change lives in other areas of academia. For instance, in Alberta, the university is now developing programs in legal aid and other areas. “People need access to what their rights are, and what the next steps are in the process,” Campbell said challenging the audience to take on all types of problems throughout the community.
This year UA recognized students, faculty and staff members who have developed engaged scholarship projects that encompass education, healthcare, economics, science and culture.
“Much of the success of this annual program and CCBP in general can be credited to Community Affairs Vice President Dr. Samory T. Pruitt,” Mullins said after the program. “Dr. Pruitt has been vice president now for 10 years. He also holds the position of vice president of the Board of Directors of the Engagement Scholarship Consortium and will assume the role of president in 2016. That is a special honor because Dr. Pruitt will succeed the legendary Hi Fitzgerald of Michigan State, the only president the organization has ever had. Of the many distinguished community-engagement leaders who could have been selected, the board chose our Dr. Pruitt.”