Council Recognizes Outstanding Engaged Scholarship in 18th Annual Excellence Awards

by Dr. Elisabetta Zengaro
Communications Specialist, Division of Community Affairs

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — The Council on Community-Based Partnerships recognized University of Alabama students, faculty and staff, as well as community partners, for their achievements in community-engaged scholarship during the 18th Annual Excellence in Community Engagement Awards on April 11 at the Bryant Conference Center Sellers Auditorium. 

“This is a special time for us to lift up, identify, and salute those who are doing their part to help us in building and sustaining relationships between what we do here at The University of Alabama and throughout the community,” said Dr. George Daniels, associate professor in the Department of Journalism and Creative Media and chair of the Council’s Excellence in Community Engagement Recognition Committee. “Today we are focusing on the outstanding work that’s happening on the part of our faculty, on the part of our staff, on the part of our students, and, most importantly, on the part of our community partners when it comes to community-engaged scholarship.”

The day began with breakfast and an Engaged Scholarship Showcase where faculty, staff and students shared their research and experiences with community-engaged scholarship and teaching.

Before the luncheon, attendees had the opportunity to view research posters on display from UA faculty, staff and students. This year’s poster award recipients are Jennifer Baggett, Dr. Leigh Ann Bray Dayton, Dr. Janet Brown, Dr. Todd Davis, Savannah Frickey, Edwin Lee, Ella Marie Maggio, Jacob T. Peterson and Dr. Elisabetta Zengaro.

Dr. Drew Pearl, director of community engagement research and publications for the Center for Community-Based Partnerships, recognized the 2023–2024 cohorts of the Emerging Community Engagement Scholars, Community-Engaged Learning Fellows, and Public Engagement Learning Community. 

Emily Locke, a doctoral student in anthropology and graduate research assistant to Pearl, followed, recognizing the 2023–2024 members of the SCOPE Leadership Academy, which seeks to develop students’ leadership in engaged scholarship. 

The Council also awards seed funding, travel funding and graduate fellowships to support community-engaged research.


Seed funding was awarded for two projects:

Dr. Luciana Giorgio, assistant professor of social work, for Hispanic Women’s Mental Health Photovoice Project

Dr. Kristina McDonald, associate professor of psychology, for Leveraging Adolescent and Community Values and Strengths to Promote Healthy Relationships and Adolescent Well-Being

Dr. Sara Sanders, assistant research professor in the Department of Special Education and Multiple Abilities was the recipient of this year’s travel fund award to present her research at the Kent State University International Summit on Learning and Behavioral Health.


Three faculty members were awarded Graduate Fellowships for 2024–2025:

Dr. Courtney Helfrecht, assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology, for Adiposity in Alabama’s adolescent athletes: Is it something in the water? Master’s student Morenike Samuel will assist Helfrecht.

Dr. Kristina McDonald, associate professor in the Department of Psychology, for Leveraging adolescent and community values and strengths to promote healthy relationships and adolescent well-being. Doctoral student Korina Odom will assist McDonald. 

Dr. Jessica Wallace, Assistant Professor in the College of Human Environmental Sciences, for Using a multifaceted approach to understand concussion and improve brain health trajectories in adolescent football athletes in Alabama. Doctoral student Jihyun Oh will assist Wallace.

Sixteen individuals received Excellence in Community-Engaged Scholarship awards in three different areas.


Engaged Scholarship awardees included:

Dr. Janet Brown and Dr. Leigh Ann Bray Dayton, both assistant professors in the Capstone College of Nursing, for On Track to Wellness

Dr. Despina Stavrinos, professor and director of the Institute of Social Science Research, for Community Outreach Program for Teen Drivers

Dr. Yuanzhen Shao, assistant professor in the Department of Mathematics, for MATHCOUNTS-Tuscaloosa

Jennifer Baggett, student, for A Community-Engaged Approach to Technology for Senior Adults

Gemma Hodgkiss, student, for Supporting Rural Health Care Through Pre-Med Student Partnerships

Kenneth Kelly, student, for The Oakdale News

Carly Titus, student, for the UA World Games

Tesney Davis and the Tuscaloosa City Schools, community, for the New Heights Community Resource Center


Engaged Teaching and Learning awardees included:

Dr. Serena Blount, associate director of undergraduate studies in the Department of English, for developing, nurturing, and sustaining new community learning engagements between community partners and students in the Department of English

Dr. Steven Weinman, assistant professor in the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering, for his work to educate students and the surrounding community about converting waste plastic products into valuable secondary products


Civic Engagement awardees included:

Rolland Grady and Emily Adcock, students, for their work in campus civic engagement

Dr. Elle Shaaban-Magaña and Dr. Jaclyn Northrup, executive director and assistant director, respectively, the Women and Gender Resource Center, for their collaborative work with campus and community partners that seeks to empower women to not only be leaders in the campus community, but to also see themselves as civic leaders

Dr. Irem Sengul Orgut, assistant director at the Institute of Data and Analytics in the Culverhouse College of Business, for her leadership related to the UPWARD (Underrepresented Populations Workgroup for Research and Development) Initiative.


Tanisia Tucker, a junior majoring in public health, received the 2024–2025 Zachary David Dodson Endowed Scholarship in recognition of her involvement with UA’s Center for Community-Based Partnerships’ community education programs.

The 2024 Distinguished Community-Engaged Scholar Award recipients are Dr. Carol Donovan, professor of Literacy Education and director of the Belser Parton Literacy Center; Ruchie Pathak, a doctoral student in the Department of Geography; and Judge Lillie Jones Osborne, community partner.

Bruce Behringer, retired deputy commissioner for continuous improvement and training for the Tennessee State Department of Health, received the Distinguished Special Achievement in Community Engagement award in recognition of his commitment to improving rural healthcare outcomes through the field of community-engaged scholarship.

For a complete list of the winning projects and more information about award recipients, please visit