OGDEN, Utah – Engaged learning has garnered a Weber State University professor national distinction while also prompting a name change for the university’s Community Involvement Center.
Campus Compact has recognized Brenda Marsteller Kowalewski as a finalist for the 2013 Thomas Ehrlich Civically Engaged Faculty Award. Kowalewski is a sociology professor and director of the WSU center that on July 1 will be renamed the Center for Community Engaged Learning (CCEL) — a change that reflects the spirit and mission of the center.
“Up until now we have been the Community Involvement Center, but involvement is like dating — the parties may not be equally committed — whereas, an engagement signifies a deeper commitment to both the individual and the partnership,” Kowalewski said. “Students want to be engaged rather than just involved. My passion is to facilitate just that — mutually beneficial engagements between campus and community.”
One of the beneficiaries of Kowalewski and CCEL’s work is Youth Impact, a private, non-profit afterschool program that offers Ogden’s inner-city youth a wide variety of educational, social and interpersonal support.
The director, Robb Hall, said Kowalewski made the connection between the university and Youth Impact 15 years ago; he now considers the university a “pillar community partner.”
“Brenda’s sincere approach in dealing with the community and the university’s partners is unprecedented,” he wrote in a nomination support letter. “Our relationship with Weber State University today engages many departments, faculty and university organizations. The university provides us with an average of 80 students per semester in various roles. There is no misunderstanding that the major part of our volunteer core comes from students engaged with civic learning who attend Weber State University.”
According to CCEL, WSU students logged more than 147,971 volunteer hours during 2012-13. The number of students involved in service also tripled in the last six years to nearly 8,000 per year actively participating in community learning, both on and off campus.
Campus Compact has given the Ehrlich Award annually since 1995 to recognize senior, tenured faculty for exemplary leadership in advancing civic learning, supporting community engagement and contributing to the public good. The Ehrlich Award is sponsored by the KPMG Foundation.
“We seek out faculty who are champions for fostering their institution’s commitment to civic engagement and community-based learning,” explained Campus Compact president Maureen Curley. “We are proud to recognize professor Kowalewski’s depth of work and the extraordinary impact she has made in the field, to Weber State and to the community.”
Campus Compact is a national coalition of nearly 1,200 college and university presidents, representing more than 6 million students, who are committed to fulfilling the public purposes of higher education. As the only national higher education association dedicated solely to campus-based civic engagement, Campus Compact promotes public and community service that develops students’ citizenship skills, helps forge effective community/campus partnerships and provides resources and training for a faculty seeking to integrate civic and community-based learning into the curriculum. For more information, visit compact.org.
The winner of this year’s award was Richard Battistoni, professor of political science and public and community service studies at Providence College, Rhode Island. Other finalists were Robbin Crabtree, dean of the College of Arts & Sciences at Fairfield University, Connecticut, and Mary Alice Morgan, senior vice provost for service learning at Mercer University, Georgia.
Kowalewski has been a statewide leader in the Utah Campus Compact. Under her leadership, WSU has appeared on the national President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll every year since its inception in 2006.
She and the other finalists have been invited to participate on a panel at the annual Association of American Colleges and Universities conference in January, where they will be recognized officially.
Visit weber.edu/wsutoday for more news about Weber State University.