Lindquist Award Honors WSU Professors for Community Engagement

OGDEN, Utah – Two innovative Weber State University professors, who have enhanced community and classroom with thoughtful partnerships, have been selected as the John A. Lindquist Award recipients and will be honored at a luncheon March 30, beginning at 12:30 p.m. in Shepherd Union Ballroom B.

This year’s honorees are Azenett Garza, psychology professor, and Becky Jo Gesteland, English professor and interim associate dean of the Telitha E. Lindquist College of Arts & Humanities.

Azenett Garza

For more than a decade, psychology professor Azenett Garza has involved students in community engaged learning through service and research in the Ogden community.

At the request of local organizations, Garza, along with psychology instructor Maria Parrilla de Kokal, and student volunteers evaluated the Ogden City Weed and Seed program and the Utah Basic Skills Competency Test. She helped develop a student-volunteer internship program to promote higher education among Head Start children and their families in the Ogden School District.

In 2013, Garza assumed the role as director of the university’s Community Research Extension (CRE), located at 2955 Harrison Blvd. Ogden, Utah, in the lower level of the United Way/Red Cross building.

Among its responsibilities, CRE provides research services to community organizations such as the Utah Transit Authority, Catholic Community Services, DaVinci Academy, Ogden Police Department and Roy City.

Currently, CRE is helping with United Way’s Ogden United Promise Neighborhood (OUPN) initiative. This federal program is studying how nonprofit organizations and government entities can help transform the community by finding and filling gaps in education and services to families and children in central Ogden.

For the past two and a half years, Garza has served as OUPN’s data management director. Garza and student researchers are responsible for collecting and analyzing longitudinal data that supports the initiative, such as data collected in a door-to-door survey.

“Dr. Garza’s contribution to the Ogden United Promise Neighborhood endeavor is critical for its success, and she has been able to leverage community resources including the support of students in many areas,” wrote Timothy Jackson, the director of OUPN. “I have seen tears brought to Dr. Garza’s eyes more than once when she has seen the success of her beloved students.”

The students’ findings will guide OUPN to implement programs that improve the education and lives of families in most need.

“To see students realize all the things they can be involved in to help those in need in their community and to continue to help and empower the community through community research are most meaningful in my academic career,” Garza said.

Becky Jo Gesteland

English professor Becky Jo Gesteland helps students gain practical experience in technical writing as they partner with non-profit organizations to develop websites, design documents and write grants. In the senior-level, grant-writing course, students work closely with community partners to identify organizational needs; research appropriate funding sources; plan, develop and write grants.

Four of her students are waiting to hear from the Institute of Museum and Library Services about a grant they wrote for a mobile museum. The students partnered with Ogden’s Union Station Foundation to seek funding, so visitors can continue to enjoy displays while Union Station is remodeled.

Her students also have completed technical writing work for the Pioneer Adult Rehabilitation Center (PARC), which employs adults with special needs, YMCA, Ogden Nature Center and Head Start.

“Not only did professor Gesteland go out of her way to connect us to food banks, domestic violence shelters, museums and more, but she also trained us on how best to help them succeed in their efforts,” wrote alumnus Andrew Helms in a nomination letter. “Collaborations that benefited the community and the individuals participating, improved the outlook of our community and inspired a life-long commitment to help others.”

 Thanks to the work of Gesteland and her colleague English professor Shelley Thomas, all six of WSU’s professional and technical writing courses have a community collaboration component.

“Students want to be connected to the community and by creating opportunities for them to address issues of public concern, we expand students’ educational experience, develop better connections with the community at large, and perhaps make our world just a little bit better,” Gesteland said.

Gesteland is also the coordinator for the Engaged Learning Series (ELS) and the Community Engaged Learning Fellows Program. ELS is a university-wide series of events designed to engage students, faculty, staff and community in discussion, debate, dialogue, learning and action around an issue of public concern. For 2015-16, the series is focused on issues of waste.

The award is named for John A. Lindquist, a strong advocate of education and the community, who spent a lifetime supporting Ogden, Weber County and Weber State. Lindquist’s ties to WSU date back to the late 1930s, when he attended Weber College and was a student body officer. Throughout his lifetime, he generously supported cultural, academic, athletic and student activities and programs.

During the 2014-15 school year, 103 professors taught 287 community engaged learning designated courses. Of WSU’s students, 6,554 registered and completed 163,060 service hours through CCEL, worth an estimated $4 million. Many of the 125 community partners, along with faculty and staff involved in engagement, also will be honored at the Lindquist luncheon.

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Allison Barlow Hess, Director of Public Relations
801-626-7948 •


Allison Barlow Hess, Director of Public Relations
801-626-7948 •