WSU Social Issues Researcher Honored with Lindquist Award

OGDEN, Utah – For his impactful research, commitment to the community  and dedication to students, Alexander Lancaster has been honored with the John A. Lindquist Award for 2022 given through the Center for Community Engaged Learning (CCEL).

CCEL has also selected two students for the Ivory Prize, which recognizes a commitment to leadership and community engagement. The honorees, as well as community partners, faculty, staff and students involved in community engagement, will be recognized during the CCELebration Banquet and Symposium, March 31 from 4-6 p.m. in the Shepherd Union Ballrooms.

Lindquist Award

The grandson of Cuban immigrants, Alexander Lancaster, says he learned very early the importance of a supportive community in times of need, so he has made community service an integral part of his university responsibilities. 

As an associate professor in the Department of Communication, Lancaster directs the interpersonal and small group communication courses. In collaboration with CCEL, students in those courses provide more than 5,600 hours of service each semester. Lancaster said his students have helped community members experiencing a variety of social and access issues, including homelessness, food insecurity and the need for after-school childcare.

“Community engagement empowers students to make a difference in their local and broader communities, while also learning valuable skills that will aid them in their academic and professional lives,” Lancaster said.

For example, at Lancaster’s urging, Mitch Whitfield, a Master of Professional Communication student and graduate mentor, worked with a team of the research students, to address the challenge of improving the relationship and experience for birth mothers during the adoption process. They worked closely with a Utah adoption agency to present their research-based recommendations.

“Professor Lancaster has provided me the opportunity to give back to a community that I initially overlooked,” Whitfield wrote in a nomination letter. “I am a better leader, student and member of society because of him.”

With Lancaster’s guidance, Whitfield also conducted research on the online communication methods used by right-wing social groups. His presentation was accepted at the 106th National Communication Association Convention.

In addition to his teaching, Lancaster is completing his fourth year as the faculty co-advisor to Weber State’s Social Issues Team, which offers undergraduate students the opportunity to conduct original research based on community partner needs. Students in the program have completed research projects for Weber-Morgan Health Department, Ogden Police, Forever Bound Adoption Agency, and the Ogden Civic Action Network (OgdenCAN). The applied research projects have significant implications for participating community partners. The research findings also help guide community engagement opportunities because they indicate what issues are timely, relevant and most important to community members.

The team recently presented the Lt. Gov.’s Office with the results of a study on perceptions of voting systems in Utah. 

“I have found a new appreciation for the amazing work our dedicated students can do and for the good they bring to others when this work involves direct service, engaged scholarship or civic engagement within their communities,” Lancaster said.

Lindquist Award

John A. Lindquist was a strong advocate of education and the community and 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.

“The Center for Community Engaged Learning is honored to house the John A. Lindquist award and is grateful to Kathryn Lindquist for establishing the award to recognize her father's legacy,” said Becky Jo Gesteland, CCEL executive director. “This year we're pleased to present the Lindquist Award to a civically engaged scholar who specializes in community-based research. Alex Lancaster reflects this award’s intent in every way.”

Ivory Prize

The Clark and Christine Ivory Foundation initiated the Ivory Prize in 2020 for Excellence in Student Leadership and Community Engagement. Ivory Prize awardees receive a cash prize and a donation toward their cause, initiative and/or team. A large group of outstanding candidates was nominated, and the two recipients were selected by a committee with representation from CCEL, Student Involvement & Leadership, Access & Diversity, and the Dean of Students Office.

Kaila Lemons 

For two years, Kaila Lemons has served as Food Recovery Network president and Weber State’s first campus Zero Waste Coordinator. In these roles she has coordinated 50 volunteers who have collaborated with groups across campus including Athletics and Residence Halls to generate less waste and increase recycling. They have also collected and shared nearly 2,000 pounds of food, which otherwise would have gone to waste, with Lantern House, northern Utah’s largest homeless shelter. 

Lemons has also managed and recruited volunteers for a variety of sustainability events such as a campus clothing and supply swap, bicycle fix-it workshop, tree plantings, xeriscaping projects and composting workshops.

“As a sustainable leader on campus, I have learned to think through the lens of supporting not just a livable environment, but also an equitable society and viable economy,” Lemons said.

Maria Rios Cabrera

Maria Rios Cabrera, a senior with a double major in mechanical engineering and economics and a minor in math, has a passion for helping students with learning disabilities.

Cabrera serves as the Student Coordinator for the CATT (creating achievement through transition) program, in the Disability Services Center, which helps students with learning disabilities transition from high school to college. Cabrera understands the challenges, at age 9, she immigrated from Honduras and struggled with the language, culture and her own learning challenges.

She and her team of mentors have provided support and information to students in 11 high schools in the Davis, Morgan and Weber school districts.

“We all know how difficult the transition from high school to college is, now add a learning disability to the mix — it almost seems impossible to go through,” Cabrera said. “The CATT Program provides students with not only the tools and support they need to go through this transition, but also provides examples of students with disabilities who have thrived and excelled in college. Our mentors are one of a kind because they have broken down barriers so others don’t have to.” 

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Allison Barlow Hess, Public Relations director
801-626-7948 •


Becky Jo Gesteland, CCEL executive director
801-626-7737 •