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Council Recognizes Excellence in Community Engagement

collage of award winners
Clockwise from left, Dr. Kevin W. Whitaker, Katie Johnson, Dr. Jeff Gray, Dr. Michael J. Daria and Sophia Xiong.

UA’s Council on Community-Based Partnerships recently recognized the outstanding achievements in community-engaged scholarship through its annual Excellence in Community Engagement Awards, announced virtually.

The awards are a culmination of the efforts of faculty and students working to fulfill the University’s teaching, research and service mission through partnerships with community groups.

Through granting seed funds, graduate fellowships, undergraduate scholarships, travel grants and a variety of other acknowledgements, the program annually recognizes faculty, staff, community partners and students who work to change the lives of others through their engagement research efforts.

“I want to express my gratitude to the Graduate School and the Office for Research and Economic Development for their support of the awards program,” said College of Education Dean Peter Hlebowitsh, chair of the executive committee of the Council. “Without their interest in and generous financial support of the University’s community engagement efforts, much of the funds for these Council awards would not exist.”

Top award recipients:

  • Outstanding Special Achievement in Community Engagement Award – Dr. Kevin W. Whitaker, executive vice president and provost, was recognized for his superior leadership, exemplary efforts and outstanding vision.
  • Zachary David Dodson Memorial Endowed Scholarship – Katie Johnson, a Rainsville native and junior majoring in anthropology with minors in Latin and ancient Greek, serves as a tutor for international scholars, helping them learn conversational English and understand American language and culture.
  • Distinguished Community Engaged Scholar, Faculty/Staff – Dr. Jeff Gray, a professor of computer science, is a national leader in computer science education and has worked tirelessly to bring computer science education to public schools over the past 20 years, with special attention to bringing these skills to underserved populations.
  • Distinguished Community-Engaged Scholar, Student – Sophia Xiong, a master’s student from Beijing, works as a photographer, videographer, video editor and writer for the Center for Community-Based Partnerships and has become one of the department’s most valuable assistants.
  • Distinguished Community-Engaged Scholar, Community Partner – Dr. Michael J. Daria, superintendent of Tuscaloosa City Schools, was recognized for his strong support of students seeking higher education.

Twenty-five additional students, faculty, staff and community partners received awards, including:

  • Outstanding Community Partner-Initiated Engagement Effort – Ann-Brooks Morrissette, Freddie Stokes, Grant Zarzour, Matt Zarzour and Frances Ford
  • Outstanding Student-Initiated Engagement Effort – Dr. John Baker, Piper Daniels, Ian Noonan, Dr. Jen Nickelson and Devin O’neal
  • Outstanding Faculty/Staff-Initiated Engagement Effort – Christine Jeana Yates, Dr. Laura M. Hopson and Dr. Karl Hamner
  • Seed Fund Awards – Dr. Betty Key, Dr. Carol Donovan, Dr. Holly Horan and Dr. Joy Douglas
  • Travel Fund Awards – Dr. Alison Hooper, Dr. Cheryl Fondren, Dr. Tracey S. Hodges and Dr. Joyce “Jen” Nickelson
  • Graduate Student Fellowship – Jillian Maxcy-Brown, Kefentse Kubanga, Jasmine Nguyen and Yan Luo

Although the 14th annual awards ceremony was postponed amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the Council plans to honor recipients in person at a later date. More details about the award winners can be found on the Council Awards website.