University of Vermont

UVM Faculty Connor, Woodruff Win Engaged Educator Award

Connor and Woodruff
Faculty members David Conner and Kate Woodruff teach UVM's Cabot Marketing Challenge course, which pairs groups of students with socially responsible, local businesses to develop targeted outreach and marketing plans. (Photo: Andy Duback)

UVM faculty members David Conner and Kate Woodruff have won the Vermont Campus Compact Engaged Educator Award for 2014. This state-wide award recognizes “faculty, staff, or other campus leaders who are committed to advancing the engagement agenda on their campus” and who demonstrate long-term commitment to, and demonstrable impact in, their engagement. Conner and Woodruff were chosen from a pool of candidates representing all eighteen member institutions of Vermont Campus Compact. They will receive this award at the Vermont Campus Compact Engaged Campus Forum on April 4. 

Both are faculty in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences’ Department of Community Development & Applied Economics (CDAE), where they demonstrate a fervent commitment to providing students with community engaged learning opportunities within their courses, while leveraging UVM resources for the development of a robust, sustainable local economy and non-profit sector.

Since 2011, they have joined forces to create and teach the Cabot Marketing Challenge, a designated service-learning course that brings together students and local businesses, with financial support from the Cabot Creamery Cooperative. The course pairs groups of students with socially responsible, local businesses and non-profit organizations to develop unique, targeted outreach and marketing plans, the most promising of which are then funded and implemented with grants from Cabot.

Targeting public communication and other CDAE majors, Conner and Woodruff’s Cabot Marketing Challenge course provides real-world opportunities for students to put their studies into practice. They learn how to work directly with clients, operate within a limited budget, tailor their marketing strategies to different audiences and based on different goals, and navigate the challenges of marketing smaller businesses and organizations. Upon graduation, students are able to demonstrate professional experience as they seek employment opportunities.

For community partners without expertise or capacity to develop in-depth marketing plans, the partnership provides a valuable service that would otherwise be too costly or time-consuming to undertake. At least one local business owner credits the marketing plan with keeping her shop open, while another drew on student work to help significantly expand its operations. Cabot has been so impressed with the results that they are committing an additional two years of funding for the course. As CDAE chair Jane Kolodinsky wrote in support of their nomination, Conner and Woodruff “worked tirelessly and overtime on building this course, shepherding it through growth and development, and now sustaining it into the future,” bringing level III service-learning experiences to students, building community relationships and contributing to the economic development of Vermont communities.