University of Vermont

Office of Community-Engaged Learning (CELO)

Announcing our 2019 Service-Learning Award Winners

The Office of Community-University Partnerships & Service-Learning is delighted to announce our award winners for 2019.  Service-learning is a form of community engagement that connects academic courses with community work and projects.  Supported by community partners, our students prepare for their lives after graduation by deploying their academic skills within community partnerships designed to fulfill a need identified by the community itself. Together, about 50 faculty members teaching 100 courses and up to 200 community partners create real-world learning experiences that reach fully 45% of our graduating seniors.

We recognize Sheridan Plummer with the Student Award for Outstanding Service-Learning.  Sheridan is an Environmental Studies senior in Rubenstein School.  She worked as a Service-Learning TA (SLTA) in ENVS 294: Environmental Education with Rachelle Gould in Fall 2018, and in ENVS 295: Energy and Climate in Vermont with Brian Tokar this semester.  In her nomination of Sheridan for this award, RSENR faculty member Rachelle Gould highlighted Sheridan’s ability to bring value to all of the SL project’s stakeholders: working with students to provide project management support and deepen their critical reflection; with the community partner to distill their needs and ensure timely feedback; and with the faculty member as a generous and diligent colleague and “thought partner”.

Erika White coordinates and teaches in the Art Education Program which is a collaboration between the Colleges of Arts & Sciences and Education & Social Services.  In that role, Erika has focused on creating a path of inquiry and understanding of art education in the larger educational and human context.  She articulates a commitment to providing opportunities for artistic expression for all learners, including English learners and students with disabilities.  After being a Faculty Fellow for Service-Learning in 2016, Erika combined these commitments to redesign EDAR 177: Curriculum and Practice in Elementary Art to include a service-learning component, and supports additional faculty to include SL in the companion EDAR course Alternative Sites.  Nominated by Barri Tinkler in Education, Erika won an Outstanding New Service-Learning Faculty Award.

In CALS, award winners this year include Farryl Bertmann (Nutrition & Food Sciences), an Outstanding New Service-Learning Faculty award winner; Mary Lynn Riggs (GoGlobalVT) and Thomas Thiango (Vianeey Centre, Kenya), Outstanding Community Partner in Service-Learning Awardees; and Naomi Wolcott-MacCausland (UVM Extension), also an Outstanding Community Partner in Service-Learning Awardee.

These award winners demonstrate the importance of community and cross-college collaborations.  Farryl Bertman and GoGlobal’s awards originate in CESS, where retired Associate Dean Kenneth Hood conceived of a partnership in Kenya, which he brought to CDAE chair Jane Kolodinsky.  Ken connected Mary Lynn Riggs and Go Global, the Vermont Center for International Learning Partnerships to the table.  Mary Lynn connected with Thomas Thiango of the Vianeey Centre in Kenya.  Jane, in turn, recruited Farryl Bertmann of Nutrition and Food Sciences to co-teach CDAE / NFS 295: Sustainable Development and Education in Kenya, a 3+1 credit advanced service-learning project-based course in the fall semester which culminates in a 2 week trip and service experience in Kenya over winter session.  Both the partner and the new SL faculty member are being recognized for this strong partnership.   

Mary Lynn Riggs of Go Global VT and Isaiah Thomas Thiango have been indispensable in defining the local context and building the relationships necessary to prepare students to study these critical issues, both in Burlington and on the ground in Kenya.  The award committee was particularly impressed by their commitment to a reciprocal partnership, scaffolding the experience for UVM students in a way that allows them to hit the ground running as soon as they arrive.  Farryl Bertmann, nominated by Jane Kolodinsky as her co-instructor, has demonstrated tremendous commitment, professionalism and flexibility in sometime tenuous political situations, and with projects needing to be changed on a dime.  “Unflappable” is the word.  Jane also noted that Farryl is simultaneously kind and rigorous, holding our students to rigorous expectations as they adapt to significantly different on-the-ground projects than had been planned — a necessity in service-learning, and especially so in international contexts. 

Teresa Mares received a Special Award for Excellence in Community Engagement.  An anthropologist of food and labor, with a focus on food security among Latino dairy farm workers in Vermont, Teresa’s new book just came out this very month, and her projects reach across the entire state in their impact. Nominated for our faculty award for service-learning, our review committee felt that the traditional format of recognizing teaching distinct from scholarship and distinct from service obscured Teresa’s community engaged work as a whole. Teresa’s community-engaged work is a commitment that takes multiple forms and we are delighted to honor it with a special award for community engagement.

  • Scholarship:  Life on the Other Border: Farmworkers and Food Justice in Vermont
  • Service:  Huertas, project of culturally relevant kitchen gardens for dairy-farm workers, food as accompaniment and witnessing; Folklife Center; etc. 
  • Teaching:  Food and Labor, collaborations with Spanish 111 course, internship courses. 

In giving this special award, CUPS staff and advisors recognize the labor of connecting scholarship to action in ways that facilitate so many opportunities for students to join collaborators in working to give a voice to a vulnerable and largely invisible population.

Naomi Wolcott-MacCausland, a winner of our Outstanding Community Partner Award, is a bridge and point of connection for our students to connect — via service-learning classes and internships — with a population that they otherwise would not even recognize, let alone support.  Since 2009, Naomi has coordinated Huertas from an informal suggestion at a meeting of volunteers into a network of farmers, supports, service-learning students and others who provide garden starts to farm workers on Vermont dairy farms.  Since 2012, Naomi oversees internships and field placements connected to the Bridges to Health program out of UVM Extension.  She partners regularly with Teresa Mares in Anthropology, Rachael Montesano’ in Spanish, and with service-learning courses in the College of Nursing.  Our reviewers admired Naomi’s commitment to connecting this underserved community with students from many different disciplines, from food systems and sustainable agriculture to public health and social justice. 

Finally, Cecilia Danks is the 2019 recipient of the Lynne Bond Outstanding Service-Learning Faculty Award.  Since 2013 our outstanding faculty award has been named in honor of CUPS instigator and first director, Lynne Bond. This award goes to faculty with a long-standing commitment to service-learning, and whose teaching exemplifies the principles of academic rigor, community reciprocity and reflective engagement.  Cecilia has been teaching Course NR 295: Community-Based Conservation (formerly Community-Based Natural Resources Management) since at least 2012. 

The Faculty Award review committee was impressed by the consistency of the project vision across such a diverse array of partners, the equity lens that Cecilia brings to bear on community conversation — and the ways that students were able to connect their experiences in the field with conservation concepts using the equity lens in their reflection assignments.  In addition, the CUPS staff were delighted to receive this nomination because we have noticed the wide diversity of community partners for this course over the years — Zeno Mountain Farm, Little Hogback Community Forest, Richmond Town Forest — and were glad to learn about the thread that unites these partners: all folks doing creative, locally-engaged conservation in Vermont communities.  It is clear this course is the result of ongoing reciprocal interaction with community members and students.