How UVM senior lecturer Kelly Hamshaw is inspiring the next generation of community leaders.

Kelly Hamshaw is on a mission to change the world by equipping her students with the skills and values to tackle complex challenges and improve the quality of life for people in the communities in which they live and serve.

A senior lecturer in the Department of Community Development and Applied Economics, Hamshaw is one of four University of Vermont faculty members to receive the 2020 Kroepsch-Maurice Excellence in Teaching Award, which recognizes faculty for excellence in instruction, innovation in teaching and ability to motivate, challenge and inspire students.

“My ultimate goal as an educator is to inspire the next generation of engaged citizens who are equipped with the necessary tools, competencies, and mindsets for creating lasting change through community-based solutions,” said Hamshaw.

Many of Hamshaw’s courses include a project-based service-learning component in which students apply the knowledge and skills they gain in the classroom to address local needs identified by a community partner. Each semester, students in CDAE 271: Local Community Initiatives partner with the town of Bristol, Vermont to support Bristol’s downtown revitalization projects such as supporting community events to promoting small businesses and identifying grant opportunities. In the fall of 2011, Hamshaw partnered with co-instructor Carrie Williams Howe and Vermont community leaders to design and launch a course to engage students in flood response and recovery efforts following Tropical Storm Irene, which had a devastating impact in many parts of Vermont. The course, Rebuilding Vermont, was launched within weeks and enabled students to fulfill critical duties while gaining first-hand experience in disaster management. 

“Kelly has been able to fuse theory and practice to create learning opportunities that make significant contributions in real communities,” said Jane Kolodinsky, professor and chair of the Department of Community Development and Applied Economics. “Whenever possible, she seeks opportunities to respond to urgent community needs. These experiences have provided a transformative and lasting impact on our students.”

“Being able to work with Dr. Hamshaw has impacted my growth as a person immensely. She has fostered some of the most positive classroom communities I’ve ever had the opportunity to be a part of, and she provides a foundation and support to each and every one of her students,” said community and international development major Jessie Nicieza ’20.

“Dr. Hamshaw has been a mentor and one of my biggest inspirations since I took her CDAE 102 class my sophomore year,” added public communication major Margaret Tabb ’20. “She allows for students to become engaged with their learning, and nurtures an environment for ideas to flourish.”

Last summer, Hamshaw noticed an opportunity to design a course focused on getting students out into the community to participate in a variety of community service projects. While many service-learning courses at UVM provide an opportunity for students to work closely with a community partner around a specific project, Hamshaw sought to expose students to a number of different organizations and potential career paths in the field of community development. 

“We wanted to offer a course that would give students a chance to explore who they are and who they want to be as community-engaged citizens,” said Hamshaw.

With grant support from the Community Development Higher Education Collaborative, Hamshaw developed and launched CDAE 195: Community Action Toolbox, which took place for the first time this spring. The initial plan was that students would spend the latter portion of the semester volunteering with local nonprofit organizations throughout Burlington. Amidst the transition to remote learning due to the Covid-19 pandemic in mid-March, Hamshaw and her students quickly adapted the course to provide students the opportunity to design projects responding to needs within their home communities. Explore some of their projects.

“The students were so motivated, and as much as I was there for them, they were there for me. At the beginning of the outbreak, I thought ‘How will we do this?’ and I think we found our way together,” said Hamshaw.

In addition to teaching, Hamshaw serves as an advisor to students majoring in community international development, as well as pursuing a self-designed major, in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. In this role, she focuses on understanding the “whole student” – what inspires and excites them, what life experiences they bring, and what they hope to achieve. This approach helps students focus on their strengths and passions, and enables Hamshaw to connect them to relevant opportunities throughout their time at UVM.

“Dr. Hamshaw has helped me through every step of my college career, from when I first switched my major in the CDAE program at UVM to applying for jobs and writing letters of recommendations for me,” said community and international development major Ally Kilcoyne ’20. “She shows how much she cares through her work and UVM is very lucky to have her as a professor.”

“I was so fortunate to have several faculty members who helped me navigate the university landscape – putting me on a path to where I have the opportunity to ‘pay it forward,’” said Hamshaw.



Rachel Leslie