I have been fortunate to work with Dr. Susan Munkres as a member of the Community-Engaged Learning Office, commonly known as CELO, advisory committee over the past three years. Through my participation on this committee, I have learned immensely from Susan about the importance of when collaborating among community members, colleagues, and students to be deliberative in how community engagement and service-learning is done responsibly and with integrity. The ethos Susan leads with in advancing the CELO mission offers an example of what it means to respect and honor the community members we share space with adjacent to campus as well as statewide as a public, land-grant, and research institution.
I, as well as others, nominated Susan for this award because she does essential work that has a profound impact our campus, community, and state. More importantly, she does this work always centering principles of diversity, equity, inclusion, and social justice. Service learning, at its core, challenges those who teach and serve to think of developing reciprocal relationships in a way which honors human dignity. Susan embodies what it means to constantly evolve how to do this work with respect, integrity, innovation, openness, responsibility, and in particular, justice. Her ability to work collaboratively with faculty, staff, and students in how they work alongside community members invites reflection of how and why we do this work with purpose.
I am reminded of Susan challenging the CELO advisory committee to think of how we might reconsider offering course distinctions between what have now become service learning and civic learning courses. Susan was instrumental in helping our group strive to achieve greater clarity of purpose and responsibility in development of learning objectives, pedagogy, and practices for course development and sustainability. Of upmost importance was the intent to integrate opportunities for students to reflect upon the type of community-engaged work they practice, why and how they approach this service, as well as its micro- and macro-level systemic impacts on the community members they work alongside.
This is only one example which illustrates the holistic approach Susan leads with to invite others to do this important work with her. Ideals of justice and respect are embedded in all of the CELO practices as well as the institutional and community initiatives she participates in at large. Susan demands that race, culture, ethnicity, gender, and other salient aspects of identity are at the forefront of how faculty and staff challenge students to learn and reflect about community engagement, both in their own positionality as well as those they serve alongside in their civic and service-learning courses. Susan approaches all aspects of her service with CELO and our institution with this same level of intentionality. It is an absolute honor to share in a small way the profound impact Susan has on our UVM community. It is challenging to pick how Susan upholds some of the values of Our Common Ground, because she practices all of them holistically and organically in who she is daily as a both a professional and as person.