In recognition of its extraordinary community engagement initiatives, the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) today named the University of Vermont a regional winner of the 2020 W.K. Kellogg Foundation Community Engagement Scholarship Award. As a regional winner, UVM will compete for the national C. Peter Magrath Community Engagement Scholarship Award, which will be announced in November. Other finalists for the award are the University of Memphis, The Ohio State University and the University of Utah.

The C. Peter Magrath Community Engagement Scholarship Award includes a sculpture and $20,000 prize. The three other regional winners will each receive a cash prize of $5,000.

UVM was honored for its Connecting Cultures program, established by Psychology professor Karen Fondacaro and her colleagues in Clinical Psychology in 2007 to serve refugees and survivors of torture. Over the last decade, a significant number of refugees have resettled their lives in Vermont. Often these individuals have experienced trauma, with far-reaching effects impacting not just a given individual, but even their extended families and communities.

“The Connecting Cultures program epitomizes the contribution UVM can make to Vermont and Vermonters as part of its 21st century land-grant mission,” said UVM president Suresh Garimella. “We’re very proud of Dr. Fondacaro and her colleagues and of the groundbreaking, nationally acclaimed program they developed. They are deeply deserving of this honor.”

Connecting Cultures serves the refugee community through a clinical-science specialty service using a multidisciplinary, evidence-based model of mental health intervention. The program, which has served over 1,000 refugees and survivors of torture, works in close partnership with the Association of Africans Living in Vermont, which serves all refugee communities, and other refugee groups.

Connecting Cultures’ research with Vermont’s refugee community has led to eight peer-reviewed publications, over 100 local, national and international presentations, a Tedx Talk and a language-free mobile mental health application for refugees. Graduate and undergraduate students are engaged in Connecting Cultures through research, practicums, and internships. Students also participate in multi-disciplinary teams with psychologists, social workers, physical therapists, attorneys, and refugee advocates. Faculty and partners share the outcomes of the service, outreach, teaching and research through a variety of outlets, including the National Consortium of Torture Treatment Programs and the Association of Psychology Training Clinics with the goal of improving mental health services for refugees and survivors of torture across the country.

“Amid the pandemic, the nation’s public universities have risen to the challenge to meet their communities’ needs in a major way,” said APLU President Peter McPherson. “That community engagement is at the heart of their mission and we’re thrilled to elevate institutions that have a longstanding commitment to being at the forefront of community engagement efforts. We congratulate this year’s Magrath Award finalists and exemplary designees for a job extremely well done and for their ongoing work in support of their communities.”

Since 2007, APLU and the Engagement Scholarship Consortium, with support from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, have partnered to honor the engagement scholarship and partnerships of four-year public universities. The award recognizes programs that demonstrate how colleges and universities have redesigned their learning, discovery, and engagement missions to deepen their partnerships to achieve broader impacts in their communities. The national award is named for C. Peter Magrath, APLU president from 1992 to 2005. The three other regional winners will each receive a cash prize of $5,000 to further their engagement work.

The community engagement awards also include a class of exemplary designees. The University of California, Los Angeles, the University of Louisville, Purdue University, and Virginia Tech are all exemplary designees receiving recognition for outstanding efforts. All institutions will be showcased at the virtual 2020 Engagement Scholarship Consortium’s Annual Conference in October.

A team of community engagement professionals from public research universities judged this round of the award. A second team will pick the national winner following presentations at the 2020 National Engagement Scholarship Conference.



University Communications