Seven students were awarded $500 scholarships for outstanding service learning and community-based research during the first Office of Service Learning and Institutional Community Engagement Celebration Award night on Thursday.
The event was held to celebrate service learning student work at the University, an important element of the UNO identity. Service learning is a method of teaching that combines classroom instruction with meaningful community service. Students apply lessons from their community work to the classroom, where teachers emphasize critical thinking and personal reflection while encouraging a heightened sense of community, civic engagement and personal responsibility.
In spring 2014, UNO received a generous grant from the Joe W. and Dorothy Dorsett Brown Foundation to implement and sustain an ongoing service learning program on campus. The $300,000 grant extended over five years helped to establish a new Office of Service Learning. The goal of the office is to engage undergraduate and graduate students in academic work that intersects with the needs of community organizations.
Thursday’s celebration included presentations from students in Professor Joseph Dew's course "Introduction to Biology for Nonbiology Majors," filmmaker Laszlo Fulop's "Introduction to Documentary Film" course, Associate Professor of Management Christy Corey's management course, urban planning professor Michelle Thompson's course in "Applied GIS Information Technology for the Planning Profession," and Professor Kristina Peterson’s urban planning course entitled "New Orleans and Region."
Five students received the UNO SLICE Outstanding Service Learning Scholar Award: Jordan Collins, Jasmine Swanson-Rousell, Ajumoke “Moke” Williams, Wil'Liska Prevost, and Mikeiona Carter.
“These students were nominated by faculty who taught a designated Service Learning course in the 2014-2015 academic year,” said Lacey Cunningham, service learning program coordinator. “While every student was required to complete at least 25 hours of engaged service learning activities, these students went above and beyond.”
At the ceremony, management professor Christy Corey explained that the students she nominated "are wonderful examples of what service learning can do to radically change our students’ perspectives while they change lives, and also create lasting memories and connections with our community partners.”
The Office of Service Learning and Institutional Community Engagement also honored two students with a special Service Learning award in honor of the late Dr. Michael Mizell-Nelson, a UNO associate professor of history who was instrumental in developing the Service Learning program at UNO.
Because of Professor Mizell-Nelson's research and service interest, the Service Learning Council selected two students for the prestigious award, based on their exceptional service learning projects focused on preserving, documenting, and celebrating New Orleans culture.
"Michael strived tirelessly to share and celebrate the stories of the everyday culture of New Orleans, and his work in establishing the Service Learning program serve as a testament to his commitment to the city, social justice, and to UNO students," Cunningham said.
The Michael Mizell-Nelson Outstanding Service Learning Scholar Award for exceptional academic community-based research and service to the New Orleans community was awarded to: Derreck Blake Deason and Jeanne Bankston.
Deason was a student in urban planning professor Michelle Thompson’s applied GIS Information Technology course and has worked extensively to bridge connections between his academic GIS skills and the needs of the community, particularly through his work with WhoData. The mission of WhoData is to provide training and technology to map, analyze and report neighborhood Quality of Life issues for and with communities. Deason contributed to mapping parcels in the historic neighborhood to show which blocks are flourishing and which could use some extra care.
Bankston was a student in Lazlo Fulop’s "Introduction to Documentary" class during the fall semester and created two documentary films focused on women-owned businesses. Her film was showcased during the event and is available on NolaVie, a website spotlighting New Orleans news and culture.
Service Learning council members and service learning faculty were also recognized for their extensive contributions to the UNO Service Learning program. Council members include Associate Director of General Studies Dan Harper, Associate Professor of Professional Practice of Special Education and Habilitative Services Paul Bole, Technical Support and Training Specialist Brian McDonald, Director of Student Involvement and Leadership Dale-Ellen Malter O'Neil, Assistant Vice President of Research Elizabeth "Liz" Sigler, Associate Professor of Marketing Elyria Kemp, Urban Planning Professor Michelle Thompson, Mark Stahl, Assistant Dean of the College of Liberal Arts Anthony Cipolone, and Professor Joseph "Larry" Dew.
The Council members do a lot of behind-the-scenes work to make Service Learning a reality, Cunningham said.
"What makes my job amazing is seeing the multitude of ways that faculty, staff and students strive to make research, learning, and teaching more meaningful,” Cunningham said. “Service Learning is just one way that we can really see what the University of New Orleans and greater New Orleans community is really capable of being and doing."