MSUToday
Published: Feb. 26, 2020

MSU outreach and engagement awards recognize exceptional university-community collaborations

Contact(s): Carla Hills University Outreach and Engagement office: (517) 353-8977 hillsc@msu.edu, Caroline Brooks Communications and Brand Strategy office: 517-432-0920 brooks78@msu.edu

The annual MSU Outreach and Engagement Awards on Feb. 19 honored faculty, students and partners working together to produce diverse benefits for others in their communities. 

The awards program was established by the Office of University Outreach and Engagement to recognize engaged and scholarly university-community collaborations that make a difference. MSU has the most extensive academic support structure designed to advance engaged scholarship in the nation.

“So many good people go about their work quietly, while creating significant positive outcomes that contribute to our local communities and beyond. These awards feature some of those outstanding partnerships and give us inspiration for what happens when we work together,” said Laurie A. Van Egeren, interim associate provost for University Outreach and Engagement.

The MSU Outreach and Engagement award recipients are:

Distinguished Partnership Award for Community-Engaged Research

  • Kyle Powys Whyte, College of Arts and Letters and College of Agriculture and Natural Resource 
  • Sustainable Development Institute, College of Menominee Nation, Keshena, Wisconsin

Whyte has partnered with Chris Caldwell of the Menominee Sustainable Development Institute at the College of Menominee Nation for close to a decade. SDI, founded in 1994 as one of the first Tribally founded and supported research institutions, serves the Menominee people’s efforts to learn from their history and culture about sustainability, support planning for the future, and engage institutions and communities outside of the Tribe. The partnership supports indigenous peoples’ preparedness for climate change through a diverse portfolio of research, outreach and education projects, particularly at the community level.

This partnership also received the MSU 2020 Community Engagement Scholarship Award.

Distinguished Partnership Award for Community-Engaged Creative Activity

  • Dionne O’Dell, College of Arts and Letters
  • 4th Wall Company, Livonia, Michigan

 O’Dell partners with the 4th Wall Company in the metro Detroit area, and is the adviser of the Sense-Ability Ensemble, a student organization that conducts regular theatrical workshops for neurodiverse students, including those with autism spectrum disorders, through a ten-week residency program. Led by 4th Wall instructors and MSU students, the workshops culminate in a final performance for friends and family. This partnership has developed two world premiere productions that tour special education classrooms around Michigan: “Farm! A Musical Experience” and “Soda Pop Shop.” 

Distinguished Partnership Award for Community Engaged Teaching

  • Shari L. Dann, College of Agriculture and Natural Resources
  • Annie’s BIG Nature Lesson, St. Johns, Michigan

Since 2007, this partnership has offered teacher leadership professional development to more than 447 teachers, who then worked with local communities (more than 17,000 elementary students and 185 other partners) for watershed stewardship. The partnership has produced numerous peer-reviewed articles, case studies generated by teachers, a PBS-aired video, presentations at environmental education conferences, an invited policy article for the Governor’s State of the Great Lakes report and best-practice guides co-developed with other institutional leaders throughout the state.

Distinguished Partnership Award for Community-Engaged Service

  • Connie Sung and Marisa Fisher, College of Education
  • Michigan Rehabilitation Services and Ingham Intermediate School District, along with Peckham, Inc., Community Mental Health, Bureau of Services for Blind Persons and Michigan Department of Health and Human Services 

For individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, the anxiety and obstacles experienced during the transition from youth to adulthood can be overwhelming. In 2016, MSU faculty members Connie Sung and Marisa Fisher, in collaboration with intermediate school district and vocational rehabilitation agencies, initiated Spartan Project SEARCH at MSU, a program that helps transition-aged youth with IDD to overcome some of those obstacles. 

Michigan State University Community Engagement Scholarship Lifetime Achievement Award

  • Hiram E. Fitzgerald, University Distinguished Professor, College of Social Science, and former associate provost, University Outreach and Engagement

As associate provost, Fitzgerald’s vision, energy and creativity shaped what has become one of the most respected offices of academic support for university-community collaboration in the country. He has served as president of the Engagement Scholarship Consortium, the Executive Committee of the Council on Engagement and Outreach of the Association for Public and Land Grant Universities and the Board of Directors of Transformative Regional Engagement Networks. He is a member of the Academy of Community Engagement Scholarship. 

Read more about the awards here.