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Excellence in Community Engagement Awards

 Excellence in Community Engagement Awards Logo
The Center for Service and Learning announces the 2020 Excellence in Community Engagement Award Winners!

The annual Excellence in Community Engagement Awards honor extraordinary accomplishments in engaged learning and community impact. The recognition criteria are founded upon demonstration of the Mountaineer Core Values of Service, Curiosity, Respect, Accountability, and Appreciation. The awards are given in ten categories: Undergraduate Student, Graduate Student, Student Group, Faculty, Staff, Service-Learning Instruction, Community Partner, Campus Partner, and National Service. 

 Please join us in congratulating our 2020 winners!
  • Cole Unger Excellence in Social Action Award – Kassandra Colón
  • Undergraduate Student Award for Excellence in Community Engagement- Sudhanshu Mishra  
  • Graduate Student Award for Excellence in Community Engagement – Heidi Gum
  • Student Group Award for Excellence in Community Engagement - WVU Exercise Physiology Club
  • Faculty Award for Excellence in Community Engagement- Dr. Rick Landenberger
  • Staff Award for Excellence in Community Engagement- Tara St. Clair
  • Award for Excellence in Service-Learning Instruction- Dr. Miriam Leary
  • Outstanding Community Partner Award-  Rev. Neil Leftwich and The Spruce Street United Methodist Church
  • Outstanding Campus Partner Award- Tangela Cheatham and the WVU Student-Athlete Enhancement Program
  • Excellence in National Service – Laura Lucas
  • Service Spotlight Award (Special Recognition) – The Falling Run Trail

    2020 Award Winner Bios

    Kassandra Colón -  Cole Unger Award for Excellence in Social Action 

    The Cole-Unger Excellence in Social Action Award recognizes a student or student group who have used K. Coloninnovation, creativity, partnerships and passion to make a substantive change in our community. Kassandra “Kassie” Colón is a true innovator and has committed to social change through her community-based organization, Project La Resolana, an initiative that collects and distributes cultural literature to students of color. Project La Resolana is currently operating in West Virginia. In March 2020, Kassie delivered fifty books to students at Westwood middle school in Morgantown, WV. When she met with the superintendent and principals in Harrison county about the project, there was great interest in expanding the program. Kassie is truly invested in providing a gateway for youth to have cultural literature of their choice free of charge.

    Sudhanshu Mishra - Undergraduate Student Award for Excellence in Community Engagement

    The Undergraduate Student Award for Excellence in Community Engagement is presented by the Center for Service and Learning to recognize undergraduate students at West Virginia University who have demonstrated a sustained commitment to community that embodies the mission and vision of West Virginia University through the values of service, curiosity, respect, accountability, and Sudhanshu Mishraappreciation. Since Fall 2019, junior biology major, Sudhanshu Mishra has completed over 200 hours of volunteer service, working with various campus organizations. One such organization is the Falling Run Greenspace, where he is a crew leader for construction of new trails for the community’s enjoyment. Sudhanshu also serves as a Student Wellbeing Ambassador for Well WVU, working with other ambassadors to devise innovative ways to increase the involvement of students and staff across campus at events. Additionally, Sudhanshu is a Diversity Ambassador for the Division of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at WVU, where he has worked on programs teaching students and staff about inequality and social, racial and economic justice. Sudhanshu’s desire to serve seems to never stop. He has been a member of the WVU Red Cross Club since Fall 2018 and now serves as the Vice President. While juggling these various service responsibilities, he maintains a job as a Resident Assistant. Sudhanshu has had service interactions with hundreds of students and multiple organizations. He exemplifies Mahatma Gandhi’s statement, “the best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”

    Heidi Gum - Graduate Student Award for Excellence in Community Engagement

    The Graduate Student Award for Excellence in Community Engagement is presented by the Center for Service and Learning to recognize undergraduate students at West Virginia University who have Heidi Gum with produce canned by handdemonstrated a sustained commitment to community that embodies the mission and vision of West Virginia University through the values of service, curiosity, respect, accountability, and appreciation. Heidi Gum is a native from West Virginia and a Masters student in the Geography department. She has dedicated her graduate career to questioning gendered social inequalities in the food system in West Virginia. As a Graduate Research Assistant in the Center for Resilient Communities, Heidi has co-developed and run the Nourishing Networks Workshop Program, a community-based food access assessment and action program aimed to support WV communities in navigating barriers to true community food access. Heidi has not only dedicated her scholarly work to her WV community, she has also labored alongside them, working in food pantries, pop-up markets, and on farms; creating a foundation of trust and integrity with every person and organization she works with. Heidi aims to be a co-conspirator to others across the Mountain State and beyond who are laboring to make Appalachia a more equitable and just place for all to live.

    WVU Exercise Physiology Club - Student Group Award for Excellence in Community Engagement

    Ex Phys Club Zoom Mtg
    The student organization receiving this award will have made a meaningful contribution to the surrounding community through group programming, events, or performing continuous service. The Exercise Physiology Club at WVU consists of 22 executive board members that create and lead community involvement in events and activities for over 430 members. Having an executive board rather than one or two leaders allows for diverse leadership that covers many different interests and domains. The group proposes and creates service opportunities that vary in level of involvement and build upon various skills; ranging from members making items (cards, baked goods, blankets, etc.) on their own time, to full on event planning where proceeds benefit the community. This allows members to begin where they’re comfortable and grow alongside their peers, becoming more involved as they feel ready. The members of EXPH Club take their own initiative to plan and fulfill their own original community service programs. This academic year alone, the Exercise Physiology club has spent more than 3,000 hours working alongside members of the community. Some of the activities they were proud to have been a part of include making holiday cards and blankets for local hospitals and nursing homes, preparing food for Empty Bowls and the Ronald McDonald house, organizing the Zombie Run to support the Core Arboretum, holding bingo at WVU Children’s Hospital, blood drives, making cookies for cops, and putting together boxes for soldiers.

    Dr. Rick Landenberger - Faculty Award for Excellence in Community Engagement

    The faculty member receiving this award demonstrates a commitment to community engagement, values reciprocal relationships with the community and inspires those around them to make a positive Dr. Rick Landenberger outdoorscommunity impact. Dr. Rick Landenberger is a Research Assistant Professor and Science & Management Specialist for the West Virginia Land Trust. In addition, he serves on the Morgantown Board of Parks and Recreation (BOPARC) as well as the Mon Valley Green Space Coalition. In the Summer 2019, he was one of the key players in successful advocacy to preserve the most ecologically sensitive areas of White Park during the Morgantown Utility Board (MUB) waterline construction through the park. His timely involvement was integral to negotiating a pipeline route the would be the least disruptive to the recreational trails and historic trees. As a professor, Dr. Landenberger believes in a teaching-learning-engaging process as an effective way to promote a commitment to healthy and sustainable communities. Whether it be building publicly accessible trails that link our neighborhoods to the Rail-Trail system, removing invasive plants on Land Trust Preserves and natural areas, helping to develop river access or stabilizing degraded stream banks in our local park system, his community engagement responsibilities involve working with students and volunteers for the benefit of all in the community. Dr. Landenberger’s leadership in greenspace advocacy is exemplary, and his involvement across organizations enhances his impact as a key visionary in developing Morgantown’s greenspace potential, a role in which he has served for the past twenty years.

    Tara St. Clair - Staff Award for Excellence in Community Engagement

    Tara St. Clair professional shotThe Staff Award for Excellence in Community Engagement recognizes staff members at West Virginia University who have demonstrated a sustained commitment to community that embodies the mission and vision of West Virginia University through the values of service, curiosity, respect, accountability, and appreciation. Since Tara returned to WVU after a few years in private industry, she has brought back fresh new ideas to innovate our community through the Encova Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. She has revamped both the West Virginia Statewide High School and Collegiate Business Plan Competitions using new technology including online submissions and scoring to facilitate a smoother and more efficient program. It is apparent Tara has a passion for connecting students with the community which has positively impacted the lives of many.

    Dr. Miriam Leary - Award for Excellence in Service-Learning Instruction

    Dr. Miriam Leary

    The instructor receiving this award demonstrates a commitment to high impact teaching through service-learning, values relationships with the community and inspires students to make a positive community impact. Dr. Miriam Leary is a co-director of the Exercise Physiology Professional Development course at West Virginia University. s. As an instructor for exercise physiology’s Professional Field Placement course, she supervises students that complete up to 4 credit hours (180 contact hours) in the community-based Exercise is Medicine (cEIM) service-learning program. Students working in this service-learning experience develop and implement exercise programming and educational lectures and workshops for senior citizens (BOPARC, OLLI), children (The Shack), local firefighters, and the campus community (Mountaineers Move, WVU ROTC). As part of the professional development course, student interns complete various service-learning activities, assignments, and reflections that challenge them to explore their role as exercise physiologists in the lives of their patients/clients, the community, and the state. The Division of Exercise Physiology (EXPH) is training the next generation of healthcare practitioners including doctors, physical therapists, and physician’s assistants. A key component of the service-learning cEIM experience is asking students to reflect on how they’re improving the community now and how they can continue to do so as future healthcare practitioners. Dr. Leary’s efforts in service-learning have recently been accepted for publication as a peer-reviewed manuscript in Education Research International.

    Rev. Neil Leftwich and the Spruce St. United Methodist Church - Outstanding Community Partner Award

    Rev. Neil LeftwichThis award recognizes a community partner that has established a strong reciprocal and sustainable relationship contributing to WVU's culture of engagement; strengthening the communities we serve. This partner serves as a co-educator of students providing community based learning opportunities that embody the University Values of Service, Curiosity, Respect, Accountability, and Appreciation. When people in the Morgantown community faced winter unsheltered from bitter cold, the congregation of the Spruce St. United Methodist Church stepped up; not just to pass the collection plate, but to help meet a critical need that had existed for many years. With the guidance and leadership of Pastor Neil Leftwich, Spruce St. UMC joined forces with Milan Puskar Health Right’s Friendship House and opened its doors to create a space; a cold weather overflow shelter, where all neighbors would be welcomed with dignity. The church's neighborhood involvement has flourished in recent years: hosting community-wide dinners, supporting fundraisers, sewing hundreds of masks for businesses, first-responders, and citizens. Pastor Neil challenges our students to shift their thinking in how we regard our neighbors and inspires them to find new ways to engage in community.  

    Tangela Cheatham and the WVU Student-Athlete Enhancement Program - Outstanding Campus Partner Award

    Tangela CheathamThis award recognizes a campus partner organization or unit that has established a strong reciprocal and sustainable relationship promoting campus or community service and engagement. The recipient of this award has made a significant contribution to WVU’s culture of engagement; strengthening our ability to support the communities we serve. The Student Athlete Enhancement Program supports the development of transferable skills and prepares student-athletes for a lifetime of learning.  One of their key areas of focus is community outreach. The impact of the program under Tangela Cheatham’s leadership has made an extraordinary difference in the community and among the athletes. Mountaineer student-athletes completed over 3,500 hours of service this academic year alone. Tangela serves as role model for students, frequently serving alongside them and helping them grow not only as athletes but as principled individuals. During the COVID-19 emergency the student-athletes continued to engage remotely; joining classrooms, visiting with nursing home residents, donating blood, and assisting food shelters.

    Laura Lucas - National Service Award

    Laura Lucas
    This award recognizes exemplary achievement through The Collaborative at WVU National Service Program. Laura served as an AmeriCorps VISTA in the Division of Student Life at West Virginia University Institute of Technology (WVU Tech) from November 2017 to June 2019. During her time as a VISTA and now as a full-time staff member in Student Life, she has been a champion for service and student success. Laura has extensively developed new community partnerships as well as strengthened relationships with existing partners. She has also excelled in building internal relationships with faculty, coaches, and other key service partners at WVU Tech. An example of her relationship building is our ongoing relationship with Helping Hands, a food pantry located a few blocks from campus. Through her work, the WVU Tech Men’s Soccer Team has adopted Helping Hands as an organization that they visit monthly to unload food trucks sent by Mountaineer Food Bank. Laura Lucas goes above and beyond continuously for WVU Tech students and the Beckley/Raleigh County community.

    The Falling Run Greenspace - Service Spotlight Award (Special Recognition) 

    Students doing trail workThe Falling Run Greenspace is a 60-acre urban wilderness park offering 2.6 miles of trails for hiking, running and cycling. Just a short walk from the Mountainlair, this greenspace connects the downtown campus to WVU’s Organic Farm. WVU purchased the greenspace in December 2012 and student volunteers started building trails in August 2016 as part of WVU's Welcome Week with help from WVU’s Center for Service and Learning. Together, approximately 2.6 miles of trails have been constructed. When completed, Falling Run will have 13 trails and 8 access points totaling nearly 5 miles. Volunteers are truly the key to the Falling Run Trail’s success. They help with park maintenance, invasive species management, stream clean-up and trail building. The Falling Run Trail faculty and graduate staff take the time to create engaging service experiences with quality learning reflections connecting students to the greater purpose of environmental stewardship. 



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