Awarding community education

Mayor Tom Potter gave the keynote speech Tuesday at a celebration honoring civically engaged Portland State faculty, departments and community members.

The fifth annual Civic Engagement Awards Celebration was presented by the Center for Academic Excellence (CAE) and the Carnegie Conversation Series.

“I believe that a community cannot exist without civic engagement,” Potter said. “Community engagement is really one of the things that distinguishes PSU,” provost appointee Roy Koch said, stressing the importance of civic engagement in the PSU curriculum.

Award recipients received a $300 grant, a certificate and a feature on the CAE web site. Awards were given for three separate categories for excellence in civic engagement: student learning, departmental civic engagement and faculty and community partnerships.

Two winners took the Excellence in Partnerships for Student Learning Award. The first was Portland Impact, which is a program that is in collaboration with PSU faculty members and places social work graduate students in Portland Public Schools (PPS) to advocate for issues surrounding poverty.

Also honored was Wolftree, Inc., a nonprofit organization that coordinated with scientists, teachers and PSU capstone students to provide outdoor science education for mostly underserved communities.

The award for Excellence in Departmental Civic Engagement honored the Department of Speech and Hearing Services for an array of community programs including an Urban Language Clinic, self-help support groups for families living with aphasia, and speech, language and hearing screenings. The art department also received an award for their practice of involving both undergraduate and graduate students in community collaborative projects.

Associate professor of art Elisabeth Charman was recognized with the Excellence in Faculty/Community Partnership Award for her collaboration with Pippa Arend, director of Program: Education, Art, Recreation (P:EAR) in involving students in addressing P:EAR’s design needs.

Assistant professor of physics, Andres La Rosa also received an award in this category for his promotion of partnerships with Molalla High School for mentoring and leadership activities. James Woods, an assistant professor in the department of economics, was honored for his work in evaluating the Parkrose School District’s Talented and Gifted programs and researching statistical properties of the Oregon standardized test.

The final winner in the category was associate professor of education Pramod Parajuli, who was awarded for two years of work on “learning gardens,” which show that there is a connection between nutrition and academic achievement. Parajuli is currently planning a proposal to change PPS food policy by 2015, emphasizing local, organic and sustainably produced food for youth.