Faculty honored for civic service

The seventh annual Civic Engagement Awards at PSU were given in four categories to 10 members of the PSU faculty on May 17.

The seventh annual Civic Engagement Awards at PSU were given in four categories to 10 members of the PSU faculty on May 17.

The annual awards honor those at PSU who connect classroom learning with the greater community.

“I’m happy to be here, it’s a great day,” said Kevin Kecskes, director of the Center for Academic Excellence, and emcee for the event. Kecskes said that the amount of nominations received for this year’s awards was double what it was last year.

PSU President Daniel Bernstine spoke briefly at the ceremony. Bernstine said that an urban university is defined by the strength of its community ties. He said that community ties improve the lives of others as well as the university.

Speakers at this year’s event included Steve Bass, president and CEO of Oregon Public Broadcasting (OPB), and Peggy O’Brien, senior vice president for Education at the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Bass called PSU one of the most important universities in the state and the leader of academia in Portland. Bass emphasized the importance of OPB in Oregon, and touted public broadcasting as a similar connection between education and community.

“The world is concave,” O’Brien said. “It’s like the business end of a spoon.”

O’Brien also said that rather than seeing the world as flat or circular, it is more useful to see it as a bowl where people can’t avoid one another.

“The right to learn is undoubtedly fundamental,” O’Brien said. She said that PSU is the forerunner in community involvement with the PSU university studies program.

“You are ahead of the curve,” O’Brien said, adding that she hoped other schools would recognize the value of community involvement.

The first award of the ceremony was given to Erna Gelles from the public administration department. Gelles won for her research assessing networks among communities of color led by leaders of color.

Also in the community-based research category was Janet Walker from the Graduate School of Social Work, and Warren Harrison, a computer science professor.

Harrison was awarded for his work with local police, after developing a system that allows police to communicate wirelessly with their computers. In Harrison’s system, the police officer has a headset that responds via voice commands, making it easier to find information on a license plate number without going back to the computer in the car.

“It’s kind of hard to drive and type at the same time,” Harrison said. He worked with the Clackamas County sheriff’s department and the Hillsboro police department, two of over 600 community partners working with PSU.

Mark Wubbold, a faculty member from finance and administration, accepted an award for Jabel Tinamit, an international teaching organization. Jabel Tinamit won in the Excellence in Partnerships for Student Learning category.

Kecskes introduced the Departmental Civic Engagement award, for departments that work together to “produce exceptional work.” The history department and the Toulon School for Urban Studies and Planning won awards in the category.

Vicki Reitenauer, from the women’s studies department, brought her entire class to the awards, calling her students “the best teachers I’ve ever had.”

Reitenauer has taught over 30 capstones at PSU and is currently teaching a capstone in which her students tutor at Madison High School. Reitenauer won one of five Excellence in Community-based Teaching and Learning awards.

The other four Community-based Teaching and Learning awards went to Susan Danielson from the English department, Sherril Gelmon from the Hatfield School of Government, Talya Bauer from the School of Business Administration, and Karin Magaldi from the theater arts department.

“What we do is civic engagement in theater,” Magaldi said. In a program in her department, PSU students mentor at-risk children, helping them to write plays that the PSU students then perform. Community and education go well together, she said.

“Putting the two together is a no-brainer,” Magaldi said.