Promoting Partnerships

Winners of the first-ever UNC were (left to right)Ronna Sanchez (staff), Gillian McNally (faculty), Global Refugee Center representative Asad Abdi (Community Member), Megan Braunschweig (undergraduate student)and Meag-gan Walters (graduate student).

UNC's Embracing Community symposium celebrated its fifth year of existence with the first-ever UNC Engaged Scholar and Partnership Awards honoring outstanding efforts toward increasing scholarship and research on community issues and achievements in community engagement inside and outside campus.

The symposium, held Nov. 15 in the University ballrooms, featured presentations and informational displays prepared by 12 community groups, five UNC groups, 16 faculty members and nine students about UNC/community partnerships that are making a difference in the lives of Weld County residents and point out the need to prioritize, strengthen and solidify community-based learning and research between UNC and the greater Weld County community.

The outstanding efforts toward meeting that need were the basis for the Engaged Scholar awards in five categories: Undergraduate Student, Graduate Student, Faculty Member, Staff Member and Community Organization. And the winners were:

Undergraduate Student
Megan Braunschweig, a sophomore Human Services major, took a course requirement of 10 volunteer hours in Professor Teresa Sharp's Introduction to Human Services course and went beyond that, becoming an advocate with a sexual assault victims advocacy center. She went through 40 hours of training and now serves 12-hour on-call shifts with the center, meeting the various commitments and responsibilities required of the volunteer position.

As a member of UNC's Eta Sigma Gamma, a national honor society dedicated to promoting health education, scholarly activity and community service, Braunschweig has been active in a variety of community projects such as the Weld County Food Bank, Relay for Life, "All as One" Orphanage Fundraiser, and winter clothing drives.

Graduate Student
Meag-gan Walters, a Counseling Psychology doctorate student, was nominated for the award by Professor Mary Sean O'Halloran, who noted that Walters is typically the first student during class discussions to ask about the potential of research and clinical interventions to impact the community. Her paper for a qualitative research methods class, conducted in Greeley, addressed the psychological effects of homelessness and adds to existing research by exploring the definition and impact of homelessness from the perspective of individuals living that life, as opposed to the state of homelessness as viewed by the researcher.

In addition to applying what she learns in the classroom to her research in the community, Walters has been a volunteer at and promoter of Greeley's Guadalupe Center homeless shelter and the School of Applied Psychology and Counselor Education's Psychological Services Clinic, which provides low-cost counseling and evaluation services.

Faculty Member
Gillian McNally, assistant professor of Theatre Education, also heads Community Engagement and Programs for Youth for the School of Theatre Arts and Dance. As do many UNC faculty members, she requires community service in her Theatre Education curriculum, but also plays an active role in community service herself. She has commissioned a bi-lingual (Spanish/English) play about non-violent conflict resolution, hired a student to direct it and toured it to schools throughout Weld County.

The Theatre for Young Audiences tour and the Creative Spaces summer arts program for youth, which she also created and coordinates, both help foster positive relationships with schools in the community, and she helps sustain the relationships by often giving free workshops at the schools. She also helped Greeley's Chappelow Arts Academy K-8 school establish an after-school arts program, and she offers professional development workshops for teachers in local schools on integrating the arts into instruction.

Staff Member
Ronna Sanchez, director of the University Center, is well-known for her participation in numerous community and non-profit organizations and fundraisers that include the Cattle Baron's Ball American Cancer Society Fundraiser, Relay for Life, city of Greeley Air Quality and Natural Resources Commission, Greeley Downtown Development Authority Holiday Committee, Greeley Convention and Visitors Bureau Board of Directors, Greeley Parks and Recreation Advisory Board, Greeley Senior Center Advisory Board, and Greeley Housing Advisory and Appeals Board.

Sanchez is just as active as a member of the UNC community, volunteering to serve on countless standing and ad hoc committees and boards in addition to her day-to-day responsibilities running the operations of the UC. Despite having undergone two bone marrow transplants since being diagnosed with leukemia six years ago, she gladly continues serving the university and Greeley communities.

Community Organization
The Global Refugee Center, formerly known as the East African Community of Colorado Inc., was recognized for its help facilitating partnerships with the refugee community and UNC students. The center works to improve the quality of life for refugees, which includes encouraging UNC students' involvement in outreach and education programs as well as service-learning, community-based learning and internship opportunities.

More About Embracing Community
Embracing Community and the Engaged Scholar and Partnership Awards are organized by UNC's Center for Honors, Scholars and Leadership. For more information, visit the center's website.

Other Notable Community Service
The faculty, staff and students recognized with the 2011 Engaged Scholar and Partnership Awards are just a few of the individuals at UNC who actively build community partnerships.

For instance, more than 50 UNC nursing students, ranging from those in their first semester to those pursing a graduate degree, were among the 122 UNC students who volunteered last month at the Weld Project Connect, a one-day event to assist residents with free, on-site financial, medical and legal services and referrals.

During the event, volunteers from the nursing program led residents through the various services offered, taught them about hygiene practices and gave them flu shots and other immunizations.

"Clearly the students embraced the concept of service, that of giving back to a community in which they belong," said Vicki Wilson, professor of Nursing. "It was heartwarming to me as an instructor to see so many students willing to give their time to help others."

Acknowledging Students' Efforts
UNC students are now able to highlight their extracurricular activities with the staged implementation of co-curricular transcripts.

This supplemental transcript was introduced last fall and is being tested and refined using members of UNC's National Honors Society. The transcripts currently contain information about students' involvement with clubs and organizations, but will also be designed to showcase their awards, achievements and volunteer experience.

Any students interested in bolstering their co-curricular transcript can start by filling out the form at www.unco.edu/cocurriculartranscript and taking it to the Student Activities office in the University Center.

- Elizabeth Same, Junior Journalism Major