2007 Ehrlich Faculty Award

Campus Compact has selected Dr. Marybeth Lima, Professor of Biological & Agricultural Engineering at Louisiana State University (LSU), as the recipient of the 2007 Thomas Ehrlich Faculty Award for Service-Learning. Lima was chosen for this national award for her effective use and promotion of service-learning, a teaching method that integrates community work into the curriculum.

At LSU, Lima created a service-learning program that pairs biological engineering students with elementary schools students in underfunded neighborhoods to design “dream playgrounds.” Using these designs, her engineering students then work with children, parents, teachers, and community members to build safe, fun playgrounds with an emphasis on accessibility for those with physical impairments. Lima has raised more than $150,000 in grant funding for this work and has designed and built more than a dozen playgrounds. Three recent projects featured collaboration with young evacuees from Hurricane Katrina.

“Marybeth Lima believes in the principles of a democratic society, one where we are all citizens who can work together to solve systemic problems,” notes Jan Shoemaker, director of LSU’s Center for Community Engagement, Learning, and Leadership. “In a state where the rains regularly fall, she is building an ark.”

Lima not only uses service-learning in her own classes but also works to spread the practice both locally and nationally. For example, she trains K-12 science teachers to design service projects that match community needs with relevant math and science topics. As the first Service-Learning Fellow at LSU, she worked to embed service-learning into the university’s promotion and tenure guidelines. Lima writes and speaks widely on service-learning and is the co-author (with former Ehrlich recipient William Oakes of Purdue University) of the textbook Service-Learning: Engineering in Your Community, designed specifically to address the lack of service-learning resources for the engineering community.

According to Lima, “Service-learning improves the discipline of engineering by making explicit the connection between people, culture, service, and technology.” Her focus on Baton Rouge public schools “is an excellent real-world situation in which to work with community partners to address public education and community needs through academic service-learning activities that equally empower the community and the students.”

Campus Compact will present the Ehrlich Award at the annual meeting of the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) in January 2008, where Lima will facilitate a featured session workshop. Lima will also moderate a panel of 2007 Ehrlich finalists at the AAC&U conference.

This is the 13th year that Campus Compact has honored outstanding faculty through this national award. The Ehrlich award recognizes exemplary leadership in advancing the civic learning of students, including public scholarship, building campus commitment to service-learning and civic engagement, and fostering genuine, democratic community partnerships. Winners are chosen by an external panel of experts comprising campus and community representatives.

This year’s award drew a distinguished group of nominees from campuses across the United States, representing a broad range of institutional types. In addition to Lima, Campus Compact honors seven award finalists: Anne Belcher of Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis; George Catalano of Binghamton University (NY); Jeff Gingerich of Cabrini College (PA); Kelly Henry of Missouri Western State University; Golden Jackson of The Ohio State University; Jean Strait of Hamline University (MN); and Rachel Willis of the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.