2014 Thomas Ehrlich Civically Engaged Faculty Award Winner

Campus Compact has chosen Leda Cooks, Professor of Communications at the University of Massachusetts Amherst to receive the 2014 Thomas Ehrlich Civically Engaged Faculty Award. The Ehrlich Award is given annually to recognize one senior faculty member for exemplary leadership in advancing students’ civic learning, supporting community engagement, and contributing to the public good. The award is generously sponsored by the KPMG Foundation.

“Through the Ehrlich Award, we celebrate faculty who have made major contributions to higher education’s commitment to civic engagement and community-based learning,” says Campus Compact president Andrew J. Seligsohn. “We are proud to recognize the depth of Professor Cooks’ work and the extraordinary impact she has made in the field, her university, and the community.”

“KPMG is proud to support Campus Compact and the Ehrlich Award. We offer our congratulations to Dr. Cooks and the three finalists,” said Bernard J. Milano, President of KPMG Foundation and The PhD Project and national Campus Compact board member. “Campus Compact brings many valuable programs to the higher education community and the Ehrlich Award is one such program. We applaud their work and the work of the member campuses.”

“Civic engagement has been the hallmark of my academic work. Throughout my career I have seen the significant impact that collaborative and respectful partnerships can have on everyone involved in the work,” stated Professor Cooks. “Students, the community organizations, and the people that are served come away from these experience with a better understanding of the challenges that we are trying to address.”

Dr. Cooks has spent her entire career integrating service-learning into her pedagogy, research, and community activism at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and surrounding communities. The partnerships she has developed and maintained with community organizations in Western Massachusetts are excellent models of reciprocal teaching-learning and university-community efforts to address issues of structural inequality. Among these partnerships is the long-term High School/Youth Dialogue Project that trained graduate students, undergraduates, and high school students themselves as facilitators of dialogue in local high schools to address conflict related stigma, stereotyping, and bullying.

She has also taken what she has learned through these campus-community partnership projects and contributed significantly to the scholarship of service-learning pedagogy. Her current research has been in the area of food justice, but over her career, her work research can be placed in the context of social justice, critical pedagogy, and intergroup communication community activism with service-learning pedagogy and community activism being central to her research agenda.

Dr. Cooks’ experience and expertise have allowed her to promote and develop interdisciplinary service-learning initiatives and programs at UMass and nationally. She serves as a member of the Provost’s Committee on Service-Learning, which is the body that guides the development of service-learning and civic engagement efforts and programs at UMass. She also mentors future professors of service-learning and contributes meaningfully to research in service-learning.

“Leda has a long history with Massachusetts Campus Compact working to expand community-based learning in our region. Her leadership at UMass in elevating community-based learning has made an incredible impact on the campus, her students, and the community,” explained Barbara Canyes, executive director of Massachusetts Campus Compact.

“For 21 years, Professor Cooks has been a deeply engaged scholar and committed leader in the integration of community-based learning into the curriculum,” adds Dr. Seligsohn. “Her work exemplifies Campus Compact’s mission, and we are pleased to recognize her achievements with the Ehrlich Award.”

Three finalists have also been acknowledged for their achievements. They are:

• Steven A. Moore, Ph.D., Professor of Architecture and Planning, The University of Texas at Austin

• John K. Schorr, Ph.D., Senior Professor of Sociology; Co-Director, Stetson Institute for Social Research, Stetson University

• Michelle Tooley, Ph.D., Professor of Religion, Berea College