Lorlene Hoyt named winner of 2007 Ernest A. Lynton Award for the Scholarship of Engagement

Lorlene Hoyt has been awarded the 2007 Ernest A. Lynton Award for the Scholarship of Engagement. The award recognizes early-career faculty who practice exemplary engaged scholarship through teaching and research. Recipients are selected on the basis of their collaboration with communities, institutional impact, and high-quality academic work.

Lorlene Hoyt, Assistant Professor, Urban Studies and Planning at MIT, has developed broad and deep relationships with residents, non-profit organizations, city employees and private sector developers in the City of Lawrence in northernmost Massachusetts over the past four years. Through the multiple projects of MIT@Lawrence, Lorlene’s work involves generating affordable housing, asset building, youth development and sustainability in the poorest areas of an economically depressed and racially divided post-industrial city.

Data from letters of support from a faculty colleague with whom she co-teaches, community partners and one of her students, as well as evidence from her syllabi combined to create a powerful narrative of engaged scholarship. Her faculty colleague writes that “the engagement in Lawrence is not simply a drop-in drop-out class for students, but an enduring commitment to combine technology, planning, institutional and political analysis and strategy to rebuilding the physical and social fabric of Lawrence’s poorest neighborhood.” MIT@Lawrence has resulted in a wide range of institutional relationships in Lawrence as well as within MIT. Recently Lorlene was awarded a Community Outreach Partnerships Centers Program (COPC) grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development that integrates faculty from the Sloan School of Management, the Center for Real Estate and the Media Lab and graduate and undergraduate students from across campus to work on projects in city administration, other nonprofits, schools and local businesses.

The letter signed by her community partners—staff of Lawrence Community Works, as well as residents of the neighborhood—attests to her skills as a facilitator, shepherding through “a multi-stakeholder and inclusive process unheard of in the city of Lawrence” which has resulted in a rezoning effort that mandated the inclusion of affordable housing, a “long-range anti-gentrification strategy of immense importance to the working families of Lawrence.” Further, they acknowledged the value of a sustained co-equal partnership to their community: “Those of us ‘in the trenches’ can count on students returning every year . . . This is a change in the way universities relate to communities insofar as we are less of a laboratory that benefits the students in their professional development and more of an equal partner in an ongoing practice and dialogue around effecting change in the city.” Her graduate student detailed how he experienced the cumulative process of students building on their predecessors’ work from year to year in the community: “It is a testament to Professor Hoyt’s persistent dedication to the city of Lawrence that these MIT@Lawrence projects build off the previous one in a sustained effort to engage the Lawrence community and offer a valuable learning experience to the students involved.” As a result of student work in required practicum for a Master’s in City Planning that is committed to work in Lawrence, he reported, the Lawrence City Council is debating an ordinance designed to improve the city’s public process disposition process.

The syllabus of that practicum clearly identifies the course’s engaged underpinnings: “Unlike the conventional model of academic research and the most prevalent types of applied research, LCW members will not function as passive subjects, nor do students act as experts whose principle responsibility is to deliver a final product. Rather the practicum follows a participatory action research model whereby students work hand-in-hand with LCW members.” This commitment to working “hand-in-hand” is evidenced in her scholarship as well, with the forthcoming publication Voices from Forgotten Cities: Innovative Revitalization Coalitions in American’s Older Small Cities, co-authored with Andre Leroux from Lawrence Community Works.

Citations for Distinguished Engaged Scholarship:

Pennie Foster-Fishman, Associate Professor and Chairperson, Community-Ecological Psychology Program at Michigan State University and University Outreach and Engagement Senior Fellow. Foster-Fishman’s engaged work on how organizational, inter-organizational and community systems can improve to better meet the needs of children, youth and families is exemplified in a seven year partnership with SILC (Michigan’s State Independent Living Council). Her internal institutional impact has also been significant: Michigan State University funded Foster-Fishman to develop its Faculty Learning Community on the Scholarship of Engagement for faculty from multiple disciplines, charged with understanding the implications of engagement and the engagement process for faculty work at a research-intensive university.

Irma Ramirez, Assistant Professor, Architecture Department of the School of Environmental Design, California State Polytechnic University. Ramirez’s work involves integrating community organizing into the design and construction process of sustainable communities in deeply impoverished “colonias” in Tijuana, Mexico. In the process, students revise their notions about the skills and abilities of local residents (typically women in the community) and the authority and power of residents is acknowledged as they use previously untapped assets necessary for local civic improvements. For Cal Poly Pomona students who are unable to participate in one of the university’s many international opportunities because of the cost or family responsibilities, work in Tijuana provides an international experience that is affordable and feasible.