Michelle Dunlap named winner of 2008 Ernest A. Lynton Award for the Scholarship of Engagement

Michelle Dunlap has been awarded the 2008 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.

Michelle Dunlap, Associate Professor of human development at Connecticut College, understands that scholarship of integrity is grounded in formal obligations and long-term commitments met though fully engaged citizenship in the communities in which one lives and with which one works-neighborhood and college alike. Describing her theory of practice, she writes, “I believe that until opportunity and equity have been reached for all people-until social challenges such as poverty, racism, sexism and homophobia have been eliminated-until we all have equal access to education and some semblance of socioeconomic stability-until then, a scholar’s life, career, teaching, research and service is not their own. But rather, our life belongs to the community.”

In her work with the Southeastern Connecticut Mental Health System of Care (SEMHSOC), Michelle calls upon her own networks in underserved communities to arrange dialogues between SEMHSOC members and individuals from the most underserved communities in the area in order to help the agency improve services to children of color. Her approach to education does not draw value distinctions between academic and nonacademic expertise. A director from the Connecticut Department of Children and Families testified to Michelle’s skills at engaging “a community, the Department, a foster family and DCF children in a process that brought about a solution which decreased the animosity and poor relationships that had developed.” As part of this work, a research team made up of six undergraduate students, a Connecticut College alum and a community youth worked collaboratively to collect and analyze data in a study geared toward gaining a better understanding of the personality and demographic variables that are associated with favorable and unfavorable opinions of minority family communication and discipline among professionals who work with minority families. The research team also collaborated on conference presentations and scholarly publications emerging from this work.

Her most recent publication (forthcoming, spring 2009) is a book co-authored with S. Evans, C. Taylor and D. Miller, African Americans and Community Engagement in Higher Education: Perspectives of Race in Community Service, Service-Learning and Community Based Research (NY: SUNY Press).

Citations for Distinguished Engaged Scholarship:

Rose-Marie Chierici, Associate Professor of anthropology at SUNY-Geneseo, has undertaken long-term development work in Haiti that ranges from grassroots engagement with peasant organizations, village cooperatives and women’s groups, to a formal partnership with the Haitian Ministry of Health to organize, manage and fund a comprehensive health care system for the city of Borgne, in one of Haiti’s most impoverished regions—no small feat in such a volatile country. In her view, engaged scholarship involves “a commitment to social justice and a willingness to examine structures of inequality.” Much of Rose-Marie’s work is accomplished collaboratively with the resilient people in the villages of Haiti—her “partners and colleagues”—and with the involvement of students who work alongside community groups and function as academic partners in research and scholarly work. SUNY-Geneseo’s provost cites the growth and development of Rose-Marie’s students as evidence of her successful scholarship: “Some of these students are currently faculty members who have chosen the path illustrated by Dr. Chierici. Others are in various stages of their undergraduate or graduate programs, but they all speak to what it meant to have Rose-Marie as a mentor.” One wrote, “Dr. Cheirici taught me by example that only by listening to community members and valuing that knowledge and experience can one participate in positive changes and improvements, a lesson often forgotten in development circles.”

Ann Feldman, Associate Professor of English at the University of Illinois at Chicago, has developed a four-course, community-based writing curriculum that has, in the words of the vice provost for undergraduate affairs, “literally built a culture of teaching writing through real-world writing experiences. That is, the writing in the program is the engaged activity—it is not simply and as commonly used—a means of communicating what you did during your engaged activity.” The Chicago Civic Leadership Certificate Program (CCLCP) is the embodiment of Ann’s goals as an engaged educator and scholar. She writes, “As I argue in my new book, Making Writing Matter: Composition in the Engaged University, my goal has been to make students better writers, which, to me, means situated writers. Such writers are motivated by the particular context in which a piece of writing is called for, conceptualized, produced and delivered.” The program, in which students design and produce writing projects that are beneficial to their community partners, is carried out through the collaborative efforts of faculty, graduate students and community members (who function as both co-teachers and co-planners) and is rigorously assessed each year. The institutional impact of the program has been significant. CCLCP “has permanently changed the shape of the teaching of writing throughout the entire university, enlivened contacts between the university and the city and cultivated a new ethos of intellectually intense community involvement,” writes her department head. “[I]n four years, Dr. Feldman has brought CCLCP from a relatively marginal to an absolutely central position among UIC’s respected and valued undergraduate programs.