2010 Lynton Award Recipient
2010 Ernest A. Lynton Award for the Scholarship of Engagement for Early Career Faculty
N. Eugene Walls
Assistant Professor of Social Work
University of Denver
This year, we are pleased to present the Ernest A. Lynton Award for the Scholarship of Engagement for Early Career Faculty to N. Eugene Walls, Assistant Professor of Social Work at the University of Denver. Reflecting on his engaged scholarship, Eugene writes: “In order to qualify as truly being community engaged research, practice, and education, our endeavors must go beyond their applied nature to embody an approach that values the public good, trusts the wisdom of communities, and commits to social justice…. It is only in the values that are reflected in how the work is done, and the value of the outcomes of that work to the community that work can come to be called community-engaged work.”
Eugene has established lasting partnerships with several agencies in Colorado, focusing on the needs of the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (GLBT) community. Whether working with the GLBT Community Center of Colorado to educate non-GLBT faculty on risk and resilience factors of sexual minority youth, or the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment around HIV prevention for gay men in rural settings, or Denver’s youth shelter, Urban Peak, to understand the psychosocial risks for GLBT and non-GLBT homeless youth, Eugene views collaboration with community partners as indispensible to the effort to give a voice to historically marginalized groups. He assists grassroots agencies in improving their data collection methods and developing tools to enhance funding opportunities, while also relying upon the expertise of members of those communities.
Central to Eugene’s community-based research is his accountability to the partners with whom he works. In addition, he writes, “I want to insure that my approach to engaged scholarship and to my community partners enables the process of our collaborative research to mirror the social justice goals of our jointly-created research agenda.” For example, as a cisgender (i.e., non-transgender) researcher working with the transgender community through the Colorado Trans on Campus (CTOC) initiative, Eugene ensures that community members play a central role not only in the identification of the research problem, but also in the research process itself. As part of his work with CTOC, Eugene has structured a process of participatory data analyses so that members of the group are reading transcripts, identifying emerging themes, and grappling with the relationships between the themes. Although this unique approach to community-based research poses certain logistical challenges, it “helps to insure that [Eugene’s] perspective as researcher does not overshadow the voice of community members who are intimately more knowledgeable about the topic.”
As further evidence of the depth of his community partnerships, Eugene and his partners in the Colorado GLBT community have co-published numerous articles and reports which have not only elevated the reputation of the community-based organizations but have brought greater visibility to issues impacting the GLBT community and other marginalized groups. Moreover, Eugene’s research around the intersection of race, gender, sexual orientation, etc., has helped partners to better understand the multifaceted experiences of their constituents and to create programs that are more closely aligned with the experiences of people whose voices are largely unheard.
In his teaching, Eugene challenges students to think through the multicultural impacts of their community-engaged work, facilitates their work with marginalized communities, and engages them in discussions of how privileged identities impact their research. He also integrates community members into the teaching and learning experience. One of his courses, “Disrupting Privilege through Anti-Oppressive Practice,” requires students to explore a type of privilege that they personally embody, and, in doing so, to identify the issues that keep them from speaking up as allies to people who are marginalized. Each year, Eugene recruits and works with community members as co-instructors for the course. The community members shape the content and direction of the course by developing the exercises utilized to deepen students’ understanding of issues of privilege, and even grading students’ work and participation. Co-instructors for this course have included community members associated with the Colorado Anti-Violence Program, the Iliff School of Theology, the Underground Syringe Exchange Program, and Free Speech TV. As one of his key collaborators comments, “I feel appreciative that a person with academic passion earned a PhD in order to use his skills to advance issues of social justice. I am relieved to know that my future colleagues are sitting in his classes and learning how to engage communities with true social work values that call for respectful community engagement.”
Eugene’s work clearly embodies Ernest Lynton’s notion of “true partnership.” Reflecting on the complex relationships among his teaching, research, and community engagement, he writes, “Through building of long-term relationships with the capacity for trust and collaboration between myself and my community partners, an engaged scholarship model can emerge that I believe is the best hope for a model of research that is socially just, and that has the greatest capacity for true social change. It is a model that invests the privilege inherent in the academic world into structural change so that communities' voices have as much power as our own. I want to insure that my approach to engaged scholarship and to my community partners enables the process of our collaborative research to mirror the social justice goals of our jointly-created research agenda.”
Assistant Professor of School Psychology
North Carolina State University
NERCHE is pleased to honor the work of John Begeny, Assistant Professor of School Psychology at North Carolina State University, with a Citation for Distinguished Engaged Scholarship.
In collaboration with NCSU students and community partners (namely a large, rural K-5 elementary school and a Boys and Girls Club after-school program), John has developed two internationally recognized programs: Helping Early Literacy with Practice Strategies (HELPS), a reading fluency program, and Supporting Parental Activities for Reading with Kids (SPARKS), which aims to understand the types of educational strategies parents can effectively use in the home. Additionally, he developed The HELPS Education Fund, a non-profit organization used to support teachers' free access to all HELPS materials. In his teaching and community-based research, John has included countless students and community partners as co-facilitators, co-evaluators, and co-publishers in courses and ongoing research projects. Recently nominated for an NCSU Outstanding Teaching Award, John grounds his undergraduate and graduate courses in issues of social justice, particularly with respect to educational equity, poverty, and respect for diversity. Each of his courses includes one or more community partners with whom students work and learn directly as they collaboratively provide services intended to improve children’s literacy. Community collaborators have included teachers, principals, school psychologists, parents of children with reading difficulties, and directors of community-based organizations. Most recently, John has also created a special topics course on community-engaged scholarship. As a member of the first cohort of NCSU’s faculty development program Education and Discovery Grounded in Engaged Scholarship (EDGES), John has become a campus leader in identifying new strategies to both support community engaged work on the NCSU campus. As John writes, “I believe that our most significant social challenges—such as equitable education and opportunity, poverty, racism, sexism, and access to healthcare—can only be improved if colleges and universities substantially increase their commitment to, and institutionalization of, scholarship that is driven by the needs of our community.”
The presentation of the 2010 Ernest A. Lynton Award for the Scholarship of Engagement for Early Career Faculty will take place at the annual conference of the Coalition for Urban Metropolitan Universities (CUMU), “Aligning the Metropolitan University with Business, Government and the Nonprofit Sectors,” hosted by California State University, Fresno, on October 25, 2010.