Carolina honors 11 for public service

Pink Dogwoods bloom in front of the Old Well in early spring on the campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.Disaster preparedness trainings, pro bono legal assistance and a performance program for children with autism were some of the projects recognized at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s 2019 Public Service Awards celebration on April 1. The annual event is hosted by the Carolina Center for Public Service.

College of Arts & Sciences people and programs were among the winners.

Della Pollock, professor in the department of communication in the College of Arts & Sciences, received the 2019 Ned Brooks Award for Public Service to honor her distinguished and sustained record of service to Carolina and the larger community. She has inspired students through innovative courses, mentorship and leadership. For more than a decade, her service-learning courses have connected students with community partners and often resulted in continued engagement long after the coursework is done. Pollock also serves as the founding Executive Director of the Marian Cheek Jackson Center, a nonprofit with the mission to honor, renew and build community in the historic Northside and Pine Knolls neighborhoods of Chapel Hill.

Winners of the Office of the Provost Engaged Scholarship Awards, which honor individuals and campus units for public service through engaged teaching, research and partnership, are:

  • Meg Landfried, assistant professor in the Gillings School of Global Public Health, was recognized for engaged teaching for her work to develop the Health Behavior Capstone course for the Master of Public Health program. This community-led, group-based service-learning course allows students to apply their academic training to community-identified public health projects in partnership with local organizations. Each team of MPH students works with a partner organization and its stakeholders to address an overarching goal and enhance the partner organization’s mission.
  • Meghan Shanahan, research assistant professor in the Gillings School of Global Public Health, was recognized as an engaged researcher for her work addressing major public health issues in North Carolina in collaboration with stakeholders and partner agencies from across the state. Her projects have included evaluating the implementation of federal legislation in North Carolina, informing strategies to prevent child maltreatment deaths, opioid use among formerly incarcerated individuals and helping ensure healthy development among the state’s public school children.
  • Stephanie Kiser, director of rural health and wellness in the Eshelman School of Pharmacy, received a partnership award for her disaster preparedness work with Buncombe County and the State of North Carolina. Over the past three years, this partnership has recruited students and faculty members to collaboratively design and implement annual disaster preparedness training for mass drug distribution and 2 vaccine administration, focusing on areas of need identified by state and county partners. The partnership has helped local public health departments meet training requirements, identify critical gaps, establish relationships for maintaining a trained volunteer workforce and ensure the county can respond effectively to public health emergencies.
  • Sonda Oppewal, associate professor in the School of Nursing, received a partnership award for her work to promote community partnerships over the past 17 years. These partnerships range from certification of Adult Day Centers to providing disaster relief in Biloxi, Miss. after Hurricane Katrina to Project Homeless Connect. Since 2009, Oppewal has also led an interdisciplinary service-learning course in Tyrrell County, N.C. with community partners to help students better understand the social determinants of health.
  • The Humanities for the Public Good initiative in the College of Arts & Sciences received Special Recognition from the Office of the Provost for its leadership in public service and engaged scholarship. Humanities for the Public Good is a four-year $1.5-million initiative intended to recognize and catalyze publicly engaged scholarly activity among humanists and humanistic social scientists at UNC-Chapel Hill. Initiated by Terry Rhodes, Interim Dean of the College, with support from the Institute for the Arts & Humanities and funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the initiative offers grants and programmatic opportunities primarily aimed at graduate students and faculty in partnership with cultural institutions within and beyond the academy.
Photo shows two lines of public service award winners holding their award plaques.
Winners of the Carolina Public Service Awards included the College’s Humanities for the Public Good initiative. (photo courtesy of Carolina Center for Public Service)

Winners of the Robert E. Bryan Public Service Award, which recognizes students, staff and faculty for exemplary public service efforts, are:

  • Emma Ehrhardt, a junior chemistry and psychology major in the College of Arts & Sciences, received the undergraduate award for her work as founder and co-chair of Stage Play, an organization within the Campus Y. Stage Play provides acting classes for children with autism. The program uses research-based techniques to teach children the skills they need to feel more at ease in social situations now and later in life. Ehrhardt is in the process of disseminating a manual to help form Stage Play organizations across North Carolina.
  • Leah Chapman, a PhD student in the Gillings School of Global Public Health’s Department of Nutrition, received the graduate and professional student award for her research project in partnership with Just$ave store management to encourage selection of healthy snacks. By increasing purchases of nutritious items, Chapman’s research project is helping to improve dietary patterns among rural North Carolinians and contributing to evidence-based efforts to reduce the prevalence of diet-related chronic diseases in rural North Carolina.
  • Patricia Harris, the Director of Recruitment in the School of Education, received the staff award for her work with the “EduConnections” program. This program engages with students from underrepresented groups to cultivate their interest in becoming educators, with a goal of creating a workforce reflecting the full diversity of the student population. The program created affirming spaces for students and helped strengthen relationships with historically black colleges and universities and other programs across the state that promote access to higher education and diversity on college campuses.
  • Katie Brady, a clinical instructor in the Department of Psychiatry’s TEACCH Autism Program, received the faculty award for her initiative in collaboration with the Museum of Life and Science to create more inclusive spaces, exhibits and events for individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder and other sensory challenges. This project promotes everyday accessibility for all individuals with various abilities at the museum and includes providing training and consultation for staff on understanding guests and planning ongoing special museum events.
  • The Christian Legal Society, a student organization within the UNC School of Law, received the campus organization award for its work to provide legal assistance to refugees and immigrants in partnership with 3 Apex Immigration Services. Since April 2018, the Christian Legal Society has done three projects under the supervision of practicing attorneys: drafting humanitarian parole applications for children and teenagers who came to the United States under the Central American Minors program, assisting Burmese and Karen refugees who suffered severe trauma from Burmese militia groups and organizing a clinic to assist clients with renewing their Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) status, in partnership with El Refugio, a Latino resource center in Sanford, N.C.