Recipients of UNLV’s new Community Engagement Awards have studied quality of life issues in Las Vegas’ historic Westside community, worked with multiple organizations on course projects, helped area youth prepare for college, and more.
Offered for the first time this year, the Community Engagement Awards were designed to honor those on campus who demonstrate a commitment to community partnership, which is one of the university’s five Top Tier goals. The awards specifically recognize community-based research, service-learning, administrative faculty/classified staff service, and student service.
“It’s exciting to have the opportunity to recognize the wonderful community engagement activities of our faculty, staff, and students at UNLV,” said Sue DiBella, interim executive director of the Office of Community Engagement. “The applications we received represent a rich variety of projects and activities. They truly reflect the breadth of collaboration between the university and its many community partners.”
A selection committee reviewed the 28 applications received for awards in the four categories. The inaugural recipients are Christie Batson, Community-Based Research Faculty Award; Anna Smedley-López, Service-Learning Faculty Award; Keith Rogers, the Staff Service Award; and Autumn Spicer, the Student Service Award. Overviews of their community engagement activities are offered below.
Office of Community Engagement Community-Based Research Faculty Award
Christie Batson, Ph.D. – Associate Professor, Department of Sociology
Christie Batson specializes in urban and social demography and examines neighborhood quality of life issues in Southern Nevada. Through a partnership with the Southern Nevada Regional Housing Authority, the Safe Village Initiative, and the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, Batson conducted an in-depth, mixed-methods study examining community quality of life and neighborhood attachment in one of Las Vegas’ most historic neighborhoods, the Westside, which is home to the largest community of African-American residents in Las Vegas. Her research project disclosed important issues about public housing policies, community economic development, neighborhood places of significance for residents, and relationships between residents and the police. Batson’s findings provide important data used by community residents, local politicians, housing agencies, social service providers, and law enforcement to improve our understanding of social conditions that contribute to community resiliency.
Office of Community Engagement Service-Learning Award
Anna C. Smedley-López, Ph.D. – Assistant Professor in Residence, Department of Sociology
Anna Smedley-López leads the Department of Sociology’s Service Learning Initiative for Community Engagement in Sociology (SLICES), a multi-semester program for students enrolled in SOC 205: Ethnic Groups in Contemporary Society. SLICES is a community-based research service-learning initiative that partners UNLV undergraduate students with Las Vegas organizations and coalitions in support of racial/ethnic/immigration education and equity. SLICES students work closely with local partners to complete community-based, participatory research projects that align directly with course learning objectives. While completing their projects students gain professional skills, increase their understanding of culturally competent research, and learn the importance of working with the community. SLICES’ collaborative projects have included topics such as legal aid for asylees with the Immigrant Justice Initiative, cultural and environmental preservation with the Protect Gold Butte Initiative, resources for undocu/DACAmented students with the UNLV UndocuNetwork, health equity with the Nevada Minority Health and Equity Collation, student belonging and success with the UNLV Intersection, and the prison pipeline with the Las Vegas chapter of the National Coalition of 100 Black Women. Community partners share in the planning, activities, data use, and outcomes developed through the projects.
Office of Community Engagement Staff Service Award
Keith Rogers – Deputy Executive Director, Center for Academic Enrichment and Outreach
Keith Rogers works with the UNLV Center for Academic Enrichment and Outreach (CAEO) to bridge the gap between secondary education attainment and access to post-secondary programs for under-represented, low-income, and first-generation students in the Las Vegas valley. Through a partnership with the Clark County School District (CCSD), Rogers led efforts to provide more than 20,000 CCSD students with academic support and services at 30 of the lowest performing schools in the district. These schools are faced with many challenges, such as overcrowded classrooms and limited ability to guide and prepare students for post-secondary education. The grade point averages, high school graduation rates, and college enrollment rates at these schools have increased through student and school participation in CAEO programs. These programs have led many participating students to enroll at UNLV, resulting in a more diverse UNLV student body, specifically in the STEM disciplines. These programs also resulted in an increase in the academic success of minority, low-income, and first-generation UNLV students by providing support for incoming freshmen who may be underprepared academically and financially.
Office of Community Engagement Student Service Award
Autumn Spicer – Graduate Student, Master’s of Business Administration
Autumn Spicer volunteered to create an outreach program between UNLV Athletics and multiple community organizations, including The John C. Kish Foundation, the Clark County School District, Three Square, the Southern Nevada Health District, the After School All-Stars, the Las Vegas Rotary Club, the Nevada Partnership for Homeless Youth, and Team Impact. The goal of the program was to facilitate and increase volunteerism among UNLV student-athletes, coaches, and staff. She helped organize and develop volunteer opportunities across Southern Nevada, increasing UNLV Athletics service hours from 1,479 hours to 13,058 hours over the course of three years. These opportunities enabled student-athletes to participate in a variety of volunteer activities, including combating hunger with Three Square by packing meal bags for children, families, and the elderly; reading to, interacting with, and serving as role models to economically disadvantaged children; working with the Nevada Partnership for Homeless Youth to collect and distribute toiletry items to homeless youth in shelters; and speaking out against violence and bullying in elementary schools.