News Release from AASCU


Contact: Jennifer Walpole (202) 478-4665


Washington, D.C.—The American Democracy Project (ADP), an initiative of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU), recently honored four outstanding leaders in civic engagement during the  2016 ADP/TDC/NASPA Civic Learning and Democratic Engagement Meeting (CLDE) in Indianapolis, Ind. Four ADP awards were presented: The Barbara Burch Award for Faculty Leadership in Civic Engagement; The William M. Plater Award for Leadership in Civic Engagement (awarded to chief academic officers); and The John Saltmarsh Award for Emerging Leaders in Civic Engagement. The awards were presented on Thursday, June 2, 2016.

“This year’s four civic engagement awards recipients represent the campus and community leadership necessary for preparing the next generation of informed, engaged citizens for our democracy,” says Jennifer Domagal-Goldman, director of AASCU’s American Democracy Project. “Their work represents a spectrum of efforts from engaged scholarship to promoting politics, practices and pedagogies that put learners and communities at the center of the work of public higher education.”

The Barbara Burch Award for Faculty Leadership in Civic Engagement was established in 2014 to honor exemplary faculty leadership in advancing the civic learning and engagement of undergraduate students and advancing the work of AASCU’s American Democracy Project. This year it was awarded to two recipients, Elizabeth Bennion and Molly Kerby. Bennion is a professor of political science at Indiana University South Bend (IUSB) and ADP campus director; she also moderated a keynote session at the CLDE meeting last week. “[Bennion] has demonstrated excellence in teaching as well as service and scholarly works regarding community-based learning and engagement. She is a first-rate teacher whose service is deep, broad and significant,” says John McIntosh, associate vice chancellor of academic affairs at IUSB. Kerby is an associate professor of diversity and community studies at Western Kentucky University (WKU) and has been engaged in ADP since its inception. According to Jane Olmsted, department head of diversity and community studies at WKU, Kerby “is tireless in her commitment to service, student engagement, community outreach, sustainability, global civic awareness and action, and all of it is intellectually grounded in scholarship: public, others’, her own, students.” The award’s namesake, Barbara Burch, provost emeritus of Western Kentucky University, provided extraordinary national leadership in the design, creation and ongoing development of the American Democracy Project.

Joan Lorden, this year’s recipient of the William M. Plater Award for Leadership in Civic Engagement, is a provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Lorden championed a renewed commitment to deepening the scope of civic engagement on campus and in the community. Her initiatives include curricular reform, faculty development, innovative civic research initiatives, and community collaborations. “Dr. Lorden’s thoughtful, deliberative approach to education, research and community engagement has had a tremendous impact on the long-term vitality of the Charlotte community and has raised the quality of intellectual life in the region,” says UNC Charlotte Chancellor Philip Dubois. The award is named after William M. Plater, Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis’ (IUPUI) chief academic officer from 1987 through 2006. During his term at IUPUI, Plater oversaw the development of civic engagement as an integral part of the campus mission and as a defining characteristic of its graduates.

The John Saltmarsh Award for Emerging Leaders in Civic Engagement was awarded this year to Jennifer Purcell. Purcell is an assistant professor of leadership studies at Kennesaw State University (Ga.). Among her many noteworthy achievements, Purcell assumed leadership for the national Emerging Engagement Scholars Workshop, sponsored by the Engagement Scholarship Consortium, served as associate editor for the Journal of Higher Education Outreach and Engagement, and made significant research contributions to the area of institutionalization of community engagement in the community college context. “Dr. Purcell has furthered the university’s commitment to community engagement in meaningful ways, and she serves as a mentor for faculty who want to engage in the scholarship of engagement” says Keisha Hoerrner, dean for University College at Kennesaw State. The award was created in honor of John Saltmarsh, co-director of the New England Resource Center for Higher Education at the University of Massachusetts Boston, as a tribute to his dedication to nurturing the next generation of civic leaders. 

The 2016 Civic Learning and Democratic Engagement conference is a partnership between AASCU’s ADP, community college members of The Democracy Commitment, and NASPA – Student Affairs Professionals in Higher Education. The conference is intended to strengthen and deepen the civic learning and engagement work that these associations are all committed to across their institutions—both public and private.   


The American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU) is a Washington, D.C.-based higher education association of more than 400 public colleges, universities, and systems whose members share a learning- and teaching-centered culture, a historic commitment to underserved student populations, and a dedication to research and creativity that advances their regions’ economic progress and cultural development.