Awards Presented at 2017 Learning Communities Institute

For the 17th consecutive year, the Learning Communities Awards Committee honored individuals for their extraordinary contributions to learning communities at Iowa State University. The honors were presented at the 19th Annual Learning Communities Institute on Monday, May 8, 2017.

Corly Brooke Learning Community Advocate Award
This award recognizes an Iowa State faculty or staff member who has made significant contributions to the success of our students and learning communities. This year’s recipient of the Corly Brooke Advocate Award was Cinzia Cervato, Morrill Professor of Geological & Atmospheric Sciences. Cinzia has been involved with the learning communities in multiple ways over the past nine years. In addition to serving as Earth, Wind and Fire LC co-coordinator , she has provided valuable leadership as a committee member, scholar and advocate for our program. During her time on the curriculum committee, Cinzia worked on initiatives such as difficult dialogues and financial literacy within learning communities. She also engaged in an extensive subcommittee project which explored how student competencies addressed within Learning Communities aligned with college outcomes. Cinzia’s advocacy extends beyond the committee and coordinator roles, as she has collaborated with other ISU faculty toward the development of new learning communities for open option students in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, such as Save Planet Earth and the Sky is the Limit. In addition to serving in an advisory capacity to on-campus faculty, Cinzia has shared her learning community experiences with the national audience. She has served in a consultant role with faculty from other higher education institutions and has performed assessment and published research on LC students with her colleague Dave Flory. In 2015, they co-authored an article titled “Earth Wind & Fire: A learning community approach to build ties between degree programs in a geoscience department.” which was published in the Journal of Geoscience Education.

Outstanding Innovations Award
This award honors members of the Iowa State community who have made new and creative contributions to learning communities.  
This year’s recipient of the Outstanding Innovations Award was the Chemical Engineering Learning Community Team. The Chemical Engineering peer mentor team noted that transfer students often struggle in their first few semesters to find industrial internship positions. They recommended getting involved with laboratory research on campus would be an effective way for their mentees to develop experience in their discipline. To inform the transfer students about research opportunities, the learning community hosted a faculty panel about research in chemical engineering. This was an excellent way for faculty to meet new transfer students and engage with them. As a result, many transfer students have actively pursued joining research labs in the department and at least one student has a paid research internship position lined up for this summer.The mentor team also led a seminar session to prep their mentees for the Engineering Career Fair. The mentors shared personal stories from their experiences attending the career fair and used small group discussions to draw out student concerns and fears about this upcoming event. Getting new initiatives up and running takes much time and effort. This group was fearless in making a positive change that serves students as they join the department. 

Learning Community Champion Award
This award honors an individual who has significantly contributed to the advancement of learning communities at Iowa State University. The first of two recipients of this year’s Champion Award was Chuck Achter, Senior Lecturer for School of Education and coordinator of the Preparing Tomorrow's Teachers learning community. For the past seven years, Chuck has provided leadership and guidance to hundreds of students participating in his learning community, as well as the dozens of peer mentors he has supervised during his time as a coordinator. Chuck has been a most willing volunteer for providing presentations on professionalism and the role of peer mentoring in student development. His work in this area, as well as presentations on how to create actively engaged communities, extends from his learning community as he has been invited to provide training sessions in other colleges and the greater university-wide learning community program. Perhaps the most noteworthy of Chuck’s activities has been his commitment to engaging students in service-learning. The Bookland Project at the Ames Public Library impacts more than 300 children in Ames. Additionally, the establishment of “No Excuses University” with elementary students in Omaha, provides ISU students an opportunity to serve as mentors and role models for at-risk students. The ISU students who have participated in both of these service opportunities provide powerful testimonials to the impact these experiences have on the lives of our students and the children they serve.

The second recipient of the Champion Award was Darlene Fratzke, coordinator of the Adult, Non-Traditional Students and co-coordinator of the Making Informed Decisions (MINDs) learning communities. Darlene brings a wealth of experience and knowledge to the students in her learning communities and continually offers new ideas to respond to the student’s needs. Most recently, the MINDs learning community has incorporated a common reading into the curriculum. The book is provided for students to read over the summer before the fall semester begins. Adding this component to the program required a lot of additional planning and coordination, but Darlene always goes above and beyond in the best interest of the students. Tirelessly, she seeks out new and exciting teaching strategies, activities, and assessments to help students explore their interests and careers. As one of the learning community student’s notes: “Darlene was one of the first people to make me feel welcome and valued at Iowa State. In those first few weeks, Darlene learned my name; she could spot me in a crowd full of students at the Memorial Union and would stop to say hello. In the same manner, Darlene spotted my potential, pointed it out it to me, and encouraged me to pursue opportunities that would allow me to explore and develop my potential. Darlene continues to foster a safe space for undeclared first-year students in the College of Human Sciences.”

Learning Community Collaborator Award
This award honors members in the Iowa State community who have demonstrated the spirit of learning communities through collaboration. The recipient of the Collaborator Award this year was Amber Kargol, academic adviser and coordinator of the Food Science & Human Nutrition Transfer Learning Community. Amber has been using innovative and research-based methods to help new transfer students adjust to Iowa State University.  Due to her successes and the positive feedback from the FSHN Transfer learning community members, Amber’s knowledge and ideas now affect hundreds of other students across campus.  
Amber always seems to find time to use her knowledge to help promote and improve Learning Communities at Iowa State University. She has consulted with multiple coordinators across campus and provided guidance with the development of new transfer learning communities.  Sharing about her experiences with transfer learning communities is part of what she has accomplished but she has also co-led a teaching and learning circle on habits. This teaching and learning circle has sparked numerous discussions on campus and has also been heavily integrated into the curriculum for the Kinesiology department.  Kyle Holtman, Lisa Phillips, and Amber presented on Habits at three different conferences last year and won the Best of Region Award at the Region 6 conference in Omaha.  

Learning Community Partner Award
This award honors an individual department or office that has partnered with and supported learning community initiatives at Iowa State University. This year’s recipient of the Partner Award was the Liberal Arts and Sciences Career Services Office.
In addition to providing student appointments, numerous class visits, and maintaining and enhancing employer relations with hundreds of companies, the LAS Career Services Office extended their reach by partnering closely with the Mathematics and Statistics learning community this year. The Math and Stat learning community developed a careers lab focusing on early professional development and barriers that will be faced in the working world. It was developed into a semester long lab course for first-year students in the MSLC so that students can hit the ground running for their internship search during their sophomore year. LAS Career Services helped develop this course from its’ initial concept down to writing the lesson plans. They have helped with every facet of this course. Their award nominator stated that they could not have been as innovative or creative with this learning community course if it was not for the special partnership with LAS Career Services.

Brooke and Gruenewald Learning Community Exemplary Service Award
The newly established Brooke and Gruenewald Learning Community Exemplary Service Award is named after former Learning Community co-directors Corly Brooke and Doug Gruenewald. This special award honors individuals of the ISU community who have demonstrated outstanding dedication to student success and exemplary, long-term contributions to the learning communities program. The recipient of the Brooke and Gruenewald Learning Community Exemplary Service Award was Mark Chidister, Senior Associate Dean of the College of Design and Associate Professor of Art and Visual Culture. Being an architect, Mark has always exhibited the ability to think big. When initially approached to consider developing a learning community, Mark immediately jumped at the opportunity. He was quick to see the value of academic and student affairs partnerships to better serve our students. He saw the great potential of the learning communities program to expand and worked tirelessly to promote its benefits to student learning among the faculty ranks in all colleges at Iowa State. As one of our pioneering coordinators, Mark demonstrated his exemplary innovation through the addition of a studio-lab component to the residentially-based Design Exchange learning community. Additionally, Mark was a vital contributor to a proposal that secured funding of $1.5 million to develop and grow the ISU learning community program. He was an outstanding and highly engaged member of the LC Advisory Committee during the formative years of the program and is admired for his creativity, openness to new ideas, thoughtful analysis, and kind spirit. Mark is the only faculty member, to our knowledge, to use his sabbatical to do an extensive and highly regarded assessment of his LC, the Design Exchange. He also presented a number of programs at national LC conferences over the years. Mark has been a constant partner and shown sincere dedication to the advancement of the 1st year student learning experience.

Jen Leptien, 294-1948