Awards Presented at 2019 Learning Communities Institute

For the 19th 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 21st Annual Learning Communities Institute on Monday, May 13, 2019.

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 Dr. Howard Tyler, Assistant Dean for Student Services in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. Howard’s outstanding commitment to the Learning Communities program is demonstrated through his two years of service as coordinator of the Agriculture Exploration learning community for undecided students in CALS and his six years of service as a Coordinator of the Animal Science/Dairy Science/Pre-Vet learning community. In addition to his coordinator role, Howard has provided college representation on the LC Advisory Committee and has served as a member and co-chair of the Curriculum and Faculty Development committee. Howard has given several presentations and facilitated professional development for learning communities over the years and offers his continued all-encompassing support of our program. In his current role as assistant dean, Howard has reorganized and provided support for the College of Ag and Life Science coordinators to come together for professional development meetings which he always attends. Howard is a strong advocate for student success across campus and continues to offer his exemplary support and engagement within the learning communities program.

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 recipients of the Outstanding Innovations Award were Shannon Grundmeier and Kathy Weaver of the Business Learning Teams, otherwise known at the BLT learning communities. Always seeking innovative approaches to enhance the BLT experience, Shannon and Kathy opted to leverage the talent and enthusiasm of the peer mentors working for the program by identifying lead peer mentors who would assist with managing some of the various priorities of coordinating the learning community. The lead peer mentors contributed significantly to the development of training curriculum, coordination of successful events for the LC and to leading their peers in discussion and activities in preparation for their mentoring positions. The lead mentors developed and presented a series of professional development activities for the other mentors. As one lead mentor stated “I gained a new level of leadership experience by being able to help adapt presentations focused on the continued development of leaders, and gained a new understanding of how to be a leader of leaders.”

Learning Community Champion Award
This award honors an individual who has significantly contributed to the advancement of learning communities at Iowa State University. This year’s recipient of the Champion Award was Jenny Aune, Senior Lecturer in English and English Links Liaison for Learning Communities. Jenny has served as the English Department Learning Community Liaison for our English Links since 2008. In this role, Jenny has elevated this position to new heights through the development of new English linkages, as well as strengthening the curriculum of those that were already implemented at the time. As an instructor of her own LC English sections, she has contributed to the learning experiences of more than a decade of Learning Community students. She has engaged in scholarship of teaching and learning around the linkages and has generated publications such as Using Nonfiction Narratives in an English Course to Teach the Nature of Science and Its Importance to Communicating About Science in the Journal of Microbiology and Biology Education and Using an Interdisciplinary Approach to Teach Undergraduates Communication and Information Literacy Skills in the Journal of Natural Resources & Life Sciences Education. Jenny exemplifies the role of Learning Communities Champion in all that she has accomplished for our program.

Learning Community Collaborator Award
This award honors an individual in the Iowa State community who has demonstrated the spirit of learning communities through collaboration.
The first recipient of this year’s Collaborator Award was the Global Resource Systems (GLOBE) learning community. In fall 2018, students in the GLOBE learning community collaborated with University Museums and community partners in Des Moines to provide a private viewing of the “Unpacked: Refugee Baggage” exhibit at the Christian Petersen Art Museum. The exhibit was open especially for GRS students and the learning community guests – 3 refugees from Des Moines and Ms. Moriah Morgan from EMBARC (Ethnic Minorities of Bruma Advocacy and Resource Center). After walking through this moving exhibition, GRS students engaged in a panel discussion with the 3 refugee guests and Moriah Morgan. This excellent collaboration with resources both inside and outside of campus provided the GLOBE students with the opportunity to learn about the experiences of refugees, and to consider the global resource systems that drive people from their homes and the global resource systems and capitals that may help refugees rebuild their lives.

Our second recipient of the Collaborator Award this year was Kent Kerby, Assistant Dean for the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences. Kent’s nominators wrote “Dr. Kerby is an outstanding advocate for students and often introduces himself as ‘your Dean for Student Success’ when explaining that his job is focused around high-impact practices such as learning communities.” In addition to being an active participant in discussions around learning communities within the College of LAS, Kent became personally invested in the ISU 4U Promise cohort that was developed into a learning community experience for the 2018-2019 academic year In addition to his involvement in curriculum and activity planning for the learning community, Kent met with the learning community students during the fall semester, provided outreach to the cohort and secured funding for tutoring support for the students as they transitioned to university life. In his pursuit of reaching out to the ISU 4U Promise students, he demonstrated his intention to support learning for students both within and outside of the College of LAS.  His collaborative nature allowed the program to meet its intended goals.

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 Office of Student Financial Aid. The Office of Student Financial Aid has provided assistance to the Learning Communities program in various ways. One of our primary partnering opportunities is through the numerous presentations on topics such as budgeting, student loans, managing debt, and basic personal finance that the Student Loan Education Office has provided to individual learning community programs each year. The Scholarships staff offered tremendous support in the creation and administrative management of our annual needs-based peer mentor scholarship which was just moved into the OneApp scholarship process. And finally, the Financial Aid Office staff have provided exemplary outreach toward educating and supporting students with the FAFSA process, particularly those students in greatest financial need.

Early Achievement in Learning Community Coordination
This award recognizes an individual ISU faculty or staff who has demonstrated outstanding performance in learning community coordination early in their professional career. In our inaugural year, we are happy to recognize two outstanding recipients for this award.

Our first recipient is Janessa Boley, learning community coordinator for the Chemical Engineering First-Year, Transfer and Upper-Division learning communities. In addition to running three learning communities, and hiring, training and supervising 18 peer mentors, Janessa has served on multiple learning community committees such as the College of Engineering Learning Community Task Team, the University-wide Peer Mentor and Strengths committees. She has presented her work at the National Learning Community Conference, the Iowa Academic Advising Network Conference and our own Learning Communities Institute. In addition to her extraordinary commitment to helping the faculty and staff connected through the program, Janessa provides a thoughtful approach to all of her work with the peer mentors and students within the learning communities in Chemical Engineering.

Our second recipient of the Early Achievement in Learning Community Coordination was Nate Dobbels, co-coordinator of the Agricultural Education and Studies learning community. Nate’s ability to think through the processes and systems and to be creative in proposing and developing new and engaging solutions is evident during his time coordinating the AGEDS learning community. One area Nate has made a particular impact is with the selection and supervision model for peer mentors. He revamped an existing model of selecting mentors, integrating current and former mentors and the supervision model. Under this model, peer mentors have the opportunity to work in smaller teams with other mentors to discuss issues, plan for future orientation class periods and develop deeper connection with each other. In addition to his innovative approaches to mentor hiring, training and supervision, Nate is hard-working, honest and fun-loving with the students, mentors, faculty and staff. The Ag Ed and Studies department greatly benefits from his contributions toward student success!

Brooke and Gruenewald Learning Community Exemplary Service Award
The 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 Jane Jacobson, Director of Student Enrollment, Advising and Career Services for the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. From the very early beginnings of Learning Communities at ISU, Jane was active in their launch, development, and refinement and has continued to be integral to the success of our program. Over her 20 years of active engagement with Learning Communities, Jane has contributed to and served the program across all levels with significant and visionary contributions, including playing an active role in the Institute Committee, the curriculum and faculty development committee, and the Learning Communities Advisory Committee. During her free time, Jane also significantly expanded LC involvement in the College of LAS over the years through the development and coordination of the Cross Cultural Learning Community, CEO LC (Connections, Explorations, and Opportunities) – for Open Option students, the First CLASS Learning Community for Open Option students, LAS Frontiers & LAS Connections and served as consultant to The Sky’s the Limit and - most recently – the ISU 4U Promise learning community. Regardless of a Learning Community need, Jane ALWAYS stepped up to help. Because of her professional role at ISU, she always has been an advocate for all learning communities, not just those in LAS. When reflecting on her time, colleagues Steve Freeman and Gail Nonnecke shared, “The Learning Communities at Iowa State are the successful programs they are because of Jane’s involvement and dedication over the past 20 + years. Her commitment to others and the positive and supportive attitude she brought to every interaction in the learning communities will be missed. Jane’s legacy will live on through her contributions that she has made at Iowa State and in the learning communities – always making Iowa State a better place for students, staff and faculty.” Jane has always been an excellent contributor and will be greatly missed by all.


Kyle Holtman, 515-294-5165 or