Campus News Georgia Impact

Service-Learning Excellence Awards

Carol Britton Laws

Three outstanding faculty members have been awarded Service-Learning Excellence Awards for 2017.

Established in 2011, the awards recognize faculty for innovative service-learning course design as well as scholarship that stems from academic service-learning work.

Two awards are being presented in the Service-Learning Teaching Excellence category, recognizing excellence in developing, implementing and sustaining academic service-learning opportunities for UGA students in domestic and/or international settings. A third award is presented for Service-Learning Research Excellence and advancing service-learning scholarship.

The 2017 Service-Learning Teaching Excellence Award recipients are Carol Britton Laws, an assistant clinical professor in disability studies in the College of Family and Consumer Sciences’ Institute on Human Development and Disability, and Sungkyung Lee, an associate professor in the College of Environment and Design.

Laws, a 2013-2014 Service-Learning Fellow, has developed and taught service-learning courses for both graduate and undergraduate students centered on disability issues and advocacy. She coordinates the Disability Studies Certificate program, and over the past four years has integrated service-learning coursework into the program, in classes including Disability Issues in Adulthood, Disability Issues in Childhood and Adolescence, and Advocacy Practices for Social Change. Laws’ students have partnered with a range of community organizations, including Hope Haven, Georgia Options, Extra Special People, the Butterfly Dreams therapeutic riding farm and the Athens Community Council on Aging.

In each case, her students apply their course content to learn from and support people with disabilities, and to understand social, personal and structural issues for these community members and the agencies and families which support them. Her students report that her service-learning classes furthered their interest in public service and in disabilities studies.

Laws has published and presented on the role of service-learning and civic engagement in disabilities studies. This semester, as part of a new grant-funded, inclusive post-secondary education program for students with intellectual or developmental disabilities, she is implementing a new service-learning course, Principles of Person-Centered Practice, which pairs UGA students as peer mentors for these “Destination Dawgs” students.

Lee, a 2011-12 Service-Learning Fellow, has incorporated service-learning into landscape architecture studio courses since 2010, including Sustainability in Design and Community and Place studios. Her graduate and undergraduate landscape architecture students apply their knowledge of community-based design and development planning to work on real-world projects in collaboration with diverse, historically underserved communities and neighborhoods in Athens and in Albany.

Lee’s studio course projects have engaged her students in developing and installing community gardens, agricultural and stream bank site designs, and neighborhood analyses focused on recreation and on garden markets. Her students have also collaborated with the College of Environment and Design’s materials reuse program to implement sustainable designs using repurposed and otherwise wasted building materials.

CED Dean Daniel Nadenicek said that Lee’s students “come away from her courses with a new point of view and a sense of urgency about how they can use their professional skills to truly help people.”

The 2017 Service-Learning Research Excellence Award recipient is Tiffany Washington, an assistant professor in the School of Social Work.

Washington has integrated community-engaged research with service-learning coursework in gerontology, focusing on issues of health and caregiving. School of Social Work Dean Anna Scheyett said Washington is committed “to blending service-learning and research within her larger research agenda” in integrative ways.

Specifically, Washington developed and embedded into two service-learning courses an innovative program which partners social work graduate students with adults with dementia to provide in-home, tailored activities, while also allowing their regular caregivers a “self-care” break. Through carefully designed evaluation research, she has demonstrated the results of this “Houseguest” program, including impacts on student learning about dementia, attitudes towards older adults, and self-efficacy, as well as benefits to the participating community members. Washington has published and presented extensively on the program. To date, three journal manuscripts and several external grant proposals have been based on Houseguest program seed data, and Washington also has co-presented with her graduate students at peer-reviewed conferences. She was a Service-Learning Fellow in 2014-2015 and a recipient of UGA’s Creative Teaching Award in 2016.