Happy Award Honors Exemplary Contributions to Service-Learning 

February 11, 2021.

BATON ROUGE, LA --The Center for Community Engagement, Learning, and Leadership (CCELL) is pleased to announce the ten recipients of the 2020-2021 Happy Awards. Collectively, these faculty/staff, students, and community partners represent the highest ideals of reciprocal service-learning partnerships.

The honorees are:

LSU Biological & Agricultural Engineering (BAE) Associate Professor and Charles P. Siess Jr. Professor Dr. Dorin Boldor has taught a junior-level biological engineering (BE) course, BE 4303: Engineering Properties of Biological Materials, to which he added a service-learning requirement after participating in CCELL’s 2009-2010 Service-Learning Faculty Scholars Program. Since 2010, Dr. Boldor’s biological engineering students have partnered with local public schools to work with K-12 students and teachers to develop and deliver interactive, fun lessons on engineering concepts that meet Louisiana’s grade level expectations in science.

W.H. "Bill" LeBlanc Endowed Alumni Professor and Executive Director at the LSU Early Childhood Education Laboratory Preschool Dr. Cynthia DiCarlo is recognized for crafting two service-learning classes in the Early Childhood Teacher Education Program and fine-tuning the interplay between community need and what an entity can provide, since 2005. The first course, EDCI 3383: Assessment and Planning for Reflective Instruction: Early Childhood, allows enrolled students to investigate an issue that is a community-based need, and collaboratively, seek a solution to the issue. The second course, EDCI 4382: Critical Issues in Early Childhood Education promotes advocacy…to address a community need within Louisiana public schools. These course activities cultivate a habit for engaging in service-learning among Early Childhood (EC) students as they transition into being an EC teacher. Dr. DiCarlo participated in the 2007-2008 Service-Learning Faculty Scholars Program.

LSU School of Kinesiology Instructor & Coordinator of Physical Activity & Health Dr. Janene Grodesky has offered KIN 3605: Community and Public Health as service-learning since Spring 2020. Her class partnered with organizations facilitating older adults’ wellness, such as the Capital Area YMCA, BREC, and the EBR Coalition on Aging. When the COVID-19 crisis hit, many of these centers closed quickly and early. Dr. Grodesky, who was also a 2019-2020 Service-Learning Faculty Scholar, leaned into her training and provided a safe alternative service option for those students who had not yet earned their hours; they would select an older adult and teach them how to use a social media/technology platform.

LSU Leadership and Human Resource Development Assistant Professor Dr. Erin Richard offered LHRD 3571: Needs Analysis in Human Resource Development as a service-learning course in Spring 2019. Her course partnered with The Futures Fund, a division of The Walls Project, which is a local non-profit organization that uses art and technology to remediate blight and inspire youth to attain quality future employment. LSU LHRD students worked with The Futures Fund to determine effective ways to address needs for a comprehensive staff/professional development plan to prepare its instructors for educating and mentoring youth enrolled in the program. The students completed a needs assessment for the organization that will be put into practice.

As part of CCELL’s contract option initiative, LSU faculty and students collaborate with community partners on the best way to integrate service-learning principles into standard courses. Together, they identify how service will address the learning objectives and select a community site where the student will volunteer a minimum of 10 hours over the semester. Students must also submit a reflective assignment, which connects the course matter to the service.

  • Centered in Baton Rouge and run by its fearless leaders Taylor Cole Woolworth and Taylor James, Beyond Gymnastics helps bring safe, fun and positive gymnastics programs that celebrate children's needs and differences. Since Spring 2020, the team at Beyond Gymnastics has provided exemplary service-learning experiences for five LSU contract-option students. Although their course content varied across academic departments such as Kinesiology, Psychology, and English, students have consistently raved about their time there. Fellow Happy Award winner Ashlyn Suchand, who contract-optioned two courses with BG in Spring 2020, described her service as an “honor to be a part of helping parents enjoy themselves and getting a chance to feel ‘normal.’”

  • With roots in Baton Rouge tracing back to 1975, Sexual Trauma Awareness & Response (STAR) became what many know as the premiere organization that provides supportive services to youth and adult survivors of sexual trauma, and also delivers community education to prevent and respond responsibly to sexual violence since 2012. The team at STAR offers a multitude of services that range from advocacy, counseling, and legal help. They also accepted social media interns/volunteers during the Fall 2020 semester, which helped one of our students explore her academic passion of examining intersectionality in media politics. ECP Spring 2020 candidate and Mass Communications senior Alaysia Johnson contract-optioned two courses, MC 3333: Multiculturalism and the Media and MC 3505: Media and Policy Processes, and published this podcast based in part on her experience there.

CCELL, in conjunction with LSU Campus Life, established the Engaged Citizen Program, which seeks to support and recognize the accomplishments of undergraduate students who engage significantly with their communities to address critical community needs. The administrative and marketing efforts for this budding program would be impossible without the help from our campus partners at Campus Life, led by their director Jacob Brumfield. In addition to overseeing student organizations that emphasize community engagement like Geaux BIG Baton Rouge, Service Breaks and Volunteer LSU, Jacob and his team have coordinated with CCELL to distinguish 57 students as Engaged Citizens since Spring 2018. Jacob’s passion for service and service-learning is integral to his work and his mission to advance student leadership to all LSU students.

ECP students must complete a minimum of seven credit hours of S-L coursework, perform a minimum of 100 approved hours of community service, and submit a reflective paper detailing their experience as an Engaged Citizen. Our following ECP awardees hail from the College of Humanities and Social Sciences and LSU Manship School of Mass Communication. Two of them will graduate Spring 2021 and one graduated Fall 2020.

  • Baton Rouge native and graduating Interdisciplinary Studies senior Audrey Barton has volunteered extensively with animal welfare organizations such as Friend of the Animals (FOTA) and Companion Animal Alliance (CAA), performing over 90 hours of service over her academic career. She has fostered more than 12 pets and opened her home to one puppy over five weeks during the COVID-19 quarantine. Audrey has earned three credits of service-learning through Sociology 4465: Drugs and Society, and is currently contract-optioning two courses with Youth Oasis.

  • Graduating Mass Communications senior, Brendan Cummings of Houston, Texas, works extensively with LSU and the Humble Area Assistance Ministries (HAAM)’s food pantries where he has volunteered 122 hours of service combined. Using his demonstrable passion for tackling food security, Brendan has advocated on behalf of those who are food insecure that also have allergies, which means they cannot consume many of the pantry items available. His service-learning pursuits include CMST 4113: Communication and Leadership in Teams, ENGL 2000: Composition II (Special Emphasis: Food Literacies & Cultures) and MC 2015: Visual Communication.

  • Ashlyn Suchand, of Covington, La., graduated in Fall 2020 with a dual degree in English and Psychology and with the Engaged Citizen distinction. She earned seven credit hours of service-learning and volunteered 139.5 hours of service with the National League of Junior Cotillions. Ashlyn incorporated service-learning into two of her courses, PSYC 2017: Research Methods in Psychology and ENGL 4007: Intermediate Poetry Writing Workshop by enrolling in the CCELL contract-option experience. Through these classes, Ashlyn volunteered over 20 hours with fellow 2021 Happy Award honoree, Beyond Gymnastics. She described volunteering alongside the gymnastics staff as an “honor” and would later work full-time there over the Fall 2020 semester.

Happy Awards are given annually to ten individuals to recognize excellence in service-learning. CCELL initiated The "Happy" to commemorate former director Jan Shoemaker's ten years of distinguished service, commitment to educate and provide service for the common good. Happy Award recipients receive a commemorative lapel pin, which was designed by service-learning students based on input from Shoemaker's friends and colleagues. Award recipients can be faculty, students, and community partners. The nomination period occurs every fall.

Photo of Audrey Barton holding two rescue dogs. Audrey is wearing a red pullover and the brown dog on the right is wearing a purple jersey.Headshot of Dr. Dorin Boldor, who is standing in front of green leaves and wearing a purple LSU shirt.Headshot of Jacob Brumfield, who is standing in front an oak tree branch. He's wearing a grey suit with a purple tie.Photo of Brendan Cummings sitting on steps, wearing a salmon/pink shirt, blue jeans, and white sneakers.

Headshot of Dr. Cynthia DiCarlo, standing in front of a grey background and wearing a blue jean top. Headshot of Dr. Janene Grodesky, who is standing in front of a floral wallpaper and wearing a black top.Headshot of Dr. Erin Richard (pronounced Ree-SHARD), standing in front of a grey background and wearing a maroon suit with floral top.Screenshot from Zoom call of employees at S.T.A.R. Baton Rouge.

Photo of Ashlyn Suchand, standing next to statue of bengal tiger. Suchand is wearing purple graduation robe, golden yellow dress and black wedges.