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Service and Public Engagement Awards Announced

Story posted April 29, 2009

In its inaugural year of highlighting and supporting the public engagement activities of students, faculty and staff, the McKeen Center for the Common Good recognized the service and engagement efforts of several members of the Bowdoin and local community in an awards ceremony with President Mills on May 1st.  The recipients represent the range of ways in which students, faculty and staff (as well as community partners) today work to apply their talents, passions and academic interests "for the benefit of society" as a manifestation of President Joseph McKeen's call in his inaugural address at the opening of the College over two hundred years ago.

The Bowdoin Spirit of Service Award

Suzanne Robin Heller '09 and Peter Lindsay received The Bowdoin Spirit of Service Award which is presented annually to a Bowdoin senior and a community member who embrace a genuine commitment to improving the lives of others through service, their actions speaking strongly while they remain humbly quiet.

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Suzanne Heller '09

Suzanne Heller (Psychology/Teaching minor) arrived at Bowdoin and quickly became connected to the local community in many different ways. She took on leadership of a local Girl Scout troop of 3rd-5th graders and through her education coursework engaged in local schools. As a member of the Common Good Grant committee, she worked with other students to raise funds for local organizations in the form of grants while learning about philanthropy. In the summer before her junior year, Suzanne interned with Independence Association, conducting program evaluations and planning a camping trip for Independence’s clients with disabilities. For two summers, Suzanne served as the McKeen Center Pre-Orientation Fellow, organizing the Community Immersion service trips for 40 incoming first year students. As a senior, Suzanne co-led with Kyle Dempsey an Alternative Spring Break trip to Safe Passage in Guatemala, where students worked alongside Guatemalan teachers to create opportunities for Guatemala City’s poorest children through the power of education. Suzanne is also actively involved in the Bowdoin Outing Club and is a tutor through the Quantitative Skills program and the Baldwin Center for Learning and Teaching. In all these activities, Suzanne has demonstrated an eagerness to learn about the local community and has utilized her experiences to inform her next steps of creating change within her own community. Accompanying the award is a donation to the community organization of the recipient's choice and Suzanne has chosen Independence Association.

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Peter Lindsay, United Way

Peter Lindsay has dedicated his life to helping others. As Director of Community Impact and Success By 6 at United Way of Mid Coast Maine, Peter works to ensure that a network of 38 different non-profit agencies effectively serve over 20,000 people in the local community. He has worked with volunteers to advance the common good and create long-lasting change in the areas of education, financial stability, and health, and in this way fully embodies United Way's mission to improve lives by mobilizing the caring power of communities. In particular, Peter has shown special leadership in advocating for young children. By helping to create the Success By 6 movement in Mid Coast Maine, Peter has brought the leaders of major businesses, hospitals, school systems, non-profit agencies, and law enforcement together for the common goal of helping our children get the best possible start in life. Success By 6 has demonstrated great results, including creating early literacy and volunteer reader programs, supporting home visiting and parenting programs, and partnering with Coastal ACCESS to bring millions in grant dollars to the region to improve the quality of local child care. Peter also works statewide on pre-K and school readiness initiatives, and serves on the Maine Children's Growth Council. In addition, Peter has volunteered for statewide groups of foster and adoptive parents, for his town's Planning Board, and at the global level with Amnesty International. Peter's gracious nature often puts him behind the scenes, but due to his hard work, intelligence, kindness, and responsibility, the lives of thousands of people in Maine have been improved. A donation has been given to United Way of Mid Coast Maine in Peter's name.

The General R. H. Dunlap Prize

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Willie Oppenheim '09

William Jay Oppenheim III '09 (Self Designed/Teaching minor) will receive The General R. H. Dunlap Prize, established by Katherine Wood Dunlap in memory of her husband, Brigadier General Robert H. Dunlap, USMC. This prize, which is selected by the Student Fellowships and Research Committee, is awarded to the student who composes the best essay on the subject of service in addition to having demonstrated a personal contribution to service. Willy has demonstrated his dedication to service and the common good in many ways throughout his Bowdoin career. In addition to mentoring through the Big Brothers/Big Sisters program his first year, he quickly became involved with Tedford Housing, serving the evening meal at the Tedford Shelter several nights a week. Over time, Willy assumed leadership of the student-run service organization, recruiting and coordinating other students to volunteer at Tedford.

Willy's service reaches beyond the Brunswick community as well. As a result of his own international service experiences, he founded and developed with several of his friends the Omprakash Foundation, an organization that serves as an educational, funding, and placement network for individuals interested in international service by linking them to community needs at the grassroots level. To help foster this spirit of global engagement at Bowdoin, Willy helped establish and develop funding for the Global Citizens Grant, which provides Bowdoin students the opportunity to live and serve in international communities for extended periods of time. Through Willy's hard work and dedication, many students have been enabled to reach out and serve communities in need through both of these programs. In all these endeavors, the respect Willy exhibits towards people who live in extremely difficult situations has well modeled the importance of recognizing and honoring the dignity within all human beings.

Read Willy's essay.

The Henni Friedlander Student Prize

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Kyle Dempsey '11

Kyle Edward Dempsey '11 (Biochemistry) is this year's recipient of The Henni Friedlander Student Prize. The Henni Friedlander Student Prize was established by Sheila and Martin Friedlander '71 in memory of Martin's mother, Henni Friedlander, who survived Nazi Germany to immigrate to the United States, where she was an inspiring example of how love and joy of life, rather than hatred and bitterness, can lift the human spirit and enable us as a society to promote the common good. This Prize is awarded to a Bowdoin undergraduate who has similarly overcome adversity in his or her own life and gone on to contribute to the common good.

Growing up in Millinocket, Maine, Kyle was determined from an early age to become a physician. He aspires to help others overcome the challenges of accessing healthcare that he witnessed as a young person. Kyle has pursued many opportunities while at Bowdoin that illustrate his dedication to service and the common good. During the summer of 2008, with the support of a Bowdoin Global Citizens Grant as well as the Preston Public Interest Career Fund, Kyle volunteered at a teaching clinic in Leon, Nicaragua where he experienced first hand the daily operations of an urban clinic that supports men and women living in poverty. Upon returning to Bowdoin, he worked with other students to raise funds to send donated medical supplies back to the clinic in which he volunteered. Kyle continued to spread his spirit of the common good to other Bowdoin students as he and co-leader Suzanne Heller '09 led ten of their peers on an Alternative Spring Break trip to work with Safe Passage and families working at the Guatemala City Dump over their Spring Break in 2009. Kyle is a highly regarded member of the Bowdoin community as a proctor in Moore Hall and in his service on the Student Activities Funding Committee. In all of his endeavors, Kyle is respectful of others and attentive to efficiently meeting the needs of those around him.

The Lydia Bell Award for Initiative in Public Service

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Cati Mitchell '09

Catherine McGrath Mitchell '09 (Sociology/Education Studies minor) is recognized with The Lydia Bell Award for Initiative in Public Service which is presented annually to a Bowdoin senior who exhibits the energy, enthusiasm, and commitment necessary to initiate and lead opportunities for others to effect change, influencing the Bowdoin culture in the process.

Early on in her career at Bowdoin, Cati began to address the issue of increasing the aspirations of Maine high school students to attend college by contributing to the Mitchell Institute's Barriers II study which conducted focus group interviews at high schools around the state. The following summer, Cati continued to work with the Mitchell Institute as a research intern and then took what she had learned through these experiences and incorporated them back into her academic and extracurricular life at Bowdoin. This is illustrated not only through her education coursework, but also in her work on a project in the Maine Social Research course which focused on real issues of affordable housing in Brunswick. At the same time Cati took on several leadership initiatives. As a junior she led a group of Bowdoin students to work with Wabanaki middle school students in Eastern Maine over Bowdoin's spring break, and as a senior, Cati has overseen the Aspirations in Maine program, which brings high school students from across the state to Bowdoin's campus to expose them to life at a liberal arts college and challenge them to think about the college application process. Throughout her senior year, Cati has also worked closely with Maine Campus Compact and Goodwill Industries to establish an AmeriCorps VISTA program which will place college graduates in six high schools across the state to advise students on the college process. Accompanying the award is a $100 donation to the community organization of the recipient's choice and Cati has chosen the MidCoast Hunger Prevention Program.

The Maine Campus Compact Heart and Soul Award

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Brooks Winner '10

Brooks Stuart Winner '10, was honored with The Maine Campus Compact Heart and Soul Award, which is given annually to six undergraduate students across the state who have been actively involved in turning their campuses and communities into places of democracy by raising their voices on issues of local and global importance through civic engagement efforts. Recipients demonstrate leadership by successfully involving others in their innovative approaches to social, educational, environmental, health, economic and/or legal issues facing their communities.

Brooks has focused his efforts on issues related to the environment through his courses, on campus and in the community. As an Environmental Studies major, Brooks completed multiple community-based projects through a variety of courses in Environmental Studies. These experiences led him to pursue Psi Upsilon summer fellowship where he used Clean Air and Climate Protection software to calculate gas emissions for the City of Bath. At the end of the summer, he presented a report along with a resolution committing the city to make energy saving and emissions a priority and to reduce the city’s gas emissions by 20% by 2018. The City Council passed the resolution and has incorporated funding into next year’s budget for emissions reductions and energy efficiency programs. Brooks has now consulted with the Towns of Brunswick and Topsham who are also conducting gas emission inventories and will collect data this summer which will be used in an environmental studies senior capstone course this fall. As a student Eco-Rep, Brooks educated students at Bowdoin about issues of sustainable living in a fun and educational way and then worked with Sustainable Bowdoin to develop the campus outreach Staff Office Eco-Reps program. As a member of the President's Climate Commitment Advisory Committee, Brooks was active in helping with Bowdoin’s Climate Days and Brooks also serves as vice president for the student organization Green Global Initiatives. In all his work, Brooks is the voice of clarity in emphasizing the importance of reaching out to people who are not typically engaged with the issue of climate change.

The Maine Campus Compact Student PILLAR Award

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Luke Mondello '10

Luke John Mondello '10 (Neuroscience/Religion minor) was honored with The Maine Campus Compact Student PILLAR Award is given annually to one student from each Maine college campus who supports the civic efforts of others and takes leadership roles in addressing and finding solutions to issues that face their communities through Philanthropy, Innovation, Learning, Leadership, Action, Responsibility, and Service.

Luke has contributed to Bowdoin in a variety of ways, always exhibiting leaderships and a willingness to support others. This is demonstrated through his works as a Head Proctor to First Year students in Appleton through the Office of Residential Life, as a member of the Meddiebempsters, and as a summer intern in the Sustainable Bowdoin office. Additionally, Luke has devoted significant efforts in giving to his peers and communities across the country through the Alternative Spring Break (ASB) program. Traveling to Pontotoc, Mississippi as a first year student on an ASB trip, Luke learned about issues of affordable housing by working with Habitat for Humanity, and went on to lead the trip as a sophomore. This year as a junior, Luke has assumed additional leadership as student coordinator of the ASB program. In addition to supporting logistics for the seven trips, he played an integral part in preparing trip leaders to lead by facilitating the Leader Seminar with McKeen Center staff. Here he helped new trip leaders develop the skills associated with planning a trip while exploring their own philosophies of service. His energy and enthusiasm for the program and all that students learn from their experiences is both infectious and informative to students, faculty, and staff alike.

McKeen Center Faculty Awards for Public Engagement

DeWitt John, John Lichter and Wiebke Theodore are recipients of the first McKeen Center Faculty Awards for Public Engagement which recognize and honor the variety of ways in which faculty work to advance the common good through teaching, scholarship, and service that engages with communities and issues of public concern.

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DeWitt John

DeWitt John, Thomas F. Shannon Distinguished Lecturer in Environmental Studies and the Department of Government and Legal Studies, has focused his public engagement efforts on issues relating to the Androscoggin River and through his role as former director of the Environmental Studies Program. Civic Environmentalism, the title of one of DeWitt’s recent books, and “Building Healthy Communities,” the name of a new course he will offer next year, appropriately reflect the range of DeWitt’s contributions as a teacher, scholar and Maine resident. DeWitt has been teaching about civic environmentalism since his arrival at Bowdoin in 2000, when he sent teams of students into area communities to learn about planning and policy goals around the Midcoast region by interviewing town planning committee members. Through involving students in collaborative projects in the community, he helps them understand why environmental laws are written, how they work in practice, and that many kinds of knowledge and perceptions are needed to make sound decisions about the environment. DeWitt’s students have had demonstrated success in their course-based environmental work: writing the first brochure for the Androscoggin River Alliance, conducting a survey for the ARA (with 960 respondents) that was front-page news in the Lewiston paper and cited in presentations to the Board of Environmental Protection, and preparing posters that the DEP used in public hearings. Also, after hearing a debate among students about whether a paper mill was meeting Clean Water Act standards, LL Bean later decided (on their own) to stop buying paper from the mill.

Beyond the classroom, DeWitt has been a leader in building healthy communities locally through organizing the Androscoggin River Alliance, at the state level as a Board member for the state’s Conservation Law Foundation, and, more broadly, as an evaluator for the Pew Center on Global Climate Change.Accompanying this award is a donation to the organization of the recipient's choice and DeWitt has chosen the Merrymeeting Audubon Scholarship Fund.

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John Lichter

John Lichter, Associate Professor of Biology and Environmental Studies, has been connecting students to the community through field research on local environmental issues ever since his arrival at Bowdoin in 2000. Working in dialogue with numerous NGOs, state agencies, consulting firms, and individual stakeholders, John and his students have dedicated their energies to enhancing understanding of and informed commitment to ecological recovery along the Androscoggin River and in Merrymeeting Bay. At the heart of John’s work is the belief that the most effective environmental policy derives not from powerful interest groups but from community education, discussion, and choice based on the best available knowledge. Through his teaching and his own scientific practice, John inspires students with the knowledge that by understanding and sharing scientific information, they are poised to help shape resource management policies for the benefit of all. Key to this process is having students each semester share their research results with environmental professionals in the area, as the students, in turn, learn from these professionals about the day-to-day challenges of environmental conservation. Committed to engaging in research that is useful and accessible to multiple stakeholders, John and his students also make their data available to the public through an informational website that details their work in Merrymeeting Bay.

John models public engagement for his students at the state level and beyond. In 2007, he testified before the state Board of Environmental Protection in an appeal initiated against Verso Paper, he has visited the offices of Senators Collins and Snowe on behalf of the Union of Concerned Scientists and, in Washington, D.C., participated in an education session for members of congress about the evidence for global warming and the dangers of political interference in science. Accompanying this award is a donation to the organization of the recipient's choice and John has chosen the Friends of Merrymeeting Bay.

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Wiebke Theodore

Through her architecture courses, Wiebke Theodore, Visiting Assistant Professor of Visual Arts, has seized upon the opportunity to allow students to meet clear community needs while applying what they are learning about design theory. By immersing her students in community projects, Wiebke encourages them to become engaged citizens who understand the value of using the design process to address social and environmental issues in the community. Students in Wiebke's community-based courses have completed projects throughout the Midcoast region, providing design ideas with building projects for Brunswick Park and Gardens, the Brunswick Housing Authority, the Building Materials Exchange Distribution Center, and Tedford Housing. In the process students learn the organization's mission, analyze their needs, research precedents and local zoning ordinances, and develop design ideas within a historical context. In this way, students solidify their understanding of course content while contributing to the pre-design process for non-profit organizations to introduce a range of options for their architecture projects. In all this, Wiebke's emphasis on sustainability and her unique ability to creatively incorporate sustainable approaches into her work inside and outside the classroom have been a model and motivation for others across campus. Her participation and leadership in encouraging both interdisciplinary teaching and collaborative projects has led to multiple community-based initiatives within the Visual Arts Department as well as in partnership with faculty from other departments.

In her professional practice as a designer, Wiebke also demonstrates a commitment to sustainability, working with clients to develop architecture that honors the natural world, incorporates energy efficiency, and offers strong and simple solutions to program, site, and construction. Accompanying this award is a donation to the organization of the recipient's choice and Wiebke has chosen the Brunswick Housing Authority.

The McKeen Center Staff Award for Commitment to Community

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Mike Roux

Michael Roux, Manager of Equipment Services in Information Technology, will receive The McKeen Center Staff Award for Commitment to Community, which recognizes the significant contributions of Bowdoin staff members who give their time, talent and expertise to benefit the community.

While much of Mike's service plays out on campus in meeting the tech equipment needs of students, faculty, and staff every day with the greatest of efficiency and the largest of smiles, he has also worked consistently and tirelessly to meet the needs of local non-profit organizations as the College cycles through electronic hardware with regular upgrades. Over the years Mike has kept a keen eye on making sure that still useable computers, TVs, and other equipment gets into the hands of small organizations with limited resources who often rely upon older machines. While this approach has been established as a College policy, it is Mike's leadership and careful attention to implementing the program that has resulted in numerous local classrooms, child care centers, municipal offices, and non-profit organizations being able improve their technical resources. Most recently as a result, Maine Vocational Region Ten was able to replace 12 monitors and computers for their program and Woodside Elementary school in SAD75 received 16 Macs. In all, this year alone, 17 organizations have benefited from the program including the Brunswick Fire Department, Big Brothers/ Big Sisters, Cultivating Community, People Plus, Curtis Memorial Library, and Portland Housing Authority. Mike is also a well respected member of his community in Bowdoinham and has focused his efforts there through extensive involvement in Ararat Youth sports including Bowdoinham recreation basketball, Ararat Youth Travel basketball and Bowdoinham recreation baseball.  Accompanying this award is a donation to the organization of the recipient's choice and Mike has chosen Bowdoinham Recreation Program.

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