Center for Social Impact Honors 2021 Awardees for Excellence

Center for Social Impact Honors 2021 Awardees for Excellence

This year’s virtual celebration of excellence recognized four award recipients for their accomplishments in community-engaged teaching, research, and service.

In a virtual ceremony on Thursday, April 22, Fairfield University’s Center for Social Impact celebrated a showcase of accomplishments during the 2020-21 school year and honored the recipients of four annual awards: the Jeffrey P. von Arx, S.J., Faculty Award for Excellence in Community Engagement; the Humanitarian Action Student Award; the Outstanding Community Partner Award; and the Newman Civic Fellowship. Introducing the award segment of the online event, University Provost Christine Siegel, PhD, said, "This is not only a highlight of tonight's event, but a highlight of the year, as these individuals represent our Jesuit Catholic mission and academic excellence in action." 

Congratulations to the following 2021 awardees:

Ashley Byun, PhD
Recipient of the Jeffrey P. von Arx, S.J.,  Faculty  Award for Excellence in Community Engagement

679337849_news-at_csi-awards_dr-ashley-byun_04232021.jpgDr. Ashley Byun, associate professor of biology in the College of Arts and Sciences, was commended for her community engagement efforts by Jim Knox, curator of education at the Connecticut Beardsley Zoo. Knox described Dr. Byun’s “guidance, hard work, and vision” in partnering the University with the zoo to form the service learning research program, RIZE (Research, Internships, and Zoo Education) in 2012. RIZE, Knox noted, is “the only program in the nation to feature undergraduate [zoo research] work at such a high level.”

Dr. Byun applauded the Beardsley Zoo’s “incredibly important role in the protection of wildlife” and noted that since 2012, Fairfield student volunteers at RIZE have provided more than 3,200 hours of community service and contributed upwards of 30 peer-reviewed conference presentations.When most of us think about community-engaged learning, we tend to focus on marginalized human communities,” said Dr. Byun. “However, I’ve always believed that wildlife are amongst the most marginalized and exploited communities on the planet.”

Brianna Cyr ’21
Recipient of the Humanitarian Action Student Award

679337849_news-at_csi-awards_brianna-cyr_04232021.jpgHonors student Brianna Cyr ’21 is a history and philosophy double major with a double minor in humanitarian action and peace & justice studies. Janie Leatherman, PhD, professor of politics and international studies, said Cyr’s “heart beats to the rhythm of a true humanitarian.” Dr. Leatherman listed the pre-law student’s extensive humanitarian commitments and internship experiences, including a summer spent examining the Catholic Medical Mission Board’s Covid-19 response in South Sudan — research that formed the basis of Cyr’s Humanitarian Action capstone project.

Accepted to the law school at University of Connecticut, Cyr credited Fairfield’s Humanitarian Action Program with inspiring her to pursue a specialization in immigration law.

Fairfield Public Schools – Health Education Department
Recipient of the Outstanding Community Partner Award

679337849_news-at_csi-awards_fairfield-public-schools-logo_04232021.pngMaggie Wills, PhD, associate professor of communication in the College of Arts and Sciences, presented Lori Mediate, health education coordinator of Fairfield Public Schools, with the award for Outstanding Community Partner. In 2015, Dr. Wills approached Mediate about her idea to create a communication course exploring alcohol and other drug concerns. From that conversation, a program developed to bring high school and college students together around issues of healthy decision-making. Moved to a virtual format this year, senior health classes at both Fairfield Warde and Fairfield Ludlowe paired University communication students with high school seniors to share honest reflections on choices related to substance abuse, mental health, and much more.

Expressing appreciation for the community partnership between Fairfield’s Communication Program and the Health Education Program at Fairfield Public Schools, Mediate said, “Over the last six years, this program has developed into a favorite among our seniors, and both the college students and our high school students walk away with a chance to reflect on some of the decisions that the college students have had to face, or that the high school students might be facing in the next few years.”

Eden Marchese ’23
Recipient of the Newman Civic Fellowship

679337849_news-at_csi-awards_eden-marchese_04232021.jpg“When asked to nominate a student for the Newman Civic Fellowship, the first person who came to mind was Eden Marchese,” said Amber Atwood, area coordinator in the Office of Residence Life. “Eden has demonstrated, in many spaces and places, leadership and commitment to advocacy and the well-being of all students. Eden does not just talk the talk, but they consistently walk the walk, and consistently show up with integrity as a person for others.” Atwood noted that things have not always been easy for Marchese ’23 on campus, but said, “I admire their tenacity and courage to continue to put themselves out there for a better future at Fairfield."

I am incredibly excited to be pushing the bounds of Fairfield University so that it can be an inclusive space for all gender identities, sexualities, and every minority that is on this campus and feels underrepresented,” said Marchese. “I am incredibly excited to meet with all of you and do everything that I can to help this campus be a home just as I have come to know it to be in my past two years.”

The Center for Social Impact

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Grounded in Fairfield University's Jesuit, Catholic mission to share its intellectual resources for the betterment of the community and to educate students to be socially and morally responsible, the Center for Social Impact connects community and campus to create high impact academic opportunities that address local, national, and global challenges and develop individuals committed to creating a more just and equitable world.

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