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Civic Engagement Awards

Eligibility Past Winners

The Center for Civic Engagement celebrates Illinois State University's core vale of civic engagement by annually recognizing individuals and organizations for their outstanding contributions to civic engagement. The Civic Engagement Awards were first presented in 2017 by the American Democracy Project. Recipients are honored each year at the University's Civic Engagement Celebration in April.

2024 Civic Engagement Awardees

Individuals and groups across the campus and community were honored with the 2024 Civic Engagement Awards on April 9 as part of Illinois State University’s annual Civic Engagement Celebration. The event was hosted by the Center for Civic Engagement (CCE). We are thrilled to share the 2024 Civic Engagement Award recipients below!

2024 Community Partner Award

BN Welcoming received the Community Partner Award. This award recognizes a community organization that is significantly involved with Illinois State University. This recognition honors organizations and individuals who contribute to student learning and support student engagement with the community in a curricular or cocurricular setting.

BN Welcoming team members highlighted in the nomination include Mary Aplington, Mike Hendricks, Mike Matejka, Karen Schmidt, and Chang Su-Russell. 

BN Welcoming is a local organization focused on creating a safe and supportive community for immigrants and refugees. Their nominator notes that BN Welcoming has been particularly strong in their support of community-engaged research. BN Welcoming most recently worked with Dr. Gina Hunter’s Advanced Ethnographic Methods course and Dr. Hunter describes them as a "true partner." Student Nominators and Stevenson Center Applied Community and Economic Development Fellows Laura Keeran and Sierra Mack-Erb note that this research opportunity gave them and other students "hands on learning experiences rooted in the spirit of civic engagement, activism, and applied learning" and allowed them to "practice a decolonized approach" to research methodology. 

2024 Interdisciplinary Award

The Student Navigators Team received the Interdisciplinary Team Award. This award recognizes a group, team, or initiative that is a multidepartment effort of a civic engagement initiative or activity. This recognition acknowledges that civic engagement has no boundaries, and that collaboration is often required.

Team members include Kylie Black, Kassy Diaz, Madeline McCarron, Colin Witt, and Jill Benson. 

The Student Navigators Team was launched in the Fall of 2023 with the charge of addressing food insecurity after a study showed that 40% of ISU students struggled with this issue. Quickly, their scope broadened to addressing many of students’ basic needs. The team is composed of faculty, staff and students and is built on a strong foundation of partnership and innovation, collaborating frequently with Event Management, Dining, and Hospitality, the School Street Food Pantry, Financial Aid, Persistence Committee, Office of Sustainability, ISU Police Department, Student Government Association, and Dean of Students Case Management staff. Navigators meet with students 1-on-1 to connect them with resources, and, at this time, the program has served over 50 students.

2024 Student Award

Claire Campbell received the Student Award, which recognizes a student who is significantly involved in civic engagement activities at Illinois State University and/or in the broader community, embodying the ideal of an informed and engaged global community member.

Claire has been deeply involved with the local non-profit For a Better Tomorrow where she has served in a variety of roles including service as a Youth Global Citizen project mentor, on the project recruitment committee, on the grant review committee, in the December telethon, and as leader of the global philanthropy learning event and the Youth Volunteer Corps trash pick-up event. On campus, Claire is a member of the STEM Ambassadors team and is involved in a community engaged research project studying students’ perception of climate in STEM programs. One of her nominators says that Claire has a "profound dedication to making a positive impact in her community and beyond."

2024 Registered Student Organization Award

Astronomy Club was honored with the Registered Student Organization (RSO) award. This award recognizes an RSO that has been significantly involved in civic engagement at Illinois State or in the broader community. These experiences prepare RSO members to be informed and engaged global community members who will promote and further the goals of society.

The Astronomy Club Executive Board includes Brayden Sefranek, Cayden Foster, Claire Campbell, Riley Wasler, Megan Krygowski, and advisor Dr. Jay Ansher. 

Their nominator shares that members of this RSO have a passion for civic engagement and have been especially involved in planning for yesterday’s solar eclipse viewing event on campus along with Emergency Management, the Office of Sustainability, the Department of Physics, Environmental Health and Safety, the Center for Mathematics, Science, and Technology, and other STEM RSOs including the American Society of Safety Professionals, Physics Club, Emergency Services Club, and the Solar Car team. The Astronomy Club has developed a great deal of educational programming about the eclipse, facilitated our collective viewing of the eclipse yesterday, and coordinated event volunteers. The club also maintains a strong relationship with the Twin City Amateur Astronomers and actively promotes their partners’ events on social media. Their nominator notes that they are a truly interdisciplinary, diverse, and welcoming group committed to encouraging a love for astronomy in their community.

2024 Staff Award

Kacy Rader, Hospitality Coordinator in Event Management, Dining, and Hospitality, was honored with the Staff Award. This award recognizes a staff member who is significantly involved in civic engagement activities at Illinois State University and/or in the broader community. This recognition honors staff members who contribute to the public good and embody the core value of civic engagement personally and/or professionally.

Kacy’s nominators describe her as tirelessly dedicated, a mentor, a guide, a friend and a beacon of positivity within our community. Kacy is a fierce advocate for issues of public health and has worked on projects such as the Narcan Distribution Initiative, distribution of drinking test strips, the "I’m Alive" fair and the "Your Story Matters" mental health awareness event. She has collaborated closely with multiple state senators and the Civic Engagement Committee of the Student Government Association. Her work has reached thousands of students, and her nominators say she embodies what it means to be civically engaged and her impact is profound and lasting.

2024 Unit Award

The Eckelmann-Taylor Speech and Hearing Clinic received the Unit Award. This award recognizes a unit or department that has developed a civic engagement initiative or activity reflecting the department’s commitment to the public good.

The Eckelmann-Taylor Speech and Hearing Clinic opened in the mid-1930's as an on-campus clinical site for students pursuing degrees in speech-language pathology and audiology. In addition to providing these experiences in the on-campus clinic, they also go into the community to provide services to clients directly. They have built extensive partnerships with the Dominican Sisters in Springfield, the local Activity Recreation Center, Luther Oaks, Central Illinois Friends, and many other local non-profits to provide both direct services and educational opportunities to the community. They have an in-house food pantry, facilitated a service trip to Belize this January and recently secured grant funding to provide free educational film screenings at the Normal Theater. One of their nominators notes the clinic faculty and staff consistently go above and beyond to support students and the community and this commitment will continue to make them an asset to the University. 

2024 Faculty Award

Dr. Frank Beck was honored with the Faculty Award. This award recognizes a faculty member who has contributed significantly to incorporate civic engagement into their teaching, scholarly and creative productivity, and/or professional and community service. This recognition honors the faculty member’s commitment to the public good and the advancement of civic engagement within their discipline.

For the past 20 years, Dr. Beck has served as the director of the Stevenson Center for Community and Economic Development. For many of those years he also taught Sociology 466: Community Project Design and Management in which he and his students support community engaged research projects. He has collaborated with local organizations such as BN Welcoming, the Ecology Action Center, the NAACP, Not in Our Town, Prairie Pride Coalition, and the School Street Food Pantry to name a few. He has also worked for several years in data management for the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council of the Mclean County Government and has brought millions of dollars in grant funding to ISU through this work on that and other projects. He also serves on the Board of the Immigration Project, on the Steering Committee for Responsible Cities, and as a leader with the Boy Scouts of America. One nominator notes that Dr. Beck has spent the entirety of his career contributing to civic engagement and supporting students in their commitment to that work.

2024 Centering EDI Award

Dr. Grace Kang was recognized with the Centering EDI Award. This award recognizes an individual or group who has developed a civic engagement project that exemplifies the center’s vision of a more just and equitable world cultivated through the co-creation of knowledge, mutually beneficial partnerships, and collective action.

Dr. Kang is a faculty member in the School of Teaching and Learning and an active member of the Champaign community. She is deeply involved with the Unit 4 school district, and she has served as a mentor in the Champaign One-to-One and the I-PROMISE Mentor Programs. She has also served on the Unit 4 PTA in leadership positions including on the equity committee, on fundraising initiatives and in other volunteer roles. She even hosts an after-school program focused on creative writing. Her involvement in Unit 4 expands to her Diversity and Equity Cohort program which allows education students to experience the diversity of the Champaign schools, apply classroom learning about EDl, and learn about community partners and the wealth of opportunity and knowledge available outside the classroom. Her nominators say that her commitment to EDI is at the very core of her teaching, scholarship, and service.

2024 Friend of Civic Engagement

While the other Civic Engagement Awards come from campuswide nominations and are determined by an independent selection committee, the Friend of Civic Engagement award was created by the Center for Civic Engagement staff to recognize those who are going above and beyond to help the staff fulfill their mission. Two individuals were honored with the Friend of Civic Engagement Award this year: Rocío Morales, Lecturer of Spanish in the Department of Languages, Literatures, and Cultures, was named as the Faculty Friend of Civic Engagement, and Dr. Ashley Waring-Sparks, STEM Program Coordinator at the Center for Mathematics, Science, and Technology, was named as the Staff Friend of Civic Engagement.

Rocío Morales has shown her dedication to civic engagement by acting as a trip advisor on multiple Alternative Break trips this year. During her time as an advisor, she not only provided counsel to students, but shared her unique perspective and helped identify ways in which students can continue to foster their passion for service in our local community. She has made an impact on so many students and continues to act as an ambassador for the Alternative Breaks program on campus. She is also integrating Civic Engagement into her teaching, and she truly brings joy to every person with whom she interacts.

Dr. Ashley Waring-Sparks has provided fantastic support to CCE throughout the year. From driving the van to Saturday service projects, to helping load and organize gifts throughout the day for our largest Holiday Helper Project ever, to volunteering as an Election Greeter during the Primary Election, and coming to campus late that night to help return borrowed items to their proper locations, Ashley has gone above and beyond to support our core value of Civic Engagement! Ashley’s dedication and willingness to lend a hand wherever needed has made her a treasured friend to the Center.