Community Engagement

Addressing the needs and interests of our diverse communities locally, statewide, nationally and internationally.

2024 Community Engagement Award Honorees

Winners of The Outstanding Community Engagement Awards were celebrated Mar. 22 at the Office of Community Engagement’s 2024 Engaged Scholarship Symposium. The Outstanding Community Engagement Award was created in 2009 to recognize faculty, staff, students, and community partners involved in outstanding community engagement services such as volunteerism, outreach, partnerships, curricular engagement, or community-based research. 

Nkechinyere ‘Angel’ Okorie: UofL Student Engagement

Angel's outstanding contributions to the health sector align seamlessly with the University of Louisville's strategic goals and the criteria for this award. Okorie's dedication to enhancing community well-being is evident in her innovative health initiatives. 

Through internships at Dunn PT/Pro-Rehab Physical Therapy and the Kentucky Orthopedic Rehabilitation Team, Angel played a crucial role in patient care and recovery processes, applying academic knowledge to improve outcomes. Her leadership in the Omicron Delta Kappa Honor Society and the Student Government Association reflects her commitment to creating a healthier and more inclusive community. 

Notable initiatives, such as the "Books to Branches" project, funded by the University of Louisville Gheens Grant, showcase Angel's innovative approach to combining health education and technology. This digital catalog for local social justice organizations exemplifies her commitment to serving the community effectivelyby combining health education with technology 

Okorie's accolades, including the President's Volunteer Service Award and the University of Louisville Outstanding Undergraduate Junior Student Award, underscore her positive impact on individuals and the community.  

“Her contributions have not only enriched the lives of those within our university but have also made a lasting impact on the broader community we serve,Heba Qaissi, President, Omicron Delta Kappa.  

Jennifer Middleton, PhD, MSW, LCSW: UofL Faculty Engagement

Under Dr. Middleton's guidance at the University of Louisville, the Trauma Resilient Communities (TRC) project began in Louisville, Kentucky in 2017 and has since expanded to communities in North Carolina, Tennessee, Florida, California, Chile, and the UK. In Louisville, the project focuses on aiding youth and families affected by community violence, racial trauma, and human trafficking, utilizing a resilience framework. Dr. Middleton oversees project design, grant writing, and research, examining its impact on staff, leaders, and organizations serving trauma-affected communities. 

In Louisville, the TRC project has assisted over 450 youth and families with trauma-informed services. Additionally, it has trained 3,120 individuals in the TRC model, 56 community organizations in trauma care, endorsed 89 TRC model trainers and aided 8 backbone agencies in obtaining TRC endorsement. Research reveals significant positive effects of the TRC project on the community at various levels. 

Dr. Middleton’s contributions to building trauma-resilient communities are transformative and long-lasting in every community she works alongside. She approaches all collaborations, big or small, with humility and openness, which allows her to truly hearand see each community’s needs, as well as their gifts, Beatriz Vides, Co-Founder & Senior Director of Program Development, Center for Trauma Resilient Communities. 

James Cripps,Ph.D.:UofL StaffEngagement  

For the past seven years, Dr. James Cripps has traveled extensively throughout Kentucky and Indiana, conducting Occupational Cancer Awareness and Prevention classes for fire departments. Occupational cancer is responsible for approximately 70% of all Line-of-Duty-Deaths (LODD) in the Fire Service. Dr. Cripps' educational program provides insights into the biological foundations of cancer and effective strategies to mitigate carcinogen exposure, applicable to all firefighters and fire departments. 

Dr. Cripps initiated these classes following the loss of a former colleague in the fire service. The First Responder Education Program, situated at the Colon Cancer Prevention Project, was established by Dr. Cripps and is named in honor of Deputy Chief Bruce DeArk of the Jeffersonville Fire Department. Bruce, a valued member of the survivor community, passed away in February 2022 after a four-year battle with colon cancer, attributed to hazardous exposures during his firefighting tenure. This ongoing project sees Dr. Cripps educating numerous firefighters annually on reducing their risk of various cancers. 

He is widely regarded locally and in neighboring states as an authority on Carcinogen Exposure in the Fire Service and Best Practices Mitigation Strategies. Dr. Cripps has instructed over 2,000 firefighters in these best practices, with the goal of reducing Occupational Cancer Deaths in the Fire Service. 

“This issue is so important to me because my brother served with Bruce on the Jeffersonville Fire Department. His crew still implements many of the suggestions Cripps made during an education with them, and they stay up to date on life saving screenings because they understand their importance. I am forever grateful to Cripps for his work,” Amanda Smart, MPH, Executive Director, Colon Cancer Prevention Project. 

Redeemer Lutheran Church: UofL Community Partner Engagement 

Redeemer Lutheran Church, in partnership with the University of Louisville (UL), has been involved in various collaborative initiatives. In 2004, Muhammad Ali Scholars contributed to the establishment of the New Roots Fresh Stop Food Cooperative. In the summer of 2015, UL's Brandeis School of Law provided pro bono legal document assistance at the church. 

 From 2017 to 2019, faculty and students from UL's School of Nursing conducted monthly medical screenings for conditions such as diabetes and hypertension during Dare to Care food pantry events. Since 2017, UL's School of Music has held a four-week Fall Musicale every Sunday in October at the church sanctuary. 

Since 2019, Redeemer Lutheran has hosted the Compassion Clinic as part of its annual Redeemer Community Festival Health Fair. In response to COVID-19 in 2020, the clinic transitioned to a virtual health fair platform, supplemented by on-site services such as mammography and COVID testing. Subsequent festivals have adopted a hybrid format, with some activities held outdoors and medical services provided indoors, including vision screening and immunizations. 

Redeemer Lutheran Church, situated in the west end, offers opportunities for UL students, staff, and faculty to engage with patients in their local community. This setting facilitates medical education and screening services in a relaxed festival atmosphere. Over 125 UL family members, including students, staff, faculty, residents, and fellows, participated in the Redeemer Community Festival Health Fair on October 7, 2023. The event featured performances by the Ron Jones Quartet, School of Music quartets, and faculty, and activities like Tai Chi and the Senior Women's Dance Team from the Oak and Acorn Senior Center in the west end. 

Everything is free at the annual event including food, medical services, and “give always” by the participating community service agencies. In preparation for the event, medical students and undergraduates are prepped on basic preventive medicine screenings. Community agencies such as fire, police, and Sheriff’s interact with the community in a non-stressful environment along with other community agencies affording our students the chance to meet and interact with our community resources 

I was personally impressed with thecommitment, organization, and welcoming involvement afforded University of Louisvillefaculty, students, residents/ fellows, and staff at the October 7,2023, Redeemer LutheranChurch Annual Community Festival and Block Fair.”Jeffrey M. Bumpous, M.D., FACS, Interim Dean of the School of Medicine, Interim Vice President for Academic Medical Affairs, Endowed Professor of Otolaryngology. 

Community Engagement

University of Louisville

2323 S. Brook St.

Louisville, KY 40208

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