Community Engagement

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


Partnership helps Kent School students discover ways to fight domestic violence


Metropolitan College partnership between UPS, local higher education celebrates a quarter-century of success




Back in the late 1990s, UPS’s Louisville air hub, known today as Worldport, was wrestling with a significant problem. Needing employees round-theclock, the company was finding it difficult to recruit and retain workers for its overnight shifts. As it planned a much-needed expansion, the company knew the problem would only grow.

The solution? Metropolitan College – a unique public-private partnership that dramatically increased tenure among workers during the wee hours each night and provided more than 22,000 students over the past quarter-century the opportunity to earn a college degree debt-free.

Metro College allows students at the University of Louisville or Jefferson Community and Technical College to work third shift at Worldport at Muhammad Ali International Airport. In return, they earn a weekly paycheck and payment of their tuition, academic bonuses and fee payment assistance. The program receives state support to fund up to 50% of tuition and fees. The company also provides academic bonuses that include semester and graduation bonuses.

The program launched in the fall semester of 1998 as a partnership among UofL, JCTC, UPS, Louisville Metro Government and the commonwealth of Kentucky. As it celebrates its 25th anniversary, it has proved to be a resounding success in providing access to education and bolstering the local workforce.

Metro College Counselor Patrick McKinney works with a student.

“Metropolitan College is one of those initiatives that seemingly has no downside,” said UofL President Kim Schatzel. “Prior to my academic career, I spent 20 years in industry, so I see the value of Metro College across the board. In making this program possible, the state of Kentucky, UPS, JCTC and UofL have created a national model of what a combined education-workforce-economic development initiative can and should be.”

High on the list of pride points is that students graduate 100% debt-free. They also have the benefit of the Metro College Career and Academic Planning Program that helps students navigate the higher education experience and find careers after graduation.

“In addition to paying for college, Metro College provides a student with a livelihood while they are in college,” said Ty Handy, JCTC president. “That is crucial for many students who must support themselves either fully or partially while they are in school. And the added value of the career and academic guidance they receive cannot be underestimated.”

Another major result of the program involves third-shift worker tenure. Prior to the program’s launch, the average tenure of a third-shift worker was eight weeks. As of fall 2022, tenure increased to three years.

“For UPS, the success of Metro College has been integral to our ability to deliver what matters to our customers around the world,” said UPS President Jim Joseph. “In addition to the steady source of talent to help us run our Worldport operation, the program provides student-workers the opportunity to pursue their dreams debt-free, while also receiving competitive pay, benefits and work-life experience and guidance. Our community benefits by growing and enhancing the talent pool within the commonwealth. The program really is a win-win-win for all involved.” 

Thalia Almenares

Thalia Almenares came to Louisville in 2016 from Cuba and began work at UPS in 2017. Through Metro College she started taking classes at JCTC before transferring to UofL where she is poised to graduate in May as a dental hygienist.

“UPS was the best bet for my dreams,” she said. “I couldn’t believe it when they told (me) they were going to pay my tuition 100% in full. But also, with the help of the UPS team, I was able to overcome the language barrier and have a job to support my family while earning a great education. The program also provides you with a great work-life balance. I wasn’t sure if it was possible to be a student and work at the same time, but UPS opens that door.”

Another program benefit is the chance to learn leadership skills and to rise in the ranks while still enrolled in college. Just ask Jeff Wafford ’03 and Donovan Neal ’19.

“Coming out of high school, I knew I couldn’t pay for college. I was actually planning to go into the military until a friend of mine told me about UPS two months before the semester started,” Neal said. “I began in August 2012 in the UPS hub as a package handler and eventually got a role as a supervisor in finance and accounting.” He graduated from UofL with a degree in finance and today works in human resources for UPS.

Likewise, Wafford progressed through the ranks of the multinational shipping company. He enrolled in Metro College more than two decades ago and started as a package handler. “I then became a training and development supervisor, training new hires, and I’ve been lucky enough to advance through customer relations and business development.” 

Wafford, now director of public affairs in government affairs, continues to tout Metro College. “Today, I not only have the chance to talk about it to our leaders here locally and throughout Kentucky but also to the states I cover, in the Virginias and the Carolinas. They all want to know, ‘What can we do in our states to have a program like this?’ ”

Almenares and Neal talk up the program as well.

“I tell people that if UPS is my big family, then Metro College would be my mother,” Almenares said. “I say this because my mother makes sure that I have food, that I feel supported and loved, that I have everything I need. Well, Metro College provides me everything regarding school needs.”

Donovan Neal

“I was a supervisor in finance and accounting, but I knew my impact could be greater in an HR role because I wanted to actually talk to these students,” Neal said. “I tell them, all you have to do is work third shift and maintain a C (average) or better, versus having to pay for your tuition.”

The rigors of overnight work – Metro College students work 11 p.m. to 4 a.m. about 15 hours per week – coupled with college enrollment can be daunting, but Metro College staff at UofL and JCTC help students handle it. The staff members advise entering students to enroll as a parttime student to get adjusted to the new routine. And they provide advice on life skills that students may need.

“I am extremely grateful to all the Metro College staff because the wraparound services they provide are vital,” Wafford said. “I barely knew how to open a checking account when I started, so to have somebody explain things like this to me was so important. These are the things that are so vital to these students that make the program a success.”

As for handling the late hours that the job requires, Wafford notes that working overnight may not be as much of a problem as might be imagined.

“Twenty-three years ago, my then-college roommate and I were up at 3 o’clock in the morning, as college students sometimes are, and we saw this ad for Metro College,” he said. “We said, ‘You know what? We should do this. We’re up all night anyway. We have these loans we’re getting ready to take out, and we need some money.’ So the next day, we applied.

“I’ve talked about Metro College for 23 years and hopefully (because of) my son, I’ll get to talk about it for the next 23 years,” Wafford said “Let’s keep this program going, for the students, for the future of the commonwealth.”

For more information about Metro College visit

UofL partnership with GE Appliances and Bullitt County Public Schools offers guaranteed entrance to Speed School

UofL, JCPS celebrate 2023 Louisville Teacher Residency graduates

UofL medical students honored for paving the path for kids affected by gun violence

A ceremony on Tuesday, May 9 honored the medical students and showed appreciation for the time and effort they put into building the curriculum and stimulating a real impact on these kids and teenagers. Karen Udoh, who has served as a leader and voice of the Future Healers Program, was recognized with a special send off as she heads to Baltimore to start her residency with the Johns Hopkins Department of Medicine. Udoh will remain a part of Future Healers as an advisor.

Since October of 2020, the partnership has brought over 100 kids to the program.

Louisville has seen a significant increase in gun violence in the last decade, including two mass shootings in the last month. The health care response from the UofL Hospital – J. David Richardson Trauma Center, paired with the Future Healers Program aims to create a hope for the kids in this community.

Eboni Cochran receives 2023 award for Outstanding Community Partner

Eboni Cochran is the recipient of the 2023 UofL Outstanding Community Engagement Award for a Community Partner. Eboni is the is co-director of Rubbertown Emergency Action (REACT), a grassroots organization of citizens living on or near the fenceline of Rubbertown. Rubbertown is host to 11 large chemical plants, the largest source of industrial emissions in the city.  A trusted voice in environmental justice efforts for several decades, Eboni regularly leads Environmental Injustice tours around west Louisville, and also co-directs West Louisville Math and Science. Recently, she has been working with Megan Poole, UofL assistant professor of English, College of Arts & Sciences, and Dr. Poole’s students, on the Air Justice project. The Air Justice project aims to make engaging with the issue of air pollution easier, and also seeks to amplify what communities in Louisville want from environmental health equity work. Air Justice works with scholars, students, and local community members like Eboni to research solutions that bring legislative change and decrease toxic emissions in neighborhoods.


Eboni also received the 2023 Josh Smith Award for Sustainability pictured above


Outstanding Community Engagement Award winners also included:

  • UofL students Adrienne Smith, Kendria Kelly-Taylor, Jason Deakings for their work with young adults are affected by HIV. The Fighting Injustices among African American Youth Project works to address HIV testing and prevention barriers among justice-involved African American young adults.
  • UofL Assistant Professor of Comparative Humanities Dr. Hilaria Cruz won the faculty award. Dr. Hilaria Cruz grew up speaking Chatino, a language for which there was no writing system. She was forced to learn Spanish in school.  However, as a PhD student, working with two others, she co-developed a writing system for Chatino. Since then, Dr. Cruz has devoted her professional life to promoting literacy in Chatino. The Chatino Tonal Books Project is one way she has worked to achieve this goal. With her students, both undergraduate and graduate, she has written and published 19 children’s books.
  • Jason Beare received the staff award for starting the Louisville H.E.R.O. Run/Walk/Ruck 5k to raise money for local Veterans in 2022. Thanks to the participants, donations, and sponsorships from numerous local and national businesses, they donated $7500 to Veterans Club, Inc., which used the funds to aid Kentuckiana-area Veterans in financial crisis. They also donated a full $5000 scholarship to the Salute to Scholarship Fund at UofL.

The Outstanding Community Engagement Award was created in 2009 as a way to recognize faculty, staff, students, and community partners who are involved in outstanding community engagement service. Honorees engaged in exemplary community engagement activities such as volunteerism, outreach, partnerships, curricular engagement, or community-based research receive $1,000, a crystal award, and their name added to the permanent recognition display located in Ekstrom Library.


Reflecting on the April 10 shooting: a message from President Schatzel

Louisville Skyline

The shooting in downtown Louisville on April 10 continues to shake all of us, especially those who were closest to the victims. Several members of our campus community were beloved family members and dear friends of the victims of the horrible attack. Please keep those injured or killed, those that love them, our fellow Cardinals and our entire Louisville community in your prayers and thoughts. I know you join me in sending our deepest condolences to those who lost a loved one so tragically in the shooting.

I want to make sure to recognize and appreciate the heroic actions of those in our community who responded quickly, bravely and professionally in the early moments of the horrific attack and throughout the day. 

I know you all join me in offering our tremendous gratitude to the courageous officers of Louisville Metro Police Department who rushed into the Old National Bank Building, saving lives while putting themselves at great risk.

Within minutes, officers from our own UofL Police Department arrived to support LMPD. These brave members of our community worked quickly with LMPD to secure the scene itself as well as throughout the hospital district. I cannot say it often enough how greatly I appreciate our colleagues – the officers of ULPD – as each day they work tirelessly to keep our community safe.

We all recognize with deep gratitude the efforts of our colleagues at UofL Health – UofL Hospital – the trauma doctors, nurses and staff – who provided outstanding emergency medical care to those injured in the attack and continue to care for them. In our darkest moments, these heroes, as well as other first responders, exhibited true bravery and professionalism in serving their fellow citizens. I feel, as I know we all do, humbled by their actions and grateful to all of them. 

I want to remind everyone that asking for help, especially in times of trauma and stress, is a most important part of recovery. Help is available for those needing additional support. Students can call our Counseling Center at 502-852-6585 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. or access  other options at Counseling for our faculty and staff is available through our Employee Assistance Program provider, Anthem EAP. Call 800-865-1044 or go to > Select “Member Log In” > Type “University of Louisville.”  

As we all work to find a path forward in the midst of this tragedy, although I have only been a part of UofL for less than three months, I have great faith in our Cardinal and Louisville communities. I have quickly learned that Cardinals stick together, especially when they need each other most. Please take an extra moment to care for yourself, your classmates and your colleagues, and don’t hesitate to reach out to the university for support.


Kim Schatzel, Ph.D.

Third-year law student talks about experience serving at the Trager-Brandeis Elder Law Clinic

Celebrating excellence in service through community engagement


Jason Beare, research manager in the department of Cardiovascular and Thoracic Surgery, was awarded the 2023 Outstanding Community Engagement Award in the staff category at the 8th Annual Engaged Scholarship Symposium sponsored by the University of Louisville Office of Community Engagement on March 24, 2023. The intent of the Community Engagement Award is to recognize exemplary contributions that impact the well-being of the community or individuals in the community. Beare received a monetary award and his name added to a permanent recognition display in Ekstrom Library on UofL’s Belknap campus.

A 14-year employee of the University and longstanding UofL Staff Senator, Beare and his wife, Melissa, created the Louisville Honor Earned, Remembrance Owed (H.E.R.O.) Run/Walk/Ruck 5K to honor military personnel while supporting Kentuckiana-area veterans and dependent students. The event was first held in June 2022 with nearly three hundred participants, including virtual runners from Kentucky, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Kosovo, and Horn of Africa.

Through the inaugural event, Beare raised more than $12,000 to benefit veterans and veteran dependents. A $7,500 donation was awarded to Veterans Club, Inc. to assist local veterans who have fallen on financial hardships. Numerous local veterans received life-changing support thanks to the donation, including a new HVAC unit for a disabled veteran caring for his spouse with severe asthma, housing assistance for a veteran and his family living in a storage unit, and food assistance for an elderly disabled veteran.

“What is more amazing,” said Kyle Hurwitz, director of the Center for Military-Connected Students, “is the enduring impact their actions will have on UofL students through their $5,000 H.E.R.O. Run/Walk/Ruck 5K contribution to UofL’s Salute to Service scholarship fund for veteran and dependent students.” Awarded for the first-time in fall 2022, the scholarship is changing lives. The first recipient was a Freshman Music Therapy major, and youngest daughter of a deceased veteran. The student is a Type 1 Diabetic, struggling to afford insulin and continuous glucose monitoring. The scholarship is allowing her to not have to choose between medical care and tuition bills and is enabling her to continue her education.

Beare was also able to bring positive attention to the University of Louisville campus, partnering with various offices in support of the event. University Athletics were involved in hosting the Start/Finish line at Cardinal Track Stadium. UofL Police provided security officers and police officers for road closures and overall safety. UofL Parking provided the barricades for road closures, and also offered free parking in the Floyd Street garage for all race participants.

“Melissa and I had no idea what to expect when we started talking about creating a charity 5K event for veterans,” said Beare. “We thought we’d be lucky to get 100 participants and donate a couple thousand dollars. The support of the UofL community has been a humbling and rewarding experience, and truly helped grow the Louisville H.E.R.O. Run beyond our wildest expectations. The 2023 event will be even bigger and better.”

The School of Medicine recognizes the importance of supporting our community, and we are proud of the engagement that Jason Beare has achieved through his service to veterans in the city of Louisville. The next Louisville H.E.R.O. Run/Walk/Ruck 5K will occur on June 3, 2023 to close out Memorial week.


Dental student honored for community service

American Council on Education leader Marisol Morales to keynote 8th Annual UofL Engaged Scholarship Symposium

Central High School students in Pre-Medical Magnet Program receive white coats at UofL

Central High School students in Pre-Medical Magnet Program receive white coats at UofL

UofL receives nearly $1.2 million from Humana Foundation to address community’s heart health

Signature Partnership event shows JCPS students how to take control of their lives

SPOTLIGHT– A&S Faculty in Community Engaged Scholarship and Activities


Pictured left to right: Douglas Craddock, Sarah Emery, Julia Kachanova, William Scott Gunter, Megan Poole, David Johnson, Lora Haynes, Haily Culp, Cara Synder, Lyrah Fosl, Melanie Gast, Rebecka Bloomer, and Shelby Pumphrey. 


In 2022, The College of Arts and Sciences had several stellar faculty, graduate, and undergraduate students involved in a range of uniquely defined community engaged scholarship (CES) projects and activities, awarded grants from the Office of Community Engagement (OCE) to support their initiatives.

In West Louisville, Sarah Emery, Professor in Biology, collaborating with Julia Kachanova, doctoral candidate in Biology, received a $1,000 grant on an IRB-approved dissertation project, “West Louisville Urban Orchards.”  William Scott Gunter, Assistant Professor in Geographic & Environmental Sciences, collaborating with Megan Poole, Assistant Professor in English, received a $2,999 grant to work on curricular engagement around the topic of “Rubbertown Citizen-led Science Project on Air.” David Johnson, Assistant Professor in the School of Public Health, and Information Sciences, received a $3,000 grant for a research collaboration entitled, “Research on Solar Installation in West Louisville Neighborhoods,” with Angela Storey, Associate Professor in Anthropology, and Lauren Heberle, Associate Professor in Sociology.

A few other CES activities centered on the unhoused. Lora Haynes, Professor in Psychology, received a $,3000 grant for cross-college curricular engagement, “Family Resiliency Curriculum at a Homeless Shelter,” in collaboration with Hailey Culp, MA candidate in UofL College of Education & Human Development and Denise Simmel, Co-Director & Community Volunteer at Hotel Louisville. Also, Cara Snyder, Assistant Professor in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, received $3,000 for a curricular engagement and research initiative on “LGBTQ+ Youth Houselessness” in collaboration with Lyrah Fosl, graduate research assistant in Human Health Equity Innovation Hub, and Savannah Quach, undergraduate student.

Melanie Gast, Associate Professor in Sociology, received a $2,998 grant to develop and draft policy briefs and conduct a media campaign on “Louisville Metro’s Youth Engagement Services,” an inter- and cross-disciplinary collaboration with the School of Public Health and Information Sciences, Department of Health Promotion & Behavioral Sciences faculty Dr. Rebecka Bloomer along with graduate students Cat Alexander and James Joyce, and undergraduate student Jada Harris in Sociology.  And, Shelby Pumphrey, Assistant Professor in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, received a $1,000 grant to create a series of community trainings and seminars on “Community Herbal Gathering.”

The uniqueness of these community-engaged research and teaching projects is that they are all addressing a critical community need while providing research opportunities for faculty and engaged learning for students. Grantees will have the opportunity to present about their community-engaged work at the Annual Engaged Scholarship Symposium coordinated by the Office of Community Engagement.

Keynote Speaker Announced for 2023 Engaged Scholarship Symposium

The Annual Engaged Scholarship Symposium is an opportunity to network and share current research and teaching activities involving community partners and service to the community. Please join us for a day of panel presentations, lightning talks, and recognition of UofL faculty in community-engaged scholarship and sustainability.

Keynote Speaker –Marisol Morales, Ed.D.    


Dr. Marisol Morales currently serves as the Executive Director of the Carnegie Elective Classifications for the American Council on Education (ACE). In this role Morales provides conceptual leadership and operational oversight to the Carnegie Elective Classifications. This includes the collaborative development of and responsibility for all initiatives, oversight and facilitation of relevant national and international advisory committees, conceptualizing and implementing extensive data archives as well as developing and enacting a shared vision regarding access to and use of the knowledge produced by the Carnegie Elective Classifications to beneficially guide research, policy, and practice. Prior to this role she was the Vice President for Network Leadership at Campus Compact, from 2018-2022. Morales was the Founding Director of the Office of Civic and Community Engagement at the University of La Verne from 2013-2018 and the Associate Director of the Steans Center for Community-based Service Learning and Community Service Studies at DePaul University from 2005-2013.  In 2020, she was appointed as a Visiting Assistant Professor of Community-Engaged Scholarship at University of Central Florida and also serves as an adjunct faculty in the ENLACE Higher Education Master’s program at Northeastern Illinois University. Morales sits on the editorial board of the Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning, on the editorial advisory board of Liberal Education, a publication of the Association of American Colleges and Universities, and on the board of the International Association for Research on Service Learning and Community Engagement (IARSLCE). Locally, she serves as the chair of the Puerto Rican Agenda of Chicago’s Education subcommittee and on the alumni board of the Center for Latino Research and the Latin American and Latino Studies program at DePaul University. Dr. Morales holds a BA in Latin American/Latino Studies and a MS/MS in International Public Service Management both from DePaul University. She earned her Ed.D. in Organizational Leadership from the University of La Verne. Her dissertation focused on the community engagement experiences of Latinx students at a Hispanic Serving Institution.

Getting out of class: Engaged learning experiences support student success

Getting out of class: Engaged learning experiences support student success


On a sunny afternoon Cala Salah is up to her elbows in the dirt. Far removed from textbooks, dry erase boards and computers, Salah, a public health major at UofL, harvests vegetables as part of her internship with the Food Literacy Project.

Her work’s purpose is twofold: it supports the organization’s mission to address disparities in access to health foods for traditionally excluded and marginalized populations; and it helps Salah fulfill the requirements she needs to graduate.

Salah’s work with the Food Literacy Project illustrates how the university supports the whole student through transformative, purpose-driven and engaged learning. UofL’s strategic plan emphasizes the need for robust engaged learning experiences to make the university a great place to learn for its students and a great place to connect to community and industry partners.

Engaged learning is nothing new at UofL, where many programs include engaged learning requirements in their curricula. The University Career Center serves nine of the university’s 12 colleges/schools, representing almost 16,000 undergraduate and graduate students in more than 50 academic units. The College of Business, J.B. Speed School of Engineering and Brandeis School of Law all have career centers serving their students specifically.

But the abundance of engaged learning opportunities available across campus, while a good problem to have, presented an opportunity to create a centralized solution to better serve students.

This fall, UofL opened the Center for Engaged Learning (CEL), designed as a first stop for students who want to enhance their learning experience beyond the classroom. The CEL comprises two offices, the Office of Undergraduate Research and Creative Activity and the Office of Experiential Learning. These offices partner with the Career Centers, Office of Community Engagement, Office of Study Abroad and International Travel, academic programs and several other units to connect students with engaged learning activities.

Paul DeMarco, interim director of the Office of Undergraduate Research and Creative Activity, served on strategic plan subcommittees focused on the need to engage every undergraduate student in meaningful experiential learning opportunities. Streamlining resources and processes to improve the student experience and their career prospects after graduation became a top priority of the groups.

“These are opportunities for students to apply what they learn in class to real-world problems,” DeMarco said.


Madison Cicha, an environmental science major, completed a 10-week Summer Research Opportunity Program (SROP) directed by the CEL and the Office of Undergraduate Research and Creative Activity. The SROP provides students with a structured and immersive research experience with a faculty member, as well as weekly professional development seminars. For her research, Cicha worked with the Green Heart Louisville Project and the Christina Lee Brown Envirome Institute to measure how trees and other vegetation provide a sound buffer along heavily trafficked roadways in Louisville.

“It was a great opportunity to do this caliber of research, especially as an undergraduate student,” Cicha said. “The people I met at the Envirome Institute were great to work with, and I think that experience and those new relationships will set me up for my future goals.”

The mentoring she received from Ray Yeager, assistant professor in the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences and a contributor to Green Heart, provided her with much needed guidance on research that she would not have been able to learn on her own.

“Research opportunities are crucial for students to gain much needed skill sets outside of the classroom,” Yeager said. “Such experiential learning provides a transition to working independently, problem solving, personalized feedback and tailored opportunities that are invaluable for career preparation.”

Engaged learning does not stop with course requirements. According to Erica Gabbard, director of the Office of Experiential Learning, the CEL also helps students enrolled in programs without engaged learning opportunities find ways to apply their studies to professional experiences.

Sasha Gorchanyuk, a senior communication major with a minor in film studies, discovered her passion for and talent in working with corporate partnerships through her internship with the Louisville Bats Minor League Baseball team. Gorchanyuk knew she wanted experience in sports and was eager to learn about elements of the industry that were not familiar to her. Her internship allowed her to take on different roles in the front office including corporate partnerships, ticket sales, in-game entertainment and promotional activities.

Gorchanyuk, who will graduate in May 2023, places immense value in the engaged learning experience.

“I would advise students to say ‘yes’ to any internship opportunities,” she said. “I’ve completed internships ever since my sophomore year, and they have influenced who I am today and informed me on what I want to do after graduation.”


The CEL is not just a resource for students. Community and industry partners often ask UofL for guidance on the best types of students (majors, talents, etc.) for their internship positions and how to create a meaningful engaged learning experience for both the student and the business.

The benefits of quality partnerships are seen through UofL alumni, such as Oliver Kratholm ’22. During the spring 2022 semester, Kratholm enrolled in a community internship course, which provided him with the opportunity to work with Seven Counties Services, a mental and behavioral health, substance abuse treatment and intellectual and developmental disabilities service.

He found firsthand exposure to the clinical setting was rewarding and enlightening.

“Being able to shadow professionals as they work with a variety of clients with different mental health concerns really sparked my interest for pursuing further education and a career in the field,” Kratholm said.

At the conclusion of the internship, he continued with Seven Counties. He is also doing work with a research lab at UofL and plans to eventually return to school to pursue a doctorate in clinical psychology.

The paint in the new CEL is still drying, but Gabbard and DeMarco are excited about the university’s new resource. The CEL is assembling an advisory board comprised of local community organizations, economic development representatives, industry partners and nonprofits which will help strengthen connections between the university and the community. Other goals include looking for opportunities to help faculty incorporate engaged learning in their coursework and finding other ways for UofL students to get more out of class by getting out of the classroom.

“UofL wants engaged learning to be more than a box to check on the road to graduation,” Gabbard said. “For our students, now is the time to test the waters, try new things and expand their skill set so they can confidently enter the workforce in the vocation they choose.”

EDITOR’S NOTE: Julie Heflin and Brad Knoop from the Office of Communications and Marketing as well as Stuart Esrock (retired) from the communication department and the University Career Center contributed to this article.

UofL jazz program continues to collaborate remotely with South American counterparts

Trager family pledges $1 million to UofL to fund urban micro-forest at Founders Square

UofL online social work student, U.S. Marine hopes to help older adults

U.S. Marine Corps Master Sergeant Cindia Fernandez
U.S. Marine Corps Master Sergeant Cindia Fernandez

Cindia Fernandez wears many hats. She is an active-duty U.S. Marine Corps Master Sergeant stationed at Camp Lejeune, N.C. She also is a UofL Online Master of Science in Social Work student, with the goal of becoming a Certified Gerontological Social Worker, addressing the challenges of the aging process by promoting independence, autonomy and dignity in later life. 

A passion to help others is central to her own life, demonstrated in part through a willingness a few years ago to donate a kidney to her father who had end-stage renal disease, a condition in which the kidneys function below 10 percent of normal ability.

In June 2004, Fernandez stepped up to serve in the U.S. Marine Corps, leaving for boot camp just 10 days after graduating high school. After this and follow-up training, she arrived at Marine Corps Base Hawaii in Kaneohe Bay. During her assignment, Fernandez deployed to Iraq in support of Operation Enduring Freedom with Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 362 (HMH-362), providing transport of combat troops, supplies and equipment during day and night operations.

During a later assignment in Montgomery, Ala., she was a part of an infantry company and oversaw training evolutions in preparation for combat operations, contingency operations, and humanitarian/peacekeeping operations, including national emergencies.

In 2012, Fernandez arrived at Parris Island, S.C., to support recruiting missions, and was selected to attend the University of South Carolina through the Marine Corps Degree Completion Program, receiving a bachelor’s degree in psychology.

Upon graduation, she was transferred to Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in San Diego, Calif., where she worked at the Professional and Personal Development Branch assisting Marines on educational program opportunities and offering transitional counseling services.

Her next assignment was in New Orleans, La., supporting the Marine Corps Reserve Forces administratively. Following that three-year assignment, she moved to her current role, as a Course Chief for the Marine Corps Center for Learning and Faculty Development, where she teaches Marines to become curriculum developers for their formal schoolhouses.

Fernandez enrolled in UofL’s Online Master of Science in Social Work in fall 2022 after an extensive college search process. When looking for an institution, she said UofL’s reputation was a major influencer in her decision.

Not only did UofL offer the degree she wanted to pursue but, “the Raymond A. Kent School of Social Work and Family Science ranks in the top 17 percent in the nation,” Fernandez said. “UofL also is one of the few universities that matches the DoD Tuition Assistance cap per semester hour for a master’s program.”

Fernandez says she is impressed with the assistance from staff and faculty at UofL, pointing to Kent School program coordinators Holly Eckert and Connie Cox as being extremely helpful, saying “they carefully explained the process and requirements of practicum and the expectations as a graduate student.”

UofL honors and celebrates Fernandez for her military service and is proud to recognize the 247th birthday of the U.S. Marine Corps on Nov. 10.

Community Engagement

University of Louisville

2323 S. Brook St.

Louisville, KY 40208

(502) 852-6026

Office Hours

M-F 8:30am to 5:00pm

No holiday hours

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