Associate Vice Provost for Global and Local Engagement Dr. Camille George has appointed Dr. Kimberly Vrudny as the director of civic engagement and Dr. Elise Amel as the director of sustainability initiatives within the newly formed Center for Global and Local Engagement (formerly the International Education Center and Office of Service-Learning and Civic Engagement) at the University of St. Thomas.
In their new roles Vrudny and Amel will provide leadership and create intentional curricular experiences to advance the common good through community and government partnerships and initiatives in support of the university’s mission and strategic plan. They also will work closely with the Office of Mission, Student Affairs and the academic deans to mobilize and strengthen engaged partnerships that prepare students to become responsible citizens.
Vrudny and Amel will collaborate with faculty to create opportunities for the development and delivery of innovative programming to enhance student learning and foster multi-disciplinary connections that address community-identified needs.
“Both Drs. Vrudny and Amel bring a wide range of experiences and commitment to multi-disciplinary, community-driven collaborations,” George said. “Please join me in congratulating them on their new positions.”
Vrudny is an associate professor of systematic theology and has been teaching at the University of St. Thomas since 2001. She served as an interim director of service-learning during the 2006-07 academic year and again in 2012. Her professional commitment to civic engagement began in 2004 when she collaborated with Open Arms of Minnesota to introduce students to the issue of glorification of suffering in the Christian tradition in her course on theological aesthetics. In 2005, she created the HIV/AIDS initiatives at the University of St. Thomas – a multi-disciplinary cluster of more than 70 sections of classes responding to the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the local community. In the last decade the initiatives have engaged more than 20 faculty and nearly 1,500 students in local partnerships with Open Arms of Minnesota, Clare Housing and Minnesota AIDS Project, as well as international partnerships with NGOs working in the townships outside of Cape Town and Johannesburg, South Africa.
Vrudny has served for many years as a member of the Service-Learning Advisory Board, was granted a Faculty Service-Learning Award in 2006 and was appointed as an Engaged Scholar for Global and Local Engagement in 2015. She has conducted workshops both at St. Thomas and nationally to introduce faculty to engaged pedagogies and to assist them in publishing with a focus on quality engagement. She has published numerous journal articles and book chapters related to the ethics of engagement. She wants to contribute to a culture of critical engagement at St. Thomas, as students are invited to examine the structural level of the social problems that harm human populations globally and locally.
Amel has a Ph.D. in industrial-organizational psychology from Purdue University and has been teaching at the University of St. Thomas since 1997. She is a professor of psychology and served as director of environmental studies for eight years. Amel has earned awards for leadership in both service-learning and undergraduate research mentoring. She has co-developed and co-taught sustainability-infused courses in a variety of departments, including psychology, theology and environmental studies, as well as in the Aquinas Scholars and evening MBA programs. She has led efforts at the University of St. Thomas to include sustainability as a strategic priority, provide faculty development opportunities for infusing sustainability across the curriculum, and played a seminal role in the initiation and development of the ACTC CityLabs pilot program that connected a dozen St. Thomas courses with sustainability projects identified by St. Paul.
Amel has engaged in conservation psychology research since 2004, culminating in dozens of co-authored, peer-reviewed conference papers, journal publications and a textbook, Psychology for Sustainability. She is the president of Division 34 of the American Psychological Association, the Society for Environmental, Population, and Conservation Psychology. She has worked with governmental, nonprofit and business organizations to assess and maximize the attractiveness and likelihood of sustainable behavior and has shared the psychology of sustainability with communities and organizations throughout the Upper Midwest.