Service-learning awards presented to Dr. Kim Vrudny and student Anna Donnelly

Service-learning awards presented to Dr. Kim Vrudny, student Anna Donnelly and two community service partners

The Service-Learning Advisory Board, on behalf of the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences Dr. Tom Connery, is pleased to announce the winners of service-learning awards.

Dr. Kim Vrudy, theology professor, received this year's UST award for outstanding faculty in service-learning and Anna Donnelly will receive the Student Service-Learning Award. Also winning awards were two community service agencies with which St. Thomas collaborates: Open Arms of Minnesota and the Wellstone International High School.

UST award for outstanding faculty in service-learning
To help her St. Thomas students grasp the theological concepts she was teaching, Dr. Kim Vrudny decided to incorporate service-learning into her class and turned to Open Arms of Minnesota. Open Arms, created in 1986, prepares and delivers meals to people who are affected by HIV/AIDS.

As stated in one of her nomination letters: "Student response was overwhelmingly positive and profound. They confronted their stereotypes regarding AIDS and race, sexual orientation, sexual practices and economics. They realized that people with AIDS live in their own neighborhoods and look like them. They understood the power of reaching out to others less blessed than themselves. They learned that the simple act of delivering a meal to someone each week can act as a lifeline and an affirmation of one's humanity. And they understood that we are all God's children."

Last January, Vrudny co-taught an honors course on Community Action and Social Change. For the four-credit course, 16 students worked more than 500 hours at Open Arms helping prepare and deliver meals, work in the office, and create resource materials about HIV/AIDS. They found it so inspiring that half are still involved, months later.

To establish a sustainable relationship with Open Arms, St. Thomas has been awarded a $20,000 grant from Minnesota Campus Compact to expand this Changing Faces of Minnesota program. UST professors from seven disciplines have responded that they would like to include a service-learning partnership with Open Arms in one of their classes next year.

Vrudny, who also serves on the Service-Learning Advisory Board, received her $1,000 cash award at the University Faculty meeting last week.

Past recipients of this award include Paul Lorah (Geography, 1999), Carol Bruess (Communication Studies, 2000), Mike Klein (Justice and Peace Studies, 2001), Randy Herman (Social Work, 2002), Tim Scully (Communication Studies, 2003), Bernard Brady (Theology, 2004) and Shirley Polejewski (Accounting, 2005).

Student service-learning award
Anna Donnelly participated in the Changing Faces of Minnesota program at Lincoln International High School in fall 2004 and 2005. Her professors nominated her for membership on the Student Advisory Board because of her engagement and commitment to service-learning. In addition, she worked as a special assistant to the program, supported by a grant from the Office of the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.

Donnelly worked with faculty from St. Thomas and the Lincoln and Wellstone schools. "She was an invaluable asset not only to the students at Lincoln with whom she worked directly through her own class, but also to the overall administration of the UST program," her nomination letter read. "In addition, she took on a challenging task single-handedly. She collected ACT preparation materials for Lincoln students."

"Seldom have I seen a student so committed to our immigrant and refugee Lincoln community," the letter continued.

Donnelly, who is studying in Ireland, will receive a $100 cash award.

Outstanding community partners
The Wellstone International High School and Open Arms of Minnesota also were recognized at the faculty meeting last week.

Wellstone school, located in Minneapolis, is similar to Lincoln International High School. When it became clear that there were more UST students interested in working with immigrant students than Lincoln could accommodate, Wellstone school was contacted. UST faculty members Fred Nairn (Theology), Heidi Giebel (Philosophy) and Tonia Bock (Psychology) established a relationship with their upper-level courses last fall.

Open Arms of Minnesota, as mentioned earlier, prepares and delivers meals to people who are affected by HIV/AIDS.

The community award was first given in 2003 to the Jewish Historical Society of the Upper Midwest and the Church of the Ascension. UST classes worked for three semesters with both organizations to do an in-depth study of the social and economic changes and challenges on Minneapolis' north side.

In 2004 the award went to Lincoln International High School, which just completed its third year of collaborating with St. Thomas students. Last year the Neighborhood Development Center was the winner. The award honored a multi-year partnership with many courses in the College of Business and the Changing Faces of Minnesota Business program.