Assistant professor and chair of the Justice and Peace Studies Department Amy Finnegan, history major Whitney Oachs and alumnus Otis Zanders have received Minnesota Campus Compact Awards for their leadership and civic engagement.

The organization, which annually confers awards that recognize effective leaders who develop campus-community partnerships, will recognize the three recipients as part of a state summit and awards luncheon on St. Thomas’ St. Paul campus on April 5. (For more information and to register to attend the event, click here.)

Amy Finnegan

Finnegan, who has been at St. Thomas since 2013, is being recognized for the President’s Civic Engagement Stewardship Award, which recognizes a member of the faculty, administration or staff who has “significantly advanced their campus’ distinctive civic mission by forming strong partnership, supporting others’ civic engagement and working to institutionalize a culture and practice of engagement.” Finnegan is a sociologist whose teaching and research interests include social movements and social change, peace and conflict, global health, human rights, medical sociology, globalization and health policy, service learning and African studies. She is also the co-director of SocMed, a nonprofit organization that advocates for and implements global health education in the pursuit of justice and equity through immersion courses in northern Uganda and, now, Haiti. She also has led St. Thomas’ annual World Cafe event, and her courses have featured the Soliya Program, which enters students into dialogue with peers around the globe.

David Willard and Whitney Oachs

Whitney Oachs (left) and history assistant professor David Williard

“Few faculty members parallel Dr. Finnegan’s dedication to fostering social responsibility and advancing the common good in her classroom,” wrote faculty member Kari Zimmerman in her nomination of Finnegan.

Oachs is being recognized for the Presidents’ Student Leadership Award, which highlights “an individual student or a student organization that models a deep commitment to civic responsibility and leadership, evidenced by initiative, innovative and collaborative approaches to addressing public issues, effective community building, and integration of civic engagement into the college experience.” Oachs has been involved with Together Possible, a participatory action research project with Cristo Rey High School students; held internships with East Side Freedom Library and the Minnesota Historical Society; and worked with We March for Justice, an academic program in Memphis, Tennessee. Oachs also has helped lead the Free Project at St. Thomas, and her research has focused on the historic protests of Twin Cities residents in response highway construction.

“[Oachs] is the most talented, self-motivated early career undergraduate I have taught,” history assistant professor David Williard wrote in his nomination.

Otis Zanders

Zanders is being recognized for the President’s Community Partner Award, given to “a community-based organization that has enhanced the quality of life in the community in meaningful and measurable ways and has engaged in the development of sustained, reciprocal partnerships with the college or university, thus enriching educational as well as community outcomes.” Zanders is the executive director of Ujamaa Place, an African-American culturally specific organization focused on young men who may suffer multiple barriers to becoming stable. Zanders is “an invaluable contributor to the St. Thomas community … as a guest lecturer, community partner and mentor for many,” wrote graduate student Monica Yaa Habia.

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