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Rutgers University in Newark honored students, faculty, staff and the MCJ Amelior Foundation for community spirit during Nov. 13 ceremonies

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Rutgers University in Newark honored members of the Rutgers community, one Rutgers academic department and one community agency, for “exemplary leadership in connecting the campus with the community.” Professors Robert Snyder and Judith Weis; students Samantha Johnston, Rosalie Uyola and Jason Khurdan; Rutgers Business School’s Pat Kettenring, director of GlassRoots; the Department of Social Work at Rutgers in Newark; and The MCJ Amelior Foundation, received the 2008  Chancellor’s Community Engagement Awards during a campus ceremony on Nov. 13.
In announcing the second annual awards, Chancellor Steven J. Diner noted, “The campus is very fortunate to have so many dedicated faculty, staff and students, working with community agencies and populations, forming partnerships, engaging in research and teaching activities, and forging valuable relationships with Newark and its neighbors.” Last year, in recognition of the university’s extensive, ongoing civic engagement activities, the Carnegie Foundation listed Rutgers in Newark as one of only 76 community-engaged colleges and universities in the United States. The chancellor’s awards reaffirm that commitment.

Following are the honorees, their hometowns and their awards:
Associate Professor Robert Snyder, journalism and American studies, Visual and Performing Arts Department, New York, N.Y.: Community Engagement in Undergraduate Teaching and Learning, made to a full-time or part-time faculty member or teaching assistant for recognizing exemplary use of the resources of the surrounding community in teaching and learning. Snyder is founder and editor of The Newark Metro, a web magazine that uses writings from Rutgers students, people who live in, work in or simply care about the Newark area, North Jersey and New York City “to give Newark and the region around it a face on the World Wide Web.”  Snyder’s goal is to “foster vigorous engagement between the students who write for the magazine and the communities around us.” This also is his philosophy in his journalism courses, in which students are assigned to make the city of Newark their beat and to write about the city government, local organizations and institutions, and the people of the city.  One of his nominators, Sandra West, noted, “Because of the work Dr. Snyder does and the manner in which he does it, the urban collegiate classroom is a learning and resource laboratory with the City of Newark under an objective and investigative microscope, as it should be.”

Professor Judith Weis, Biological Sciences Department, New York, N.Y., Faculty Community Research Award, for research of broad scholarly significance based in whole or in part on data from Newark or northern New Jersey. For the past three decades, Weis has been investigating the biology of organisms living in stressed, industrially contaminated estuaries of northern New Jersey. Her findings provide a picture of how ecology is altered in polluted estuaries, notably those in northern N.J.  Most importantly, the research shows that different species are affected in different ways by the contamination, even though all show altered feeding and predator/prey interactions. The work has been of considerable interest to the academic community, as well as regulatory agencies that are developing plans to clean up the contaminated sites.

Samantha Johnston, Brooklyn, N.Y., and Rosalie Uyola, Wayne, N.J., both doctoral students and teaching assistants in the American Studies Program, Student Community Research Award.  These awards are for research of broad scholarly significance based in whole or in part on data from Newark or northern New Jersey. Johnston and Uyola collaborated on an eight-minute documentary film, Art for All, about the history of the Special Collections of prints at the Newark Public Library and Head of Special Collections, William Dane.  They conducted in-depth research into the development of the library’s public mission as a sponsor of art and education, and also interviewed library and cultural leaders. The short has been selected for inclusion in the inaugural year of the NJVid archive — a Rutgers project in conjunction with the New Jersey Digital Highway — and has appeared in The Newark Metro online magazine, the Resurgence City online blog, and the websites of both the Newark Public Library and City Without Walls gallery.  It can be viewed at  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AnRb7dH1oVM

Patricia Kettenring, director, Business and the Arts Program, Summit, N.J., Faculty/Staff Community Service Award, honoring exemplary community service in Newark or other communities in the vicinity of the campus.  Kettenring was honored
for her role as founder and executive director of GlassRoots, “a phenomenal organization serving Newark youth right on Bleeker Street,” according to nominator Tara M. Reynolds of Mass Mutual.  Reynolds nominated Kettenring and GlassRoots for the community service award “not just for the work that has been done to dramatically improve the lives of young people in the Newark area, but for the manner in which Pat and the organization have engaged the community in going about their mission…GlassRoots teaches Newark-area children glass making, graphic design and business skills, giving them an invaluable sense of well-being and helping them see their own potential and creativity.”

Jason Khurdan, political science, Class of 2009, Roselle, N.J., Student Community Service Award, recognizing a student organization or individual student for outstanding volunteer service in Newark or other communities in the vicinity of the campus. Khurdan founded The Guardian Fellowship, a non-profit organization  dedicated to “the betterment of society through connecting individuals and groups to youth in the downtown Newark area that need their guidance and attention.”  Said nominator Genevieve Sumski, Office of Student Life and leadership: “This organization has been Jason’s passion since December 2007 when it was first created.   It is more than just a mentoring program; it is also involves teaching mentees about ethics, morals, and values.” She notes, “Jason’s motto for the Guardian Fellowship “Never doubt the impact you will have, Never question the lives you will touch” could apply to him directly.  He rarely seeks the spotlight for himself and is happier to praise those he works with.”

Rutgers Social Work Department, Academic Program/Unit Award, awarded to any academic department, program, center, institute or office for exemplary teaching, research or service activities that engage with the external community.  The department was honored for a broad array of outreach programs within the greater Newark community that reflect the department’s “36-year history of teaching, learning and service” on campus and its vision of the department as a “partnership and commitment to pedagogy and community engagement.”  Some examples
include student internships with local agencies, the Baccalaureate Child Welfare
Educational Program, Annual Agency Fair, annual symposia on social welfare policy, annual toy drive, and individual research and outreach efforts by faculty and students alike,  to name a few.

The MCJ Amelior Foundation, Community Partner Award, given to a non-profit community organization or a government agency for exceptional collaboration with faculty, students and/or staff of Rutgers-Newark.  The MCJ Amelior Foundation is honored for what nominators describe as its “sustained and outstanding commitment to creating college access and opportunity for Newark Youth.”  The three nominators — The Rutgers Academic Foundations Center, Rutgers Office of Campus and Community Relations, and the Rutgers Office of Student and Community Affairs – noted the Foundation’s collaboration with Rutgers on the READY Program and the R U READY FOR WORK program. The nomination form declared, “The breadth and depth of commitment connecting Rutgers-Newark and MCJ Amelior has been remarkable, from their interest in and support of a research project to demonstrate that EOF students could perform as well in Biology as non-EOF students, to the reconstitution of the READY program at Rutgers, to their shared belief in creating the opportunity for needy students to live on campus and study full time.”