Carolina Center for Public Service honors individuals, organizations for service to state

April 04, 2005
CHAPEL HILL — Building homes, assisting local and statewide organizations with health crises and hosting workshops for community newspapers are a few of the outreach efforts led by University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill students, staff and organizations in the past year.The Carolina Center for Public Service is recognizing those and other initiatives through its annual awards for exemplary service benefiting North Carolina. Seven individuals and student organizations were honored at the center’s awards program on April 1 on the UNC campus.

Individuals and organizations campuswide were nominated for the awards, and a committee of students, faculty, staff and community representatives selected the recipients.

“The array of efforts represented in the pool of nominations and resulting winners is strong evidence of the breadth and geographic reach of Carolina’s response to addressing pressing community issues facing North Carolinians,” said Dr. Lynn Blanchard, center director.

Dr. Gordon Whitaker, professor of public administration and government at UNC, received the third annual Ned Brooks Award for Public Service. Named for Dr. Ned Brooks, a UNC faculty member and administrator since 1972, the award recognizes a UNC faculty or staff member who has built a sustained record of community service through individual efforts and the involvement and guidance of others.

Whitaker is recognized for his contributions spanning three decades of work at UNC. He directs the Public Intersection Project, which aims to strengthen working relationships between government and nonprofit organizations. He also helped pilot a program to strengthen the performance of children performing below grade level: Counties for Catalysts for Stronger Families.

Whitaker also is recognized for developing an innovative model of action teaching. His course on Public Leadership and Management involves teams of Master of Public Administration students that work with government and nonprofit organizations on public service projects.

“All of Gordon Whitaker’s work begins with a genuine respect for others and their individual value,” said Michael Smith, dean of the School of Government. “His teaching, whether for MPA students or North Carolina’s public and community leaders, is the perfect mixture of scholarship and practice.”

The Carolina Center for Public Service presented the Office of the Provost Public Service Awards, honoring student organizations for service to North Carolina, to Team Epi-Aid and Project OpenHand.

Team Epi-Aid assists the N.C. Department of Public Health and local health departments with outbreak investigations and other short-term applied public health projects. Students from the schools of public health, medicine, pharmacy and nursing work in teams with health departments to gain practical public health experience. The student volunteers can be quickly mobilized to address health problems needing immediate response. For example, volunteers were dispatched to conduct rapid needs assessments after Hurricanes Isabel and Charley.

Project OpenHand assists people living with HIV and AIDS. The student organization serves meals to individuals with HIV and AIDS in Chatham, Orange and Alamance counties. Student volunteers cook and deliver the meals to clients. The organization operates with the help of a dietician, funding from county health departments and guidance from local organizations and is expanding.

The Robert E. Bryan Public Service Award, recognizing individual students and faculty for exemplary public service efforts, went to students Rebecca Sowder and Phillip Sherrill and faculty members Jock Lauterer and Dr. Lee Marcus.

Sowder, a senior in the School of Public Health’s department of environmental sciences and engineering, is co-chairwoman for UNC Habitat for Humanity. Working with volunteers from the campus and community, Sowder coordinated the recent Blitz Build project, which built the exterior of a Habitat home in Chapel Hill in three days.

Sherrill, a senior majoring in exercise and sport science, is program director for the Hispanic Swimming and Safety Awareness Program (HSSAP). He created the program in response to the growing need for swimming skills and water safety in the Hispanic community. HSSAP provides free swimming lessons, as well as water safety instruction, to local Hispanic citizens.

Lauterer, a lecturer in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication, created the Carolina Community Media Project, which reaches out to the state’s 181 community newspapers and includes a course to teach students about community newspapers. The program strengthens ties between the university and community newspapers through workshops such as the Community Journalism Roadshow and the Newspaper Academy.

Marcus, clinical director of Division TEACCH (Treatment and Education of Autistic and Related Communication and Handicapped Children), created a support group for parents of adults with autism. The Parents of Adults Group provides a venue for parents, community service providers and advocacy groups to meet and discuss the needs of autistic adults. Initiatives such as the Autism Community Initiative, aimed at providing life-long housing for autistic adults, have evolved from this group.

The Carolina Center for Public Service leads UNC’s engagement efforts and service to the state of North Carolina and beyond by linking the expertise and energy of faculty, staff, and students to the needs of the people.

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Carolina Center for Public Service contact: Dr. Lynn Blanchard, (919) 843-7568 or

UNC News Services contact: Deb Saine, (919) 962-8415 or

For further information please contact Emily Smith by email at