September 27, 2023

Dr. Marie Lina Excellent

Dr. Marie Lina Excellent

Dr. Jenny Lund

Dr. Jenny Lund

Two faculty members from the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health — Marie Lina Excellent, MD, MPH, and Jennifer Lund, PhD — were recently named to the Carolina Center for Public Service’s (CCPS) 2023-2025 class of Thorp Faculty Engaged Scholars. The program brings together selected faculty from across campus in a two-year competency-based experience to advance their engaged research, which is conducted in partnership with communities and addresses issues of shared concern and mutual benefit.

Scholars receive up to $10,000 in funding over a two-year period and participate in sessions in community settings to learn from other Carolina faculty and their community partners. While developing individual projects, each class of scholars shares lessons learned and builds connections to strengthen their scholarship. The growing network of Thorp Faculty Engaged Scholars has forged interdisciplinary collaborations, submitted successful grant applications and developed traditional and innovative products of scholarship.

Since its inception in 2007, a total of 83 faculty members have been selected for the program, with representatives from all of Carolina’s professional schools and the College of Arts and Science.

Excellent is an assistant professor and Global Health Certificate Lead in the Public Health Leadership Program (PHLP), and she says her overarching goal for the Thorp Faculty Engaged Scholars (FES) program is to have a good understanding of engaged scholarship and build relationships with communities and scholars across Carolina’s campus.

“I hope those connections will facilitate interdisciplinary grant applications in response to priorities identified by community partners,” Excellent said. “I am very grateful and proud to be a first-generation college graduate, and my philosophy is: Know to better serve others in need with compassion and humility! I am committed to continuously striving to understand my community partners and earn their trust for sustainable collaborations driven by their needs for healthier communities.”

Through the program, Excellent says she aims to learn about the theoretical frameworks, principles and applications of community-engaged scholarship in order to collaborate with communities to address their pressing concerns. She will be working with PATH/CARE, an organization that serves Mitchell and Yancey Counties in North Carolina to collectively address stigma related to mental health conditions among BIPOC and Latino communities.

“I am very grateful for the support of the Thorp Faculty Engaged Scholars Committee and PHLP Chair Dr. Anna P. Schenck,” Excellent said, “as well as UNC-Asheville Co-Director Sarah Brill Thach for connecting me to PATH/CARE! I look forward to what is sure to be an exciting journey!”

Lund is an associate professor in the Department of Epidemiology and director of data strategy and education with the Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center’s Cancer Information and Population Health Resource. Through the Thorp Engaged Scholars Program, she has proposed to continue ongoing partnerships with the Robeson County Cooperative for Sustainable Development, a grassroots organization with a mission to “build an inclusive, multiracial base of organized influence to achieve disaster, environmental, energy, climate, and social justice and sustainable development in Robeson County and eastern N.C.”

“We are currently partnering on a project to identify South and West Lumberton community members’ concerns about the impacts of hurricane-related flooding on health care access during and following a disaster, specifically in low-wealth American Indian, Black and Latino communities,” Lund explained. “It is critical to hear about their experiences with barriers to health care access, as well as potential solutions for improving health care systems and disaster response and recovery. As part of this program, we will extend our work to other regions within Robeson County to get a broader picture of the health care impacts of these increasingly frequent and intense disasters – with the goal of bolstering equitable preparedness efforts in the area.

“I truly appreciate the opportunity to take part in the Thorp Faculty Engaged Scholars Program and am grateful for the support of my chair, Dr. Til Sturmer,” Lund said. “I am excited to gain additional exposure to successful models of and best practices for engaged scholarship from around the state and to continue working with our partners at the Robeson County Cooperative for Sustainable Development.”

Following the class’s orientation on September 15, CCPS director and faculty member Lynn Blanchard stated, “After spending time with these 10 outstanding scholars, I am inspired by their passion for the work and the variety of their plans. It is impressive to see interdisciplinary connections and collaboration in action.”

Additional scholars in this cohort include:

  • Anna Bardone-Cone, PhD, professor in the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience, College of Arts and Sciences
  • Ronny Bell, PhD, professor and chair, Division of Pharmaceutical Outcomes and Policy in the Eshelman School of Pharmacy
  • Sarah Crittendon Fuller, PhD, research associate professor in the Department of Public Policy, College of Arts and Sciences
  • Karon Johnson, MACM, MSW, LCSW, CCTP, clinical assistant professor, School of Social Work
  • Hilary Lithgow, PhD, teaching assistant professor and undergraduate advisor in the Department of English and Comparative Literature, College of Arts and Sciences
  • Karin Pfennig, PhD, professor in the Department of Biology, College of Arts and Sciences
  • Avi Santo, PhD, professor and chair, Department of Communication, College of Arts and Sciences
  • Natalia Villegas Rodriguez, PhD, associate professor, School of Nursing

Learn more about the Thorp Faculty Engaged Scholars program.

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