April 15, 2021

Today at the annual Public Service Awards event, Assistant Professor Courtney Woods, PhD, and Master of Public Health (MPH) student Morgan Cooper, RD, were among 11 individuals and one organization honored by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill for outstanding contributions to the campus and broader communities. This year’s event was held virtually; a video recording of the event is available online.

Carolina Center for Public Service (CCPS) Director Lynn Blanchard noted that UNC Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz often says, “While we are formally known as the University of North Carolina … We might better be known as the University for North Carolina.”

“That is apparent in considering the many individuals and communities across North Carolina who have benefitted from the teaching, research and service of this year’s award winners,” Blanchard said. “They, in turn, represent the many other students, faculty and staff who engage in some way with the state every day to make a difference.”

At the ceremony, CCPS presented the following awards: Ned Brooks Award for Public Service, Office of the Provost Engaged Scholarship Awards and Robert E. Bryan Public Service Awards. Woods and Cooper both received an Office of the Provost Engaged Scholarship Award, which honors individuals and campus units for public service through engaged teaching, research and partnership.

Dr. Courtney Woods

Dr. Courtney Woods

Woods received the Office of the Provost Engaged Scholarship Award in the category of research. She was honored for her collaborative environmental justice research projects and establishment of the Environmental Justice Action Research Clinic.

Leading by example for students who are learning to participate in community-engaged work, Woods works to support community-initiated projects across N.C. This includes an investigation of potential water contamination from a landfill in Sampson County, and data-gathering on anticipated public health impacts of an asphalt plant proposed to be constructed in Caswell County.

Woods also oversees multiple student-led research projects, such as a survey on the environmental and public health impacts of Hurricane Florence on residents of Robeson County, which led to the distribution of cleaning tools to fight the growth of mold.

Throughout projects like these, Woods helps guide her students to be more responsible researchers as they participate in community-driven work. For example, in her class for graduate students on environmental justice issues, Woods invites members of impacted communities to teach students directly.

Woods recently received funding from the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation for an Environmental Justice Action Research Clinic, which is intended to function like a legal clinic: providing free services to community clients and providing public health students with important opportunities for community engagement and public health practice. Woods’ commitment to community-engaged research is further demonstrated by her participation in Class VII of Thorp Faculty Engaged Scholars through the Carolina Center for Public Service.

Morgan Cooper

Morgan Cooper

Cooper received the Office of the Provost Engaged Scholarship Award in the category of partnership alongside preceptor Ryan Lavalley. They were honored for innovative work in partnership with the Orange County Partnerships for Home Preservation, the Orange County Department on Aging and the Marian Cheek Jackson Center, in support of home preservation and repair and aging-in-community.

Lavalley coordinates community initiatives with UNC’s Partnerships in Aging Program (PiAP). Lavalley is the project manager of the Department on Aging’s Handy Helper Program and the coordinator for the Orange County Home Preservation Coalition, both of which aim to improve housing quality in the community. Since August 2019, Lavalley has served as the “community mentor,” or supervisor, for Cooper’s UNC PiAP internship with the Department on Aging. Lavalley also served preceptor for Cooper’s MPH practicum, which was a program evaluation for the Home Preservation Coalition.

Cooper then became a steward for a university-community partnership, leveraging her position as a Gillings School student to complete work in service of improved housing in Orange County.

Other winners of CCPS public service awards include:

Ned Books Award – Anita Brown-Graham

Office of the Provost Engaged Scholarship Award

  • Teaching – Anna Krome-Lukens
  • Partnership – Karla Slocum and Mark Little

Robert E. Bryan Public Service Award

  • Undergraduate – Ricardo Crespo-Regalado
  • Graduate – Barbara Sostaita
  • Staff – Dawna Jones
  • Faculty – Shannon Tufts
  • Organization – Carolina COVID-19 Student Services Corps

CCPS is a pan-University unit that engages and supports the faculty, students and staff of UNC-Chapel Hill in meeting the needs of North Carolina and beyond. For the past 21 years, the Center has strengthened the University’s public service commitment by promoting scholarship and service that are responsive to the concerns of the state and contribute to the common good.

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