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N.C. Campus Compact honors Kernodle Center leader

An organization that helps universities across North Carolina develop an ethos of volunteerism and service among students has awarded Mary Morrison, director of the Kernodle Center for Service Learning and Community Engagement at Elon University, its 2011 Civic Engagement Professional of the Year Award.

Mary Morrison, director of the Kernodle Center for Service Learning and Community Engagement at Elon University, is congratulated by Elon University President Leo M. Lambert for being named the 2011 Civic Engagement Professional of the Year Award by North Carolina Campus Compact.

Morrison received her award on Feb. 9, 2011, during the North Carolina Campus Compact’s annual Pathways to Achieving Civic Engagement (PACE) Conference, hosted this year by Elon with hundreds of faculty and professionals from around the state in attendance.

The Civic Engagement Professional of the Year Award recognizes a staff person at a North Carolina Campus Compact member campus “that has worked towards the institutionalization of service, created and strived towards a vision of service on their campus, supported faculty and students, and formed innovative campus-community partnerships.”

In her acceptance remarks to a crowded McKinnon Hall, Morrison thanked “every person who has been a part of my career for 30 years” and offered special acknowledgement to her father, husband and son because of their own involvement in a family tradition of civic engagement and social justice.

She also lauded the focus that many North Carolina institutions of higher learning have placed on civic engagement.

“Through our work in civic engagement and service learning we are teaching students about compassion, commitment and community. Who else can make this claim?” she said. “Even when you feel you are laboring in the dark, alone and unappreciated, you are doing the essential work of higher education: teaching the next generation that our democracy stays strong when we attend to the people who have the least in society.

Every time we give voice to the poor and marginalized, we are doing the most important work we can do for our communities, our state, our nation and our world.

At Elon, Morrison formed the Kernodle Center Advisory Committee, and she serves as the "go to" for important service-learning initiatives. Service-learning courses have grown 31 percent, with associated service hours increasing 67 percent, since her arrival in 2006. She teachers a popular course on community engagement, and is the founding co-director of the Civic Engagement Scholars program.

Other innovative programs that have been developed under her leadership include the Downtown/East Burlington Biobus Route and the Campus Kitchen at Elon University. Alternative break trips have grown to nine trips a year, with Morrison empowering students to take action to address issues important to them.

Prior to her position with Elon, Morrison served as the director of programs and outreach for GEAR UP NC at the University of North Carolina General Administration, as the director of the APPLES Service Learning Program at UNC Chapel Hill, as a continuing education specialist at the William and Ida Friday Center for Continuing Education at UNC Chapel Hill, and as extension agent for Orange County 4-H Cooperative Extension.

To learn more about the award, including previous recipients, visit http://org.elon.edu/nccc/awards/profotya.html.

Eric Townsend,
3/29/2011 11:42 AM