UMass CESL promotes learning for life-long, engaged citizenship, partnering with communities on and off campus to work collectively for a more just society.

Academic / Community Transformation (ACT) Award

2015 ACT Awards

Faculty are invited to nominate up to two students with whom they have worked in a servcie-learning course or a community-engaged research project.

Criteria for the award are:  leadership, academic excellence, and engagement in a campus/community partnership.  
The faculty nomination process is simple: 
please send an email to by Wednesday, April 22, with the name of the student(s) you would like to nominate and one (short) paragraph explaining what s/he has done to fit the criteria.
Recipients will be honored and receive a certificate at an ACT Awards celebration, Friday, May 1, 3 to 4 PM, in the 5th floor lounge of the Goodell Building.Please save the date and time and join us for the reception. All are welcome!

The 2014 ACT Award Recipients


 Courtney Stacey

During the last 2 years, Courtney, a Community for Social Progress student with CESL and volunteer tutor with LMWEP, has demonstrated a willingness to go beyond the call to help UMass staff.  An example: a year ago Courtney along with another tutor began a pilot project of tutoring non-native speaking night shift workers one-on-one in English at their worksites.  This hard-to-reach set of workers had otherwise no access to learning resources due to their shifts. She recruited and oriented additional tutors, and helped secure release time for night-shift workers to participate in weekly English language tutoring sessions, transforming their workplace into a haven for learning.



Justine Kane and Julie Jyringi

Justine and Julie have been in leadership with The Boltwood Project for the past 3 years and have served as Boltwood Co-Coordinators for AY 13-14. This includes co-teaching the Leadership in Service-Learning and Advanced Service-Learning courses, managing all of the logistics for the Boltwood Project and planning six Saturday seminar sessions. In addition, in the Spring '14 semester they have taken on an independent practicum working on development of the Boltwood alumni network. 


 Karin Jong-Mee Garber

Karin is completing her third year in the Psychology doctoral program, and she has been working with the Adoption Mentoring Partnership since the day she arrived on campus.  It is a huge part of her life, and she has contributed in truly significant ways over a sustained period of time. Karin is the lynchpin of the Adoption Mentoring Partnership, which pairs UMass college students who themselves were adopted with adopted children in the Amherst community. As AMP Program Coordinator, she assists with recruitment of the mentors, leads three sections of a seminar for the mentors each semester helping them increase their understanding of the psychology of adoption, assists with matching the mentors and mentees, collects evaluation data from mentors, and is a central team member involved in all critical decisions about AMP. 


 Katie Elliott

Katie is a model of student leadership, initiative, academic excellence, and enhancing UMass-community and community partner relations.  She was a welcome addition to the Massachusetts Fair Housing Center, Holyoke, where she interned and has shown leadership in organizing the students of Urban Policies in developing a new RSO, Students for Fair Housing, along with an Earth Day table. 


 Kelly Peneston

Kelly has worked with a number of schools in Amherst and Mohawk Trail to help improve school climate.  A compassionate, well-informed collaborator, she is committed to helping schools enact practices that support the positive behavior and mental health of students and staff. She has conducted observations of non-classroom areas (e.g. cafeteria) as well as classroom settings, carefully provided feedback to adults related to elements of climate, and has helped to develop and implement intervention plans which school administrators and staff are using. 


 Kyle Little

Kyle has been his professor’s “right arm” in the Community Journalism course this year, co-creating innovative curriculum, leading fundraising efforts to support work with students in Springfield’s High School of Commerce, and being “second brain in the dynamic process of engaged teaching and learning.”  Winner of the prestigious Cole Scholarship for research this year, he has documented the transformative experience that takes place in undergraduates as well as the high school students involved in this community partnership.  He shares with his students the value that education is a tool to help their fellow humans negotiate a systemic “us and them” “have and have not” ugliness, that can change only if they choose to serve. 

 Lauren Morton

Lauren has made outstanding contributions to local schools as a literacy tutor and student leader with the TEAMS Tutoring Project and course, EDUC 497I, Tutoring in Schools.  As a project assistant with the College of Education's resourcesforhistoryteachers wiki, she has added history and multicultural materials to the site and has helped teachers and students in local schools launch new curriculum projects using digital resources.  


 Lilly Israel

The great breadth of Lilly’s service to our campus reflects her deep commitment to community engagement around food systems regeneration. She has worked with the UMass Student Farming Enterprise, is a member of the UMass Chicken Group, and is also the Vice President of the UMass Pride Alliance. Lilly is the Student Coordinator of Campus Gardens with the UMass Permaculture Initiative. Lilly is also now the lead facilitator of the Student Committee, designs our annual permaculture garden crop plans, and manages UMass Permaculture’s organizing role in the on-campus Student Farmers Market. She is integral to the work of transforming the campus food system.


 Mary Bell

Mary has been a leader on campus in starting and sustaining a Green Office program in the College of Natural Sciences and advising student groups on developing initiatives focused on the environment and sustainability.  In her community, she has connected various food justice organizations in Franklin County to establish a network for gleaning unused food and is developing resources to mobilize non-profits and food businesses to redistribute edible items for consumption, changing one part of the food system.


 Moijue Kaikai

Mo has a passion for finding renewable energy solutions for low income people, here in the inner cities of the U.S., as well as abroad in developing countries. In 2012 he participated in the Global Renewable Energy Education Network in Costa Rica, where he studied the energy system in Costa Rica. As his capstone project, he put together a proposal for a World Energy Project in Cape Verde, installing renewable energy in a school there. In the summer of 2013 he developed a curriculum on renewable energy, trained Upward Bound teachers on it, and helped them teach it to urban high school students.


 Nicholas P. Otis

Nick has served as a student ambassador engaging students in Kinesiology, Nutrition, the Honors College, and our athletes in understanding the importance of service. While enrolled in a community nutrition service-learning course, Nick led his team to assess community needs for the Holyoke Food and Fitness Council. The team built on the community needs assessment and delivered a Train-the-Trainer Nutrition Model to youth peer leaders.  For two summers, Nick has worked with the Stepping Stone Academy, where students noted that he was the best teacher that they ever had--a powerful statement coming from hard-to-reach children from disadvantaged backgrounds. 


 Reginald Kwok

Reggie has served as a Campus/Community Liaison for EDUC 377, Multicultural Education, and the Holyoke Boys & Girls Club in Fall 2013 and Spring 2014. He has undertaken this role with an exceptional level of enthusiasm and skill, foreseeing and addressing the needs of his peers, professors, and the children and staff at the Club. He has designed tools to facilitate the smooth orientation of EDUC 377 students to their service site; recruited and mentored a student to serve as a liaison with him at the Club in the spring; facilitated communication among the students, faculty, and staff; and generally anticipated and addressed the challenges associated with this work as they arose. 


 Vishal Shetty

In his sophomore year, Vishal became actively involved with several community groups in Springfield. He organized outdoor health meals, coordinated discussions about food and health with DARE, and led fellow students in this academic-community partnership. This initiative came under the Departments of Food Science and Nutrition. Vishal continued working on these projects, while leading other students throughout his junior year. His senior honors thesis formed a new academic/community partnership between UMass and the MA Department of Public Health.