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Brenda Reeves

Brenda Reeves, winner of a 2007 Outstanding Community Service Award, spoke to the audience at the awards dinner as part of Public Engagement Day, April 11. By day, Reeves is an information technology professional at the Twin Cities campus. By night and on weekends, she's a community volunteer extraordinaire.

Energy givers

U honors five staff and faculty with the Outstanding Community Service Award

By Stephanie Wilkes

Brief, April 25, 2007

With long days of work and other obligations, many University staff and faculty members struggle to find time to engage with the community. Others, like Brenda Reeves, an information technology professional in the Department of Applications Development and Maintenance, Twin Cities campus, have made community service their first priority.

Reeves and four other U of M staff and faculty members were recognized April 11 as winners of the Outstanding Community Service Award. All of them are dedicated to integrating engagement with the public into their work and their lives.

The award, established in 1999 by President Bruininks, honors community outreach and service activities. It acknowledges members of the U community who have devoted time and talent to making substantial, enduring contributions to the community and the public good.

Reeves, who has worked with central financial applications for five years, views her engagement with the community as nothing out of the ordinary--a no-brainer.

"If I see a need somewhere, a need that is not being met, and I can somehow help meet that need, I do," says Reeves. "It's as simple as that."

The depth and breadth of her work, however, is anything but simple. Reeves has been involved with youth exchange programs through the local Lions Club. For eight years, she's been involved in planning Brooklyn Park's annual Tater Daze festival. She volunteers in the kitchen at Club 3 Degrees, a multi-faith-based nightclub, and works with Mercy Ministry to provide worship services in resthomes. She spends one night a week with a hospice patient, giving the family a much-needed break and giving the patient a friend to talk to. As a survivor of domestic abuse, Reeves also spends Sunday evenings as a volunteer telephone advocate at Home Free, a domestic violence agency, talking with callers and helping them make plans to stay safe.

Reeves has been doing this kind of community work for almost ten years. She says that helping people out is something she and her husband enjoy, "something we like to do as a family."

Following the energy

Recipient Barbara Elliott also views public engagement as part of her everyday life. Elliott has been a professor in the UMD Department of Family Medicine since 1994. One of her efforts in Duluth has been the TeenLife Center, a project which has provided health care for pregnant, parenting, and homeless youth for 12 years. The center also tracks the personal and community outcomes of having this kind of access to health care.

Robert Jones, Barbara Elliott, and Victor Bloomfield.
Barbara Elliott received her award from senior vice president Robert Jones, left, and associate vice president Victor Bloomfield.

Elliott has been interested in social justice issues in public health care since the late 1970s. Her dedication to equal access for health care was cemented in the late '80s, when a Kellogg International Fellowship gave her the opportunity to learn about these issues in cultures all over the globe.

"There are certain projects that drain me and certain projects that give me energy," says Elliott, "and those projects that give me energy are the ones that I continue to do. TeenLife Center is a project that has fed me for a long time, and I know it will continue to do so."

The other three recipients of the 2007 award were also honored April 11.

Ernest Davenport, Jr., associate professor of educational psychology, has been on the U faculty for more than 21 years. He has integrated his expertise in the methodology, measurement, and statistics of standardized testing into an ACT/SAT review course for at-risk high school students. The program, held on Saturday mornings from January to March, provides minority and female students a means of "improving their college admission test scores and their overall preparedness for college," says Davenport. Developed in conjunction with Alpha Phi Alpha in 1991, the review course has grown with increasing demand and served more than 150 students in 2006.

James Rothenberger III, instructor of epidemiology, has been at the University since 1972. His introductory undergraduate service courses in alcohol and drug abuse and AIDS have provided essential knowledge to more than 60,000 students. His dedication to AIDS and substance abuse prevention has inspired him to serve on numerous committees and boards, ranging from the Governor's Alcohol and Drug Abuse Advisory Committee to the American College Health Association's HPV Task Force.

Rothenberger believes his commitment to engagement stems from his father and grandfather's dedication to the University as both students and staff.

"As a third-generation U of M student and [a] staff member, it's part of my genetic makeup that I contribute both to the University and spread knowledge to the larger community," says Rothenberger.

Travis Thompson, professor of pediatrics, has held appointments in the departments of psychiatry, psychology, pharmacology, and educational psychology since joining the University faculty in 1963. He is currently affiliated with the Department of Pediatrics autism program. Thompson's work in the field of developmental disabilities has been instrumental in improving the lives of children and adults with autism and related disabilities, focusing on research and advocacy.

Thompson sees his academic and engaged work as inseparable, and he finds the combination of the two very rewarding.

"I was very moved to learn that I had been selected as one of the recipients of the Outstanding Community Service Award," says Thompson. "I've received a number of awards for my scientific contributions over the years, but in many respects, being recognized as having done something worthwhile to improve the lives of other people is the most gratifying."

Reeves agrees and sees the award as yet another motivation to continue her engagement in the community.

"I am going to continue doing what I am doing, no matter what," she says. "But this award made me feel like somebody saw what was I was doing and realized the value in it, and I want to thank the University for that recognition."

Outstanding Community Service Award winner plaques are on display at the Campus Club in Coffman Union on the Twin Cities campus.

Stephanie Wilkes is a junior in English and linguistics and a communications intern in the Office for Public Engagement. If you have questions or comments, please e-mail