The College of Liberal Arts Civitas Awards

The College of Liberal Arts Civitas Awards recognize individuals and organizations who are strong partners of the CLA, as well as individuals and organizations who make a difference in the community. Through the Civitas Awards, we honor community partners and others who are making a difference in ways that align with CLA’s purpose:

The purpose of the College of Liberal Arts is to advance a thoughtful, knowledgeable, and engaged society through its three-fold mission: to create new knowledge and artistic expression and develop the next generation of scholars; to educate graduate and undergraduate students and prepare them for a productive life of intellectual curiosity, cultural appreciation, and continuous learning; and to engage with our community to achieve the land-grant promise of a university in service to the community.

The nomination process for each award requires a written essay. Nominations are currently being accepted for the Dean's Liberal Arts Champion, the Community Catalyst Award, the Community Partner Award, and the Backpack Pays It Forward Award.

What is the Timeline?

A call for nominations will be sent out during spring semester. In 2021, the deadline to submit nominations was April 7.

Honorees will be informed in late April of their being nominated and selected for the award. Their acceptance of the award is then confirmed. After all award honorees are confirmed, nominators are informed of their candidates’ status. 

A recognition event honoring honorees will take place in June. The award will also be publicized through numerous CLA communications channels. CLA does not cover travel expenses for honorees to collect their awards.

How are the Award-winners Chosen?

Faculty, staff, students, and alumni will collaborate to select honorees. 

Award Descriptions & Nomination Processes

Dean's Liberal Arts Champion

The Dean’s Liberal Arts Champion is a person who is a strong and passionate advocate for the value of the liberal arts. This annual award will be given to a person who, through their work, words, or deeds, explicitly demonstrates the value of the liberal arts to society. 

Only CLA alumni, faculty, students, and staff may nominate people for this award.

Explain in 500 words or fewer why your nominee deserves this award. Include specific examples that demonstrate how this individual advocates for the value of the liberal arts through their work, words, or deeds.  

You may supplement your nomination with one letter of support from another individual or group and up to three links to supporting articles, videos, or other online materials. However, the quality of your nomination will be the primary factor used to determine the winner. 

Other Civitas Awards

Only CLA faculty, staff, and students may nominate people or organizations for these Civitas awards. Nominators ideally should be personally engaged with the community member or organization they are nominating, rather than being merely familiar with their work with CLA. 

Community Catalyst Award

Civitas Community Catalysts are individual community members and/or organizations engaged with CLA (i.e., with the College as a whole, with any of our departments, centers or advisory boards, our faculty, staff, students, etc.) in the past year (since at least December 2019) who are catalysts for change within the community, in a manner that is aligned with the College’s purpose. 

Nominees for these awards must be engaged with CLA in some way. Examples of those who are engaged with CLA could include employer partners, funders or donors, a community organization engaged with faculty through service-learning or public engagement, someone who volunteers for a CLA sponsored event, etc.

Nomination Process

Please explain in 500 words or fewer how the individual or organization nominated is a catalyst for change in the community in a way that is aligned with CLA’s purpose, which is as follows: 

The purpose of the College of Liberal Arts is to advance a thoughtful, knowledgeable, and engaged society through its three-fold mission: 

  • to create new knowledge and artistic expression and develop the next generation of scholars; 
  • to educate graduate and undergraduate students and prepare them for a productive life of intellectual curiosity, cultural appreciation, and continuous learning; and 
  • to engage with our community to achieve the land-grant promise of a university in service to the community.   

Your response should also describe how the nominee’s actions have led or will lead to meaningful change beyond the organization they are primarily affiliated with (if the nominee is an individual) or beyond the organization nominated (if the nominee is an organization), and why you believe they deserve this award. Also, be sure to clearly state how the nominee is engaged with CLA. Be as specific as possible. You may supplement your nomination with one letter of support from another individual or group and up to three links to supporting articles, videos, or other online materials. However, the quality of your nomination will be the primary factor used to determine the winner. 

Community Partner Award

Civitas Community Partners are individual community members and/or organizations engaged with CLA (i.e., with the College as a whole, with any of our departments, centers or advisory boards, our faculty, staff, students, etc.) in the past year (since at least December 2019) for the betterment of society in a manner that is aligned with CLA’s purpose and demonstrates what it means to be a good partner. 

Nominees for these awards must be engaged with CLA in some way. Examples of those who are engaged with CLA could include employer partners, funders or donors, a community organization engaged with faculty through service-learning or public engagement, someone who volunteers for a CLA sponsored event, etc.

Nomination Process

Explain in 300 words or fewer how the individual or organization nominated has engaged with CLA (i.e., with the College as a whole, with any of our departments, centers or advisory boards, our faculty, staff, students, etc.) for the betterment of society in a manner that is aligned with CLA’s purpose, which is as follows: 

The purpose of the College of Liberal Arts is to advance a thoughtful, knowledgeable, and engaged society through its three-fold mission 

  • to create new knowledge and artistic expression and develop the next generation of scholars; 
  • to educate graduate and undergraduate students and prepare them for a productive life of intellectual curiosity, cultural appreciation, and continuous learning 
  • to engage with our community to achieve the land grant promise of a university in service to the community.   

Explain in 300 words or fewer how the nominee demonstrates what it means to be a good partner through their engagement with CLA, including how the nominee positively enhanced their collaboration with CLA. Be as specific as possible. 

You may supplement your nomination with one letter of support from another individual or group and up to three links to supporting articles, videos, or other online materials. However, the quality of your nomination will be the primary factor used to determine the winner. 

Backpack Pays It Forward Award

The award is given to a nonprofit organization that has been engaged with CLA (i.e., with the College as a whole, with any of the departments, centers or advisory boards, our faculty, staff, students, etc.) in the past year (at least since December 2019) and whose community work, aligning with CLA’s purpose, would be enhanced by assistance from Backpack: a student-run communications agency made up of students from a diverse mix of majors and minors, using their unique skills to collaborate with brands and organizations to provide impactful and people-centered communication.

Nominees for these awards must be engaged with CLA in some way. Examples of those who are engaged with CLA could include employer partners, funders or donors, a community organization engaged with faculty through service-learning or public engagement, someone who volunteers for a CLA sponsored event, etc.

Nomination Process

1) Explain in 300 words or fewer why you are nominating the organization and how the organization has engaged with CLA (i.e., with the College, with any departments, centers/advisory boards, faculty, staff, students, etc.) for the betterment of society in a manner that is aligned with CLA’s purpose, which is as follows: 

The purpose of the College of Liberal Arts is to advance a thoughtful, knowledgeable, and engaged society through its three-fold mission: 

  • to create new knowledge and artistic expression and develop the next generation of scholars
  • to educate and prepare graduate and undergraduate students for a productive life of intellectual curiosity, cultural appreciation, and continuous learning 
  • to engage with our community to achieve the land-grant promise of a university in service to the community.   

2) Submit a Statement of Need from the organization, between 200-400 words, that articulates how its work/impact on the community could be enhanced if they received pro bono assistance from Backpack.

Try to address the following in the statement: 

  • Where do you most need Backpack’s services (i.e., brand development, photography, newsletters and content, social media planning)?
  • How would these services help your organization carry out your mission and enhance how you serve the community? 

Employer Partner Award

This award is given to an organization and/or individual who is actively engaged with CLA Career Services in efforts to recruit and contribute to the career management competency of CLA students. This is demonstrated through consistent engagement, openness to innovation, and a spirit of collaboration in support of CLA students. Evaluation criteria include the organization’s recruitment efforts, employee volunteer engagement, and demonstrated implementation of innovations that have supported the career development of CLA students and the overall success of CLA Career Services.

Nomination Process

The award winner is chosen by CLA Career Services staff.

Award Winners

2021

Kevin Lindsey, CEO, Humanities Center
Kevin Lindsey, CEO of Minnesota Humanities Center and the former Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Human Rights, was selected to receive the honor of being this year’s Dean’s Liberal Arts Champion. As a leader at the Minnesota Humanities Center, Lindsey strives to achieve and demonstrates the center’s three primary goals, being a convener, connector, and catalyst. Throughout the past year, despite the pandemic, we as a nation still witnessed many injustices and threats to the safety of everyone. Lindsey’s hope is that we as a nation can come together, witness our past, and overcome the inequities to create a union in which inclusivity is innate for everyone. The role of the Minnesota Humanities Center is to be the first responders when our democracy is in crisis, meaning that they bring people together to increase understanding and spark change. The center uses humanities to teach cultural awareness and competence, as well as empathy. It is the center’s belief that humanities has the power to bring about change for the betterment of our society.

2020

Judith Koll Healey (BA '61, English) 
Judith Koll Healey, a CLA alumna, has strongly advocated for the value of the liberal arts in her careers as a teacher, philanthropy executive, consultant, and author. She has authored several opinion pieces in the Star Tribune that champion the value of the liberal arts for individuals and society. She was greatly helpful in the effort to secure funding for the renovation of Pillsbury Hall, by gathering “testimony” from a wide variety of people, ranging from her car salesman to the CEO of a Fortune 500 company based in Minnesota. 

2019

Patricia Ariza Florez, founder and director, Teatro La Candelaria and Corporación Colombiana de Teatro

2021

2021

The Art Educators of Minnesota
Minnesota has a rich history in the arts, and it takes dedicated support from outstanding individuals and organizations to sustain that history and cultivate its future. The Art Educators of Minnesota (AEM) is a non-profit professional organization that has proven over the years its dedication to supporting visual and media arts educators and students. Even with all of the challenges entering 2021, AEM’s support of art educators and students never faltered.  Among countless other actions, AEM provides educators and students with networking opportunities to advance professional growth, advocates for quality art education for all learners, and has a network of hundreds of 7-12 educators across Minnesota engaged in developing the next generation of artists and scholars. It also supports several visual art student events, one of which is the Minnesota Scholastic Art Awards (MSAA). 
AEM organized and administered the 2021 MSAA for the sixth consecutive year in partnership with the University of Minnesota Department of Art, the Katherine E. Nash Gallery, and the Weisman Art Museum. The MSAA is part of the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, which are the largest source of scholarships and the longest-running, most prestigious competition for creative teenagers in the United States. The awards were established to ensure literary and artistic talents are recognized in schools and communities across the country. This annual collaboration between AEM and the University exemplifies the University’s dedication to strengthening educational and artistic opportunities for young Minnesotans and the College of Liberal Arts’ mission to create new knowledge and artistic expression to develop the next generation of brilliant and creative scholars. 

2020

Nelsy Echavez-Solano (BA '95, Spanish; MA '97, Hispanic Linguistics; PhD '03, Hispanic Linguistics & Luso-Brazilian Literature and Second Language Acquisition)
Nelsy Echavez-Solano is a noted academic researcher, community and college organizer, teacher, and prolific editor. As a faculty member at the College of St. Benedict/St. John’s University, her work explores human rights, Latin American theater, and linguistics and has inspired many to be agents of change in their own communities. Dr. Ecshavez-Solano has also been actively involved for 23 years as a co-director and planner for national and international symposia conducted as part of CLA’s State of Iberoamerican Studies Series: Human Rights Across the Disciplines. 

2019

Robin Patricia Hickman, CEO and executive producer, SoulTouch Productions

2021

Classroom Partners
Classroom Partners, a program that places College of Liberal Arts students and staff as teacher’s aides, tutors, and mentors, has only grown at Murray Middle School thanks to the help and support of Principal Jamin McKenzie. In his time as principal, McKenzie has created and supported an environment that fosters positive identity development and critical consciousness. The integration of Classroom Partners, with other student support systems, provides more comprehensive support for the students not only at Murray Middle school but also the student volunteers from the university. As problems with the program were identified McKenzie brought in his leadership team to offer training courses in racial justice and positive behavioral intervention for our volunteers. In this way, it is a two way learning and support system, for the volunteer students and for the school as well as our volunteers bring in new ideas and methods. In the scramble at the beginning of 2020 to create community engaged learning opportunities for students, Jamin McKenzie made us a priority and was able to offer positions to 60 volunteers, many from Youth Studies, Family Social Studies, and Sociology departments.

The Pioneer Press
Providing many students with their first professional reporting experience, The Pioneer Press has been inviting students into their newsroom teams for 21 years. Providing field-based practicum, The Pioneer Press assigns students to an editor who acts as a mentor during their time with the organization. The majority of the mentorship includes discussions on reporting topics every week with some mentors going above and beyond with additional topics such as finding court records or shadowing on complex stories. 
The Pioneer Press is a wonderful place for students to get introduced to the reporting world due to its ethical, caring, and compassionate coverage within the community. The main goal of the program is to help students, who are becoming young professionals in the field of journalism, achieve personal and professional growth. As of now, The Pioneer Press has hosted 329 student internships with students from the Hubbard School of Journalism and Mass Communication. With no signs of stopping, the organization has already invested more than half a million dollars into student work.

Mixed Blood Theatre
A long-standing partner with the English department, Mixed Blood Theater has provided students with a great opportunity for an internship. These internships include marketing for the theater, development, and communications. Despite the hardships faced by the group in 2020 due to the pandemic, they still worked towards being able to provide this opportunity and experience to English students at the university.
Also, in the past year, the group has had to find a new way to share their passion with the students and staff at the university. Their goal as a theater group for the past year was to share different perspectives of works and provide live theater shows to people who may not have had any other way to experience it. Out of work actors and actresses performed, virtually, texts and other course materials for classes. Both the readings and the post-performance discussions helped to facilitate a better understanding of the text. This experience not only introduced but fostered and increased cultural appreciation for live theater. Something to note about Mixed Blood Theater is that they share experiences from many cultures and backgrounds; this is all in line with their mission to address “injustices, inequities, and cultural collisions, providing a voice for the unheard…in the company’s own Cedar Riverside neighborhood and beyond.”

2020

St. Sahag Armenian Church, St. Paul, MN
St. Sahag Armenian Church has been a strong and consistent partner of CLA’s Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies since its inception in 1997. They have been a key partner in many of the center’s programs, including the recent Liberal Arts Engagement Hub Residency “Bridges of Memory,” which seeks to build connections with communities impacted by genocide and mass atrocities.

2019

Vernon Rowe, principal, Northeast Middle School, Minneapolis

2021

First Nations Repatriation Institute
As a For Us By Us organization, the First Nations Repatriation Institute (FNRI) focuses on advocacy, education, research, and healing within Indigenous communities. FNRI is an organization for and by Indigenous people who were removed from their communities through foster care and adoption and placed into non-Indigenous families. The organization has been engaged with the College of Liberal Arts since 2008 through various studies and has provided internships for many undergraduates. 
While FNRI is based in Minnesota, it does have a national and international reach with its efforts to heal many Indigenous people through advocacy, education, and research. The organization has a powerful message to share with its audience, however; it is a grassroots organization that prioritizes interpersonal connection and is limited in cyberspace. FNRI’s founder Sandy White Hawk and the rest of the organization are not as effective at reaching many communities that would benefit from deeper engagement with FNRI, so its work and impact would be greatly enhanced through an increase in branding and social media presence. The organization would especially like to reach three audiences better: Native adoptees, tribal communities, and potential supporters. FNRI is excited about collaborating with Backpack and providing CLA students an opportunity to work with the organization and help broaden its reach and spread its message of knowledge and healing. 

2020

ARTS Us Center for the African Diaspora, St. Paul, MN 
In 2019, ARTS Us Center for the African Diaspora partnered with CLA’s Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Program to provide The Civil Rights Research Experience to 40 students from metro area high schools. Partnerships such as this are core to their mission to engage Twin Cities youth using arts, culture, and sciences of the African Diaspora. Being able to develop and disseminate video content that helps to tell the story of their programs will help them further their mission.

2019

Northeast Middle School, Minneapolis

2021

Raven Jones, Andersen Windows
Former cheerleader for the University of Minnesota football and basketball teams, Raven Jones brings enthusiasm and energy to each recruitment event that she attends. As the lead campus recruiter for Securian Financial, Jones is frequently at these events. Jones is amazing at what she does because she is willing to try new programming to connect with students. Some examples are stepping into student-centered spaces, serving as a mentor, and being a positive and willing partner with CLA Career Services. Her support of diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives also helps her recruiting efforts. Her dedication is clear to everyone she works with and Jones is always looking for new ways to connect with students. We look forward to working with Jones further as she moves into her new career leading campus recruiting efforts at Andersen Windows.

2020

Hannah Gruber & Brianna Palkki, ACR Homes
Hannah Gruber and Brianna Palkki of ACR Homes have been frequent and willing volunteers for various CLA Career Services programs. They are strong advocates for recruiting CLA students. They recognize the value of their well-rounded education, as well as the personal and professional qualities they bring to ACR Homes, particularly those interested in health and health-care careers. 

Nou Chang (BA '06, Speech Communication), City of St. Paul
Nou Chang of the City of St. Paul is a CLA alumna who has been a frequent volunteer at many events to further the career development of CLA students. She has participated in interview and career fair prep, alumni networking events, and virtual visits to various CLA classes. Through her work, she advocates for the value of the liberal arts, student access, and the public sector. 

2019

Michelle Theisen, volunteer development manager, The Arc Minnesota

Scott Vargo, University of Minnesota workforce development coordinator, Hennepin County 

Enterprise Holdings 

Target Corporation