The College of Liberal Arts Announces 2021 Civitas Award Winners

Close up of a Civitas Award. It's a small wooden bridge.
The Civitas Awards symbolizes the bridges between the College and the community. It is a replica of the the "Big M" suspension bridge that until recently served as a bridge from the East Bank into the Marcy Holmes neighborhood.

The College of Liberal Arts (CLA) has selected the winners of its 2021 Civitas Awards. The Civitas Awards were launched in 2019 as part of the college’s 150th-anniversary celebration. The Civitas Awards recognize individuals and organizations that are strong partners with CLA as well as individuals and organizations that make a strong, positive difference in their community. Through the Civitas Awards, the college recognizes community partners whose work and impact align with CLA’s mission. 

The winners of this year’s awards are as follows:

Dean's Liberal Arts Champion

Kevin Lindsey, Chief Executive Officer, Minnesota Humanities Center

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 is given to a person who, through their work, words, or deeds, explicitly demonstrates the value of the liberal arts to society.

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.

Civitas Community Catalyst Award

The Art Educators of Minnesota

Civitas Community Catalysts are individual community members and/or organizations engaged with CLA in the past year who are catalysts for change within the community, in a manner that is aligned with the College’s purpose.

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. 

Civitas Community Partner Award

Jamin McKenzie, Principal, Murray Middle School

The Pioneer Press

Mixed Blood Theatre 

Civitas Community Partners are individual community members and/or organizations engaged with CLA in the past year 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.

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. As the program expanded, from supporting a few science classrooms to placing volunteers throughout the school, it needed more resources. McKenzie brought in his leadership team to provide volunteer supervision and to offer training courses in racial justice and positive behavioral intervention. This integration of Classroom Partners with existing student support systems at the school creates an ideal two-way learning and support system, in which university students deepen their ties to their community, and Murray students are introduced to the university. 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.

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.

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.”

Civitas Backpack Pays it Forward Award

First Nations Repatriation Institute

The Backpack Pays It Forward Award is given to a nonprofit organization that has been engaged with CLA in the past year 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.

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. 

Civitas Employer Partner Award

Raven Jones, Andersen Corporation

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.    

A 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 Corporation.

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