OHIO Community Partner Awards Announced

Ohio University 2023 Community Partner of the Year awardee, Tasha Werry, Executive Director of Building Bridges to Careers accepts her award from Center for Community Engagement Director, Mary Nally
McKenna Christy
September 29, 2023

At the second annual Community Engagement Symposium on Sept. 29, Ohio University announced the first ever Outstanding Community Partner Awards. These community partners were recognized for their meritorious collaboration with an Ohio University campus.

Across Athens and all five regional campuses, candidates were nominated by either an Ohio University student, faculty, or staff member for their contributions to partnerships supporting community-engaged research, curricular or co-curricular engagement, special projects or other initiatives that promote mutual benefits for the Ohio University and the community.

The award was launched in Spring 2023 with a June 1st nomination deadline. The Center for Campus and Community Engagement then convened a review committee to determine an awardee for each campus community, and identify one of these organizations as Ohio University’s Institutional Partner of the Year.

The following community partners have dedicated their time, energy, and resources to boost research and creative opportunities, curriculum, and teaching and learning partnerships serving the public good. These partnerships have undoubtedly strengthened communities and created more engaged citizens.

2023 Outstanding Community Partner Award Winners:

A teacher candidate helps a student at Alexander School district
An OHIO teacher-candidate helps a young Alexander student

Alexander School District (Ohio University, Athens Campus)

Since 2008, the Patton College of Education and the Alexander School District have been partnering through their creation of the Professional Development School. The program provides a Patton teacher-candidates and interns with experiential learning opportunities in a clinical setting and professional development opportunities for university faculty and administrators. Through the Professional Development School, community engaged research has been conducted to gauge how to improve the practices surrounding education and teaching. The partners have also collaborated on redesigning the process of becoming a teacher at both the district and university levels. Patton College has provided Alexander with continued support by compensating the district for mentoring its teacher-candidates. During this past academic year alone, Alexander School District has hosted 56 early clinical teacher-candidates and 40 professional interns from Patton College.

The Alexander School District was nominated by Marcy Keifer Kennedy, the Director of the Center for Professional Development School Partnerships in the Patton College.

“What makes this partnership exemplary is the community of collaboration that is seen throughout the entire district. From the district office, to building principals, to teachers and teaching support staff, the Alexander Local School District has created and nurtured a strong culture of including our Patton College community, said Keifer Kennedy. “As partners in the important task of preparing our next generation of teachers, [we] so greatly appreciate ALL the Alexander Local School District does to support teacher Preparation.”

The district’s Superintendent, William Hampton, and Curriculum Director, Megan Karr, accepted the award at the symposium. Congratulations to Alexander School District for the deserving recognition and longstanding partnership with the Patton College!

Mary Nally awards representatives of the ASD
Alexander School District Curriculum Director Megan Karr, Superintendent William Hampton, and Mary Nally, Director, the Center for Community Engagement
Dean Milliken and the award winners
OUC Dean Milliken with RCCAC-Head Start Executive Director, Julie Bolen, and Early Childhood Program Director Andrea Minton.

Ross County Community Action Commission–Head Start (Ohio University, Chillicothe Campus)

The Ross County Community Action Commission-Head Start (RCCAC) and OHIO Chillicothe have partnered for over 20 years to provide vital early education programming to Ross County families. RCCAC-Head Start is a school readiness program that serves  income-eligible families with children from 3 to 5 years old. OHIO Chillicothe students, faculty, and staff have participated in the program in many ways: Early childhood students from OHIO Chillicothe work at the childcare center; They read to children and attend extra-curricular events such as STEM family nights. Nursing students studying child development have helped to assess children’s height and weight. Social work and early childhood education students have completed their field placements at RCCAC-Head Start. Even the campus groundskeeper has been engaged, offering a gardening presentation to the children. “Faculty are appreciative of these opportunities that they regard as highly enriching and meaningful,” said Ohio University Chillicothe Dean Roberta Milliken. “The Early Childhood and Elementary Education faculty are especially grateful to share a physical space with Head Start so their early childhood candidates can see a model birth-preschool program in action.”

Research has proven the mutually increased support between the RCCAC-Head Start and students and faculty at OHIO Chillicothe has created long-term impacts in improving the educational and life outcomes of children enrolled in the program.

The RCCAC-Head Start was nominated by Dean Milliken and was accepted at the symposium by the commission’s Executive Director, Julie Bolen, and Early Childhood Program Director Andrea Minton. The collaboration and partnership between OHIO Chillicothe and RCCAC-Head Start is commendable and a huge congratulations is in order for the commission’s program!

An OHIO student and instructor at the workforce center
An OUL student participates in FCWC programs

The Fairfield County Workforce Center (Ohio University, Lancaster Campus)

The FCWC was created in 2019 with the purpose of providing education and training for jobs relating to the expressed needs of Fairfield County employers. This broad workforce development partnership includes the Fairfield County Department of Economic and Workforce Development, Hocking College, Claypool Electric, and OHIO University Lancaster. The Fairfield County Director of Economic and Workforce Development, Rick Szabrak, has worked diligently to incorporate the interests of higher education, school districts, and Fairfield County employers.

The collaboration among these organizations, programs and institutions has received state and national attention from the Ohio Governor Mike DeWine, Ohio Lt. Governor Jon Husted, state and federal legislators, and the Ohio Department of Higher Education Chancellor Randy Gardner. Most importantly, employers have recognized the collaboration as a success. Through this recognition, the partnership has been acknowledged as an example for other areas of Ohio to use as a model.

The FCWC was nominated by former Ohio University Lancaster Dean Jarrod Tudor, and was recognized at Ohio University Lancaster earlier this year. Szabrak  was present to accept the award at the symposium in Athens. Congratulations to Szabrak and the FCWC on all their achievements and their enduring economic impact on the communities around them!

Mary Nally awards Rick Szabrak
The Fairfield County Director of Economic and Workforce Development, Rick Szabrak, and Mary Nally, Director, Center for Community Engagement
Marty Conley receives an award from Mary Nally
LCCVB Director Marty Conley and Mary Nally, Director, Center for Community Engagement

Lawrence County Convention and Visitors Bureau (Ohio University, Southern Campus)

Three years ago, the Lawrence County Convention and Visitors Bureau and OHIO Southern began partnering to uncover and bring more attention to the history of the Underground Railroad in Lawrence County. The LCCVB collaborated with regional partner organizations to identify and better map Underground Railroad cultural assets within coal-impacted communities – an effort engaging partners in nine counties in the tri-state area. Through this partnership, the project was granted $1.5 million from Appalachian Regional Commission’s POWER Initiative, which supported the first Culture and Heritage Festival this past June and the development of 20 to 30 new historic markers that will be placed across the nine counties.

One site identified through the partnership was added to the National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom as a result of the partnership: the Macedonia Baptist Church, in Burlington, Ohio, where a freed community of 32 formerly enslaved people settled. Thanks to this partnership, attention is being brought to Black Ohioans who welcomed them into their community.

The Lawrence County Convention and Visitors Bureau was nominated by OHIO Southern’s Communication & External Relations Manager, Sarah Simmons and was accepted by  Director Marty Conley, who has had an invaluable role leading this partnership. Congratulations to Conley and the Lawrence County Convention and Visitors Bureau!

Dean Nissen and Mary Nally
OUZ Dean Hannah Nissen accepts the award from Mary Nally, Director of the Center for Community Engagement on behalf of Chamber President Dana Matz.

Zanesville Muskingum County Chamber of Commerce (Ohio University, Zanesville Campus)

OHIO Zanesville Dean Hannah Nissen and  Zanesville Muskingum County Chamber of Commerce President Dana Matz have supported each other’s organizations for over three years now. With the Chamber’s support, OHIO Zanesville’s Workforce Summits have been very successful in creating stronger workforce development partnerships in Muskingum County. By bringing these summits to business and education leaders across the county, the Chamber has helped to grow opportunities for both OHIO Zanesville and the wider community. Together, OHIO Zanesville and the Chamber have planned and hosted four Workforce Summits.

Zanesville Muskingum County Chamber of Commerce was nominated by Dean Nissen. Although Mr. Matz could not attend the symposium, Dean Nissen was there to accept on his behalf. Congratulations to Matz and the Chamber of Commerce!


Tasha Werry and Mary Nally
BB2C Director Tasha Werry and Mary Nally, Director of the Center for Community Engagement

Institutional Partner of the Year:

Building Bridges to Careers (Ohio University, Eastern Campus)

Building Bridges to Careers (BB2C) partners with education, business and community leaders to foster a network of  Community and Career Connected Learning (CCCL), a learning system integrating community partnerships and career awareness into experiential, place-based learning. Since 2020, BB2C has partnered with Ohio University to develop and implement the Rural Teachers Fellowship Program. The RTF is a co-designed partnership that provides outreach to k-12 school districts throughout communities within both BB2C’s and OHIO Regional Higher Education’s service region by assisting early-career teachers in rural schools and helping them integrate CCCL principles into their classrooms.

Students and their teacher in the classroom

The RTF program intentionally leverages the CCCL model to disrupt threats to the viability of rural communities and rural schools, such as outmigration, by forming connections between teacher-candidates, educators, educational institutions and communities.  The RTF engages OHIO junior and senior Middle Childhood Education teaching candidates across all regional campuses in the program via fellowship opportunities, which underscores their goal of supporting  programming specifically for rural teachers and RHE teaching candidates working in Appalachian Ohio. The majority of these teacher-candidates are from Appalachia, first-generation students, socioeconomically disadvantaged, military veterans, or single parents. The program is intentionally designed to build professional connections between OHIO teacher-candidates and other members of the BB2C network, which teacher-candidates can leverage when looking for jobs after graduation. Since the outset of the partnership, BB2C and Dr. Jacqueline Yahn of the Patton College of Education at OHIO Eastern have raised $23,373 to sustain the program.

BB2C was nominated by Dr. Jacqueline Yahn for their partnership with the Patton College and the RTF Program. Dr. Tasha Werry, the Executive Director at BB2C, accepted the award at the symposium and continues to establish positive impact within OHIO campus communities, local schools, and local communities. "BB2C is honored to receive this award,” said Werry. “Partnering is fun and it is hard work, but the results for the rural teachers are more than worth it. The ultimate goal is to reach more people in our community and to connect them in meaningful ways, and partnerships help to pool resources and increase our reach. Thank you so much for recognizing our work!"

The Outstanding Community Partner Awards are accepted from each OHIO campus community. The 2023 call for nominations will open the first day of OHIO’s Spring Semester.