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Jim Hanchett
School of Public and Environmental Affairs

Last modified: Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Indiana University researcher recognized for study of students who volunteer

Feb. 19, 2013

BLOOMINGTON, Indiana -- Beth Gazley says that when her students volunteer with the United Way, it's always a great learning experience. So she wanted to send the organization a valentine, and she's found two ways to do it.

Gazley, an associate professor at Indiana University's School of Public and Environmental Affairs in Bloomington, helped lead a five-year research project to benefit United Way and other community agencies. The valuable insight that resulted was the first valentine of sorts, and the second, serendipitously, coincided with this Valentine's Day: She just won a major award for the research and has requested that the cash prize be donated to United Way of Monroe County.

"They play a special role locally in building nonprofit capacity," she said.

Gazley received the 2013 Indiana Campus Compact Brian Hiltunen Award for Outstanding Contribution to the Scholarship of Engagement. The Indiana Campus Compact is a statewide higher education association of public and private, two- and four-year institutions. The award, established in 2000, honors the memory of Brian Hiltunen and his work with faculty like Gazley who practice the scholarship of engagement. Gazley has also been a recipient of the Indiana University Trustees' Thomas Ehrlich Award for Service Learning, in 2012.

"I'll describe this service learning research as a valentine to the community agencies that host our students," Gazley said. "My collaborators and I were very strongly driven by a desire to understand effective student engagement not just from higher education's perspective, but from the community's."

The benefits for college students from service-learning, internships and community service are well documented, but less was known about the perspective of the community organizations that make those opportunities possible. Gazley was co-investigator on the project, "Service Learning From the 'Supply Side'; Community Capacity to Engage Students." Laura Littlepage, clinical lecturer in SPEA at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, and Teresa Bennett, director of the IUPUI Solution Center, worked with Gazley on the project.

Coincidentally, the research was partially funded by Indiana Campus Compact, along with the IUPUI Solution Center and the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University (now the School of Philanthropy).

The researchers concluded that the "host agencies" generally believe the students are a significant asset. Even more important to successful student learning, however, is a closer partnership between faculty and host agencies in planning and supervising student projects.

"Beth is an excellent choice for the Hiltunen Award because her work can have a significant impact on the charities, organizations and agencies that do so much good in our communities," SPEA Dean John D. Graham said. "We're grateful to Beth, Laura and Teresa for their contribution to the common good, and we're proud to see it recognized by the Indiana Campus Compact."

Gazley will be honored at the Indiana Campus Compact's annual Service Engagement Summit in Indianapolis on April 4.