Faculty engagement leads to award for its work with University Participant Program

Accepting the Engagement Scholarship Consortium’s Faculty Community Engagement Award on behalf of WCU is University Participant Program Director Kelly Kelley (third from left). Joining her (from left) are Lane Perry, WCU executive director of the Center for Community Engagement and Service Learning; Carol Burton, WCU vice provost for academic affairs; Melissa Maybury Lubin, ESC chair; Samory T. Pruitt, ESC president; and Susan E. Short, ESC board member at large.

Faculty involvement with the University Participant Program has led to Western Carolina University being named recipient of the Engagement Scholarship Consortium’s Faculty Community Engagement Award.

The award was presented to Carol Burton, WCU vice provost for academic affairs; Lane Perry,  executive director of the Center for Community Engagement and Service Learning; and Kelly Kelley, UP Program director Kelly Kelley, at the ESC’s annual conference in Denver on Oct. 8.

ESC is a resource for higher education institutions and their faculty, staff, students and community partners focused on promoting excellence in the scholarship and practice of engaged scholarship locally and globally. The award recognizes a higher education institution and its exemplary contribution to engaged scholarship.

The UP Program is a fully inclusive, two-year post-secondary education program for college-age people with intellectual disabilities. Its purpose is to facilitate independent, inclusive community living and working for those individuals in their post-UP community. The program began in 2007. Students live in campus residence halls, attend three or four classes per semester, work at least 10 hours a week in internships or on paid jobs, and participate in a wide range of campus and community social activities.

WCU faculty members have contributed greatly to the program’s success, Kelley said.

“I had the opportunity to have an UP student for the first time during the Spring 2019 semester in my ‘Marketing 201’ course,” said Mary Beth Deconinck, assistant professor in the College of Buisiness. “He had a positive attitude and a passion for learning. It was a pleasure having an UP student in class, and I look forward to more. The UP office is always willing to work with faculty to make this venture a successful one. A very rewarding experience.”

Debbie Logan, assistant professor in the College of Health and Sciences, said her recreational therapy students work hands-on with UP students.

“As part of the recreational therapy course, the students have a chance to gain exposure in ways of supporting and encouraging while experiencing the reward of being engaged with these amazing individuals in the UP program,” Logan said. “In the reflections, I am able to see tremendous growth in my students as they become influential as supports and advocates for individuals with intellectual disabilities.

“Many times, I hear how this opportunity has encouraged them to continue this type of engagement past their time at Western Carolina University. I am proud to be part of a university that offers opportunities to the individuals in the UP Program, but also gives our students an opportunity to truly see inclusion.”

For more information, go to up.wcu.edu.