Winners of Oregon State University’s first Engagement Awards were honored during the inaugural OSU Engagement Conference Sept. 5 at the CH2M Hill Alumni Center on the Corvallis campus.

At Oregon State, community engagement is collaboration that generates co-created knowledge and impact benefiting OSU and its partners. Community partners can include social and cultural organizations; nonprofits; business, industry and entrepreneurs; government agencies; individuals; and other higher education institutions across Oregon, the nation and the globe.

The awards recognize and celebrate faculty, staff and community partners for their efforts to develop programs or projects that adhere to the principles of community engagement and engaged scholarship.

“As Oregon's land-grant university, it's critical that we engage with communities in a spirit of reciprocity,” said Marina Denny, associate vice provost for engagement. “If we bring the research and resources of the university and our community partners bring their knowledge and ideas to the table, together we can co-create mutually beneficial solutions to wicked, real-world problems.”

This year’s honorees are:

OSU Engagement Faculty Award:

Didgette McCracken, Open Campus coordinator for the Division of Extension and Engagement in Grant County. McCracken is one of three founders of Grant County CyberMill, a nonprofit that provides physical spaces where residents can access broadband services, as well as a space for collaborating on education and entrepreneurial opportunities. 

She convened community meetings, wrote grant requests and managed the project with community partners in an effort to address the need for internet connectivity in small towns and unincorporated communities in her region. The first CyberMill location opened in Seneca in 2021 and the second in Prairie City opened in October 2022. A location is planned for John Day in 2024.

Community Engaged Scholarship Team Award:

The Oregon Coast Futures Project, a transdisciplinary team of OSU researchers, extension specialists and students who worked with a diverse community advisory council to help coastal communities prepare for earthquakes, tsunamis, storms and sea level rise.

They considered the social, economic and ecological costs and benefits and engaged with entities that serve underrepresented groups, with a focus on Latino/a/x residents. Researchers’ findings show how specific policies may disproportionately impact vulnerable populations.

This project produced 14 publications and over 30 presentations; trained 11 graduate students and postdocs in transdisciplinary, community-engaged research methods; and laid the groundwork for a $19 million-dollar National Science Foundation grant to expand the work to the Pacific Northwest. 

Faculty accepting the award on behalf of the team were: Peter Ruggiero, professor in the College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences; John Bolte, professor and head of the Department of Biological and Ecological Engineering in the College of Agricultural Sciences; Patrick Corcoran, associate professor emeritus in CEOAS and Oregon Sea Grant Extension coastal hazards specialist; Daniel T. Cox, professor and director of the Cascadia Lifelines Project, College of Engineering; Steven J. Dundas, associate professor in the College of Agricultural Sciences and researcher at the Coastal Oregon Marine Experiment Station; Felicia Olmeta Schult, professor of practice in CEOAS and Oregon Sea Grant Extension coastal hazards specialist; and Jenna Tilt, assistant professor in CEOAS.

OSU-Community Partnership Award:

Natchee Barnd, associate professor in the College of Liberal Arts; Buddy Lane, cultural Education manager for the Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians; Peter Hatch, historical researcher/cultural resources technician for the Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians; and Itchung Cheung, academic program manager for the OSU Hatfield Marine Science Center, for Indigenous Ocean and Coast, a first-of-its-kind course highlighting the social and social and cultural aspects of Indigenous-centered ocean knowledges, histories and engagements.

The project focuses on Indigenous perspectives and facilitates greater reciprocity towards the Siletz tribal community. On a wider scale, it features Indigenous peoples’ ocean relations more globally.

The inaugural course, which was planned for five years, occurred over a pair of three-day stints in April and May 2023. The Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport served as a collaborative space and base of operations for pairing marine and coastal science learning with the traditional ecological knowledges and practices, such as shellfish aquaculture communities, sustainable fishing, sea otter reintroduction and forest-ocean relations.

- Michelle Klampe