UVM’s Agroecology and Livelihoods Collaborative Receives Regional Award for Excellence in Community Engagement

By Rachel Leslie

September 21, 2022

The Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) today named the University of Vermont (UVM) as regional winner of the 2022 W.K. Kellogg Foundation Community Engagement Scholarship Award in recognition of the extraordinary community engagement of the Agroecology and Livelihoods Collaborative (ALC), a community of practice at UVM working to advance participatory agroecology research and solutions around the world.

UVM is one of four land-grant universities to receive the award, which honors the university for programming that demonstrates how colleges and universities have redesigned their learning, discovery, and engagement missions to deepen their partnerships and achieve broader impact in local, national and international communities. As the northeast regional winner, UVM receives a $5,000 prize for the ALC to further its work and advances the institution to compete for the national C. Peter Magrath Community Engagement Scholarship Award, which will be announced in November.

“Community engagement is at the heart of our mission at the university,” said Leslie Parise, dean of the UVM College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, the current campus home of the ALC. “We are so pleased to be recognized for the work of the Agroecology and Livelihoods Collaborative who so deeply embody this mission. Their unique participatory approach facilitates their ability to effectively partner with communities.”

The ALC works to help transform current food systems to ones that are ecologically sound and socially just. It is comprised of a transdisciplinary team of international scholars spanning a wide range of disciplines—agroecology, ecology, sociology, entomology, soil health, geography, and others. The team uses a participatory action research approach that centers on the co-creation of evidence and knowledge, in partnership with farmers and other actors, to seek solutions to the challenges facing global food systems. They work primarily with small- to medium-sized farmers and nonprofits around the globe, from local growers in Vermont to smallholder coffee farmers in Mexico and Nicaragua.

“It is an honor to receive this award for our long-term work with farmers and organizations in Vermont and Latin America. It is an affirmation of the importance to continue doing engaged scholarship as part of the mission of land-grant universities,” said Ernesto Méndez, co-director of the ALC.

“Congratulations to this year’s regional winners of the Kellogg Community Engagement Scholarship Awards and our exemplary projects,” said APLU President Mark Becker. “Community engagement is a critical part of public universities’ mission and we’re pleased to highlight the work of institutions that are engaging communities in need. From the underserved areas of their communities and states to overlooked regions of the world, public research universities are engaging communities to solve the most pressing problems they face.”

The other three regional winners and Magrath Award finalists include the University of Georgia, the University of Texas at San Antonio and the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Their exemplary projects will be showcased at the APLU’s 2022 Engagement Scholarship Consortium’s Annual Conference taking place this week in Athens, Georgia. Following the conference, a team of community engagement professionals from public research universities will select the national winner. The national winner receives a $20,000 prize and is formally recognized at the APLU Annual Meeting in November.

The ALC’s nomination for the award was supported by UVM’s Community-Engaged Learning Office (CELO), which serves as the university’s hub for community-engaged learning.