2020 IAMNCC Engaged Campus Award Winners

In order to spotlight great projects, partnerships, and programs, we accept nominations for the following selective award categories. Nominations for these awards are reviewed and scored by outside reviewers.

  • Emerging Innovation Award goes to a recent project, program, or initiative making unique and innovative contributions that demonstrate strong future potential, including student-led projects.
  • Community Collaboration Award goes to a collaboration co-created with community organizations, leaders, and/or partners that is deep, reciprocal, and transformational.
  • Civic-Minded Employer Award goes to an Iowa or Minnesota business nominated by a member institution for its commitment to corporate social responsibility and employee engagement in community.
  • Alumni-Leadership Award goes to an alum of a member institution making strong contributions to their community and demonstrating the values of the civic mission of higher education.

Iowa Western Community College Greenhouse Initiative, Iowa Western Community College, Council Bluffs, Iowa

Iowa Western Community College’s Greenhouse Initiative is a group of organizations, programs, faculty, and students who are all working together to bring life back into the greenhouse. For years the greenhouse has sat underutilized. Fall 2018, students in the Sustainable Energy Program researched and proposed to install an aquaponics system in the west greenhouse. Spring 2019 this proposal was realized. Sustainable Energy students are still caring for the system that has been growing produce. Produce is divided among departments and projects. Our Culinary Department uses it to cook, sell locally, and then donate to local organizations in need of fresh produce. Additionally, Psychology and Sociology instructors are collaborating with Sustainable Energy to assess students’ understanding of environmental sustainability before and after using the Aquaponics system. The east greenhouse is used by Iowa Western’s Service Learning Department and the organizations Golden Hills Resource Conservation District and Lutheran Family Services. Golden Hills RC&D utilizes the space to grow native plants and educate the public through continuing education classes. In the spring, Golden Hills RC&D will sell these native plants at low cost. Service Learning students and AmeriCorps volunteers will care for the plants until they are ready to sell. The remaining area will be utilized by Omaha’s Lutheran Family Services. Vegetable plants will be grown for home or for small market farming.

Engaged Citizen Corps, Drake University, Des Moines, Iowa

The Engaged Citizen Corps (ECC) is an intentionally designed service-year program for entering first-year students at Drake University who want to take creative action to solve social problems. The program combines academics with a service internship and living-learning community in the residence hall. ECC exposes members to issues of social justice while providing them hands-on experience to impact the Des Moines community. Members are enrolled in the Campus Compact AmeriCorps Program, where they serve weekly service-learning hours with a local non-profit, all the while making connections between their community experiences and academic pursuits. The service internship is directly integrated into the assignments and activities of 9 credits (2 courses plus a year-long seminar). Service sites represent agencies working across multiple areas including youth development, affordable housing, poverty and homelessness, and more. 

The ECC program attracts students of the highest academic caliber and community accomplishments. Over the past four years, 181 students have applied for for 40 spots. 25% of applicants indicated that the ECC program influenced their decision to apply to Drake. ECC Alumni go on to serve in leadership roles ranging from Vice President of Service and Philanthropy, Service Chair of the Residence Hall Association, president of service-related student organizations and one is even serving on the board of a local youth-serving non-profit organization.

Mobilize Mac, Macalester College, Saint Paul, MN

“Mobilize Mac” coordinates Macalester’s public and democratic engagement around key events such as caucuses, primaries, elections, and the census that are vital to ensuring a strong democracy and participation in public life.

Originally named “Mac the Vote,” Macalester’s Civic Engagement Center began to coordinate this broad campus initiative in Spring 2016 in the months before the national election.  “Mac the Vote” brought together student leaders, student affairs and academic staff, faculty members, and administrators to support institution-wide democratic engagement and civic learning, dialogue, and action.

In the 2017-2018 academic year, campus leaders met regularly to coordinate and implement voter registration drives and debate-watching events, plan campus speakers on the elections and democracy,  support classes with civic engagement components, and  plan campus and community art exhibits, poster presentations, and and library displays on themes of voting, democracy, and our shared public life.  Macalester students participated in community voter registration drives and “get out the vote” activities as part of classes and co-curricular activities. On election day, “Mac the Vote” hosted a day-long voting celebration in the campus center to turn out the vote and raise awareness of the election as a public responsibility. Throughout the day, the initiative coordinated voting parades to the neighborhood polling place used by students living on campus and many staff and faculty. The celebratory parades were led by campus leaders and highlighted the community aspects of democratic participation while lessening barriers for first-time voters.

After the election, the group coordinated post-election responses and programming, highlighted by two days of campus-wide “community conversations” at the start of the second semester in Spring 2017, which coincided with the Presidential inauguration. The community conversations days, led by faculty and staff, engaged the social, environmental, and political questions facing the nation, and created spaces for reflection and for conversation across differences. The sessions began with an all-campus gathering. Professors opened up their classes to the campus to provide discipline-specific perspectives on issues raised by the election, and staff offered skill-based workshops.

Leading into the 2018 midterm elections, “Mac the Vote” evolved into “Mobilize Mac.” With this change “Mobilize Mac” broadened its scope of work to coordinate a series of trainings on community organizing and advocacy and informational sessions on how to caucus and vote in primaries and midterms.  Mobilize Mac coordinated institution-wide planning to increase participation in the census by all members of the Macalester community.  The Civic Engagement Center partnered with the Macalester Library and the Political Science Department to sponsor a session on the census for Constitution Day.

As Macalester plans for the 2020 national election, Mobilize Mac has coordinated broader campus planning around the election by hosting regular meetings of staff, faculty, and student leaders.  One distinctive opportunity, “Democracy in Action,” will allow students to earn academic credit for community-based political engagement and participation in an academic seminar.  Guided by a steering committee, the seminar will support students to reflect on their engagement experience and connect their political activities to broader questions of democracy and their own values and commitments. Mobilize Mac will continue to play an institution-wide leadership role to plan activities on election day and guide campus reflection and activities after the election.



Student Senate, South Central College, North Mankato and Faribault, MN

The Student Senates in North Mankato and Faribault constructed a Civic Engagement Action plan to coordinate additional involvement with the Census and Voter Registration. This action plan enlists departments across the college, including Student Affairs, Academic Affairs, and Students to engage them in education regarding upcoming civic responsibilities. This action plan consists of multiple efforts such as marketing materials, syllabus statements, educational sessions, and social norming; which is intended to assist in the mobilization of all students.

Grinnell Education Partnership, Grinnell, Iowa

The Grinnell Education Partnership brings together community non-profits, area employers, the Grinnell-Newburg School District, and community volunteers to support kids and families in Grinnell, Iowa. 

Supported by a team of AmeriCorps members embedded in non-profit organizations across the community, the partnership is helping to ensure that Grinnell’s kids get both a strong start and strong finish to their school experience. Since the program’s inception in 2015, the Grinnell Education Partnership has engaged approximately 150 AmeriCorps Members, involved more than 20 local organizations and engaged more than 300 volunteers who have contributed over 1,000 hours of volunteer time. Through new collaborations, participants have piloted or enhanced more than 15 community-based programs – such as creating a full range of summer enrichment opportunities for elementary-level students, combating chronic absenteeism, and creating a high school internship program to help new graduates get a leg up. 

The partnership has generated widespread community support by bridging educational gaps and improving educational opportunities and outcomes for ALL kids. Connecting volunteers and organizations to leverage existing resources in new ways, this collective-impact initiative has captured the community’s imagination, rallied volunteerism, fostered relationships, and achieved measurable results in student success. Reading scores are up and the achievement gap rapidly closing.

Create CommUNITY, St. Cloud, MN, Nominated by the College of Saint Benedict President, St. Cloud State University President, and Saint John’s University

Create CommUNITY is a grass-roots community movement that was started in the office of the Mayor in St. Cloud, Minnesota over 20 years ago; then known as the Mayor’s Racial Harmony Team. Over the years, the organization changed its name, honed its mission, vision, and membership. The Create CommUNITY mission is Dismantling Racism through Systemic Change. Their vision is to provide a welcoming, anti-discriminatory environment with respect and opportunity for all. The board is composed of residents, leaders in education, business, industry, and faith communities.

Currently, Create CommUNITY focuses on three areas of work: educational attainment; health care access; and housing access. This organization has not only provided a forum for enhancing outcomes in these focus areas, but they have also, for the past 14 years, organized an Annual Conversation on Race. This event, like their mission and vision, is focused on bringing people from diverse backgrounds together to have intentional conversations around key issues to facilitate transformational change for individuals and institutions in a safe and supportive environment.

The Annual Conversation on Race brings our community together in a new way, forming a new community tradition that attracts between 250-600+ diverse participants each year. This event remains a staple in the region for listening, learning, understanding and expanding hearts and minds-creating a healthier, more welcoming community.

Foster Group, Des Moines, Iowa; nominated by Simpson College

Foster Group offers clients a full complement of financial services, including investment management, qualified retirement plan consulting and design, and advanced financial planning services. They display a values-driven approach, not in just what they say, but in how they serve their clients, their communities, and their fellow team members. 

Foster Group’s vision is to encourage their clients in their pursuits of meaningful living and generous giving. Social impact of clients, employees and the firm are all parts of Foster Group’s annual Board review process, making sure it is a focal point of the company. 

Foster Group’s commitment to society is lived out through their ‘VIEW – Volunteering Impacts Everyone’s World’ program. Employees form teams to align volunteer efforts with different organizations allowing for friendly competition between teams as well as giving their colleagues a chance to learn about the mission and vision of each of the organizations selected. Nearly 40% of employees volunteer on boards at various charitable organizations in the communities that Foster Group serves.

Foster Group wishes for each of their clients to establish a charitable giving plan. To that end, the company reports to its clients on a monthly basis the amount that the company is aware of clients contributing to their causes. 

Foster Group understands and acts upon the need to be social impact change agents one firm, one employee and one client at a time.

MAHUBE-OTWA Community Action Partnership, West Central Minnesota; nominated by Minnesota State Community and Technical College

MAHUBE-OTWA Community Action Partnership helps people and changes lives by living up to its three organizational values: community-minded, client-focused, and resourceful. A community action agency in West Central Minnesota, its governing board is made up of one-third elected officials, one-third low-income representatives, and one-third community-based organizations.

The organization has been part of a national pilot program over the past two years to convert its suite of services into an integrated service model using a Whole Family Approach as it delivers early childhood, housing/homeless, energy, senior services, family planning, and related programs. By working closely with a network of community organizations, MAHUBE-OTWA works to add rungs to the ladders of upward mobility for each of their 16,000 clients each year. The organization recognizes and models for others that this work must be grounded in equity, family voice, and trauma-informed service delivery. By focusing on strengths and intentional relationship-building and leveraging community resources, MAHUBE-OTWA meets families where they are and supports them to move to where they dream of being.

Maria Garcia, ‘12 Graduate of Buena Vista University, Storm Lake, Iowa

Maria is a Behavioral Health Intervention Services Program Supervisor for Northwest Iowa, and her job duties include supervising direct Social Workers who are working with children and families in developing skill building interventions based on areas of needs. This can include coping skills, anger management skills, expression of feelings, communication and healthier family relationships. Maria supports each social worker in meeting each client were they are at, as well as providing them with individual support to decrease burn out and promote self care.



Kellie Markey, ‘88 Graduate of Central College, Pella, Iowa

Kellie was a proven leader in marketing and business development during the first 15 years of her career, eventually landing a job at eBay in San Francisco. She worked her way up to vice president of global direct marketing, leading data base communication strategies for and managing assets and equity investments in Asia, Latin America and Canada for eBay International. After leaving eBay, Markey took time to find herself and her passion. Eventually, it led her to volunteering with teen girls back in her hometown of Des Moines, Iowa. She also became a foster parent before eventually finding Dorothy’s House. Markey opened Dorothy’s House in January 2016 in Des Moines to serve survivors of human trafficking. It is a long-term, residential home that provides survivors of sex trafficking and sexual exploitation with a space, resources and support needed to find their journey. Central College awarded Markey its Alumna Award in 2017 for her exceptional professional accomplishments and contributions to others. She also received a 2018 Distinguished Alumna Award from Dowling Catholic High School; was named to the 2018 Des Moines Register’s People to Watch; received the 2018 United Way Impact Maker Award; and in 2018 received the Iowa Network Against Human Trafficking Award for Outstanding Anti-Trafficking Service. Markey also was asked by Central College to give the commencement address to its 2020 graduating class.

Jennifer Tacheny, ‘95 Alumni of College of Saint Benedict, St. Joseph, MN

Jennifer Tacheny graduated from the College of Saint Benedict in 1995. She has her M.A. in Pastoral Ministry and two decades of experience in religious studies, social justice, and spirituality education. Jennifer Tacheny is Co-Director of Young Adult Spirituality programming with the Sisters of Saint Joseph of Carondelet (CSJ) in Saint Paul. She coordinates mission engagement projects including the Community Garden and Saint Catherine University Food Shelf and is a mentor to Community Leader Interns at Saint Catherine University. Jennifer is Co-Chair for the CSJ Relationship and Association Commission, Justice Commission, and the Earth Partners Working Group. She is also a member of the Partners in Justice granting board. Central to her work is the CSJ mission/charism: loving God and neighbor without distinction and engaging others in extending the mission into the future.

Jennifer is a great advocate for food justice, justice in general, and can quote the mystics, of which Julian of Norwich is her favorite. Jennifer and her husband Steven run an organic vegetable business on their family farm and enjoy playing music with their three children and for the community.

Rep. Samantha Vang (40B), ‘16 Alumni of Gustavus Adolphus College, Saint Peter, MN

Rep. Samantha Vang (40B), a 2016 graduate of Gustavus, is a first-term member of the Minnesota House who represents Brooklyn Center. She serves as the inaugural chair of the Minnesota Asian Pacific Caucus. In the Minnesota House, she is the vice chair of the property and local tax division and also sits on the agriculture and food finance and policy division, capital investment division, and higher education finance and policy division. As a Gustavus undergrad, Vang won a Gilman Scholarship and studied abroad in Japan for the 2014-2015 academic year. As a representative, she regularly meets with undergraduate students and classes that visit the Minnesota State Capitol. Vang represents the values of civic engagement by taking her education as a political science and communication studies major and applying it to issues of justice and inclusion for Hmong and other Asian Pacific Populations and the citizens of Brooklyn Park. To be elected as such a young professional speaks volumes to her ability to connect with people from a wide variety of backgrounds and build collaborative relationships.