GVSU professor receives service award

Carly Simpson

Dr. Heather Carpenter, a professor at Grand Valley State University, believes that learning is done by doing. Her teaching philosophy earned her the Michigan Campus Compact Faculty/Staff Community Service-Learning Award.

The biennial award is the highest that MiCC bestows on faculty and staff in the state of Michigan.

Carpenter is a hospitality and tourism management professor and teaches courses to undergraduate and graduate students at GVSU. She works to incorporate service learning into every class.

Carpenter partners her students with nonprofit organizations in West Michigan to act as advisers through experiential based projects such as personnel manual reviews, nonprofit consulting projects, social media strategies and fundraising plans.

“I think it’s important for students to apply what they learn in the classroom to an organizational situation,” Carpenter said. “Students engage in projects in a nonprofit setting which is mutually beneficial for students and the organization.”

Carpenter started teaching at GVSU in 2012 as an assistant professor in nonprofit management.

“Although being with the university a short time, her passion and expertise in this area are evident, and we believe she will continue to provide a valuable perspective and leadership in this area,” said Valerie Jones, assistant director of Student Life, Leadership and Service Initiatives.

Jones said service learning has several benefits for students, including more appreciation for diversity, an ability to work with others, critical thinking and a better understanding of social issues.

“These projects stretch students thinking about nonprofit management practices and allow them to apply course concepts within local nonprofit organizations,” Jones said. “The service learning projects have helped her students to get jobs, promotions and improve nonprofit operations within the Grand Rapids community.”

Carpenter’s recent contributions to campus include collaborating with the staff in the Community Service Learning Center to provide support for the 2013 Summer Summit by the Grand Rapids Collegiate Network. Outside of GVSU, Carpenter also participates on a variety of national nonprofit committees.

“Service and community are integral to GVSU as an institution of higher education and are evident in the university’s strategic plan including its mission, vision and values, as well as themes within our Laker Values,” Jones said. “Service-learning in general, and academic service learning in particular, supports key institutional values identified in GVSU’s strategic plan.”

Carpenter was nominated for the award by the CSLC and the recommendation was supported by the President’s Office. Carpenter was honored Feb. 3 at the Civic Engagement Institute 2014 Awards Ceremony & 25th Anniversary Celebration held on the Pew Campus.

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