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Lambert-Pennington Wins Lynton Award

Congratulations to AAA member Katherine Lambert-Pennington (U Memphis) on receiving the 2011 Lynton Award! We’re happy to share NERCHE’s press release about this honor here.

Katherine Lambert-Pennington

The annual Ernest A. Lynton Award for the Scholarship of Engagement for Early Career Faculty recognizes a faculty member who connects his or her teaching, research, and service to community engagement.  The award is designated for either pre-tenure faculty at tenure-granting campuses or early career faculty (i.e., within the first six years) at campuses with long-term contracts.  

This year, NERCHE (New England Resource Center for Higher Education) is pleased to present the Ernest A. Lynton Award to Dr. Katherine Lambert-Pennington, Assistant Professor of Anthropology at the University of Memphis.  During the past four years, Katherine has integrated her teaching, research, and service in unique ways that address issues of poverty, racism, inequalities, and social justice, particularly as they relate to neighborhood development. 

Guided by a methodology that values reciprocal, community-based relationships, Katherine has helped establish civic partnerships that mobilize university and community members around critical social issues.  Katherine and her students, for instance, collaborated with local church leaders and other stakeholders in South Memphis—a once-thriving but now economically distressed neighborhood—to form a community development council, which in turn engaged local residents in developing a comprehensive revitalization plan.  Shortly after the plan was approved unanimously by the City of Memphis, Katherine and her students assisted residents and community advocates in establishing the South Memphis Farmers Market, now one of the region’s most successful urban food programs and recognized on the White House website as a model urban revitalization effort.  The success of the farmers market encouraged city officials to invest nearly one million dollars in local arts, community health, and wellness initiatives, and also attracted additional civic support from area foundations.  Katherine also co-directs the Vance Avenue Collaborative, a campus-community partnership working to address a wide range of economic and community development needs for one of the poorest residential areas within the Mid-South.  Widely recognized by Memphis’ grassroots, non-profit, public planning, and philanthropic sectors, Katherine’s engaged leadership has enabled her to assist campus and community members in crossing significant social boundaries to undertake challenging economic and community development projects. 

Katherine’s research focusing on the struggle of aboriginal peoples to secure basic human rights in urban areas of Australia is widely recognized as an important contribution to the urban anthropology literature. In addition, her work examining the University of Memphis’ engaged scholarship in South Memphis and Vance Avenue represents a new and important contribution to the service-learning literature.  Examples of her ongoing research include a co-authored journal article in Urban Anthropology entitled “‘Coalition of Trust’ or ‘Trust Me I Know What’s Best’: When Southern Progressivism Meets PAR-informed Engaged Scholarship” (2010), and a forthcoming article co-authored with her nominator in the Michigan Journal for Community Service Learning entitled “Creating an Interdisciplinary Community Development Assistance Center: The South Memphis Revitalization Action Project.”

Her teaching also maintains a consistent focus on long-term campus-community partnerships through which students can become deeply involved in a variety of policy and planning efforts.  Through such courses as “American Communities,” “Neighborhood Development and Social Entrepreneurship,” and “Anthropology of Education,” as well as interdisciplinary classes like “Introduction to Planning” and “Planning Principles and Theory,” several hundred undergraduate and graduate students have been given the opportunity to participate in resident-led community projects in surrounding Memphis neighborhoods. As a result of these experiences, students gain invaluable skills related to community organization, issue advocacy, organizational development, and leadership training.  Despite their rigor, Katherine’s courses remain among the most popular in the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Memphis.  As one colleague notes, “students seek out Professor Lambert-Pennington as both a teacher and advisor because of the quality of her scholarship, the breadth of her anthropological and social science knowledge, her outstanding teaching skills, and her passion and ability to connect the work of the academy to important community transformation efforts taking place within the Memphis Region.”

Katherine has also played a significant role in helping the University of Memphis to institutionalize service learning and campus-community partnership efforts. She has served as the chief documentarian and evaluator for the University’s Strengthening Community Initiative, which has provided more than two dozen “citizen leader/university scholar” teams with start-up funding for new community-based research efforts. She has also assisted the leadership of the School of Urban Affairs and Public Policy in creating a graduate student internship program to support collaborative research in low-income neighborhoods within Memphis.  Additionally, as a member of the Faculty Engaged Scholarship Committee, Katherine has taken an active role in increasing the visibility of engaged scholarship across the university, delivering guest-lectures for colleagues’ classes and developing workshops on such topics as participatory methods, the importance of university-community partnerships, and strategies for moving research toward action.

Katherine’s engaged scholarship is a clear articulation of Ernest Lynton’s notion of faculty scholarly activity.  “I believe that social justice can only be achieved through genuine and frequent civic participation by under-represented communities,” Katherine reflects.  “By conducting research in collaboration with community partners, both valuing their expertise and sharing my specialized knowledge, and by providing opportunities for students to learn how to contribute to grassroots information gathering and action through active participation, I strive to contribute to building a more fair and democratic society.”

The presentation of the 2011 Ernest A. Lynton Award for the Scholarship of Engagement for Early Career Faculty will take place at the annual conference of the Coalition for Urban Metropolitan Universities (CUMU), “Creating Tomorrow’s Future Today,” hosted by Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, on October 10, 2011.

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