Two students from the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University, one employee and one organization that made an impact in the local community received 2023 Presidents’ Awards from Iowa and Minnesota Campus Compact, a coalition of colleges and universities committed to civic engagement and service learning.
CSB senior Anna Watt from South St. Paul, Minnesota, and SJU senior Samuel Rengo from Esko, Minnesota, received Presidents’ Student Leadership Awards.
Watt is an education major who is currently student teaching at Oak Hill Elementary School in St. Cloud. She is a member of the Bonner Leader program and is completing a year-long internship with Bonner where she facilitates the Bonner Student Leadership Team. She has played a key role in building connections between CSB and SJU and the COP House (Community Outpost) in St. Cloud and has a special interest in diversity, equity, inclusion and justice work within the education system.
Additionally, Watt is an education department mentor who supports other education students in their journey to become teachers. Her goal is to become a teacher who creates engaging and inclusive environments for all students.
Rengo is a political science major and is currently the student director of the Johnnie Development Institute where he works to promote holistic and constructive masculine identities for the students at SJU. Last summer, he was selected as a Summer Leadership Fellow and worked as a Government Relations Intern at the Men’s Health Network in Washington, D.C.
Rengo also studied abroad in Italy and is a member of the cross country and track teams. After graduation, he will complete a year of service through the Benedictine Volunteer Corps in Tanzania.
The Presidents’ Student Leadership Award recognizes an individual student or a student organization that models a deep commitment to civic responsibility and leadership, evidenced by initiative, innovative and collaborative approaches to addressing public issues, effective community building and integration of civic engagement into the college experience, according to the compact.
Lindsey Gunnerson Gutsch, director of the Office of Undergraduate Research and Scholars at CSB and SJU, received the Presidents’ Civic Engagement Leadership Award.
Gunnerson Gutsch created CSB and SJU’s Emerging Scholars Program, which provides underrepresented, first-year students a full-time research position, where they explore topics that strengthen our campus and local community. She has strengthened partnerships with CentraCare through the Student Health Assistants Program – a community-based research program for students interested in health-related professions.
Gunnerson Gutsch created and now leads Pathways to Distinction which provides guided pathways for students to engage in experiences in and outside the classroom that complement their goals and then receive recognition for that work upon graduation. One pathway, Serve Graciously, supports and uplifts student civic and community engagement.
The Presidents’ Civic Engagement Leadership Award recognizes a member of the faculty, administration or staff or for a group (advisory committee, task force, project team) that has significantly advanced their campus’ distinctive civic mission by forming strong partnerships, supporting others’ civic and community engagement and working to institutionalize a culture and practice of engagement.
Meanwhile, Central Minnesota Habitat for Humanity (CMHFH) received the Presidents’ Community Partner Award.
CMHFH and CSB and SJU have worked together to provide affordable homes and healthy communities for many years. In the fall of 2022, the two institutions partnered with the first pairing of a Bonner student with CMHFH. This incredible partnership has not only given CMHFH the opportunity to continue to scale, but it has given a student from CSB or SJU the opportunity to gain insight into the issue of affordable housing and Habitat for Humanity. Outside of the Bonner program, students from CSB and SJU have volunteered on different work sites within Central Minnesota, including in St. Joseph.
The Presidents’ Community Partner Award recognizes a community-based partner or organization that has enhanced the quality of life in the community in meaningful and measurable ways and has engaged in the development of sustained, reciprocal partnerships with the college or university, thus enriching educational as well as community outcomes, according to the compact.
This year, 86 awardees were selected from 55 colleges and universities across the two states. The awards event was held on April 13 at St. Catherine University. Edwin Torres, a 2016 Saint John’s graduate, was the keynote speaker.
Iowa & Minnesota Campus Compact is a network of 55 colleges and universities committed to strengthening the capacity for civic engagement and campus-community partnership in the service of fulfilling the public purposes at the heart of higher education.
The compact recognizes students, campus groups and community partners that positively impact the community and have built a sustained relationship with the college or university.