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Awarding Excellence in Public Engagement

The UAlbany Navigators are honored at the 2016 President’s Awards for Exemplary Public Engagement. (Photo by Carlo de Jesus)

ALBANY, N.Y. (February 7, 2017) — Second year MSW student Cedric Walton wants to give back.

Ever thankful for the assistance he received from family, teachers and counselors while struggling with his own personal challenges as a high school student in the Bronx and an undergraduate English major at UAlbany, Cedric is unwavering in his commitment to improving the lives of others. That’s why he chose the field he did.

“As a social work student,” said Cedric, “you want to help and it’s nice to have a job that lets you do that.”

Cedric is a member of the UAlbany Navigators, a group of students from the School of Social Welfare that help individuals and families explore health insurance options and enroll in the best health insurance plan for their needs.

The Navigators were among five UAlbany programs selected as winners in last year’s President’s Awards for Exemplary Public Engagement — and the only student group to receive the prestigious honor in 2016. The awards recognize individuals, projects and programs that have made exceptional contributions to addressing a significant societal need and enhancing public well-being — locally, regionally, nationally or globally — through publicly engaged research, creative activity, teaching, academic study and/or public service.

UAlbany Navigators
UAlbany Navigator Cedric Walton, at left, guides a shopper through the plans available during a New York State of Health outreach event at Colonie Center Mall.

“I was just so thrilled and excited for them when they won,” said Kelly Gross, director of UAlbany’s Navigator program. “Being given this award is huge. Having the students’ work recognized by the University’s president and provost elevates the work they do and they realize that.”

After the Navigators’ impressive win, congratulatory messages poured in from across campus and from many of the group’s grateful clients. “Kelly taped all the notes to our doors,” said Cedric. “I didn’t realize how many people knew we received the award. It was really nice and it was motivating.”

Christine Bozlak, assistant professor of Health Policy, Management and Behavior, co-director of the federally funded Maternal and Child Health Public Health Catalyst Program and 2017 award co-chair, said, “The public engagement awards are a wonderful way to recognize and celebrate UAlbany students, faculty and staff for the critical contributions they’re making to our communities and an important opportunity to acknowledge our partners in business, government and the nonprofit sector who work side by side with us.

“We’re currently in the process of accepting nominations for this year’s awards. I hope all members of the University community who are involved in public engagement activities will consider submitting a nomination and bringing more attention to all the ways UAlbany is having a positive impact on people’s lives.”

The 2017 President’s Awards for Exemplary Public Engagement are open to UAlbany faculty, staff, students and their community partners, with a Friday, Feb. 17, 5 p.m. deadline to submit a nomination. All submissions will be reviewed by a committee of University faculty, students and staff.

Winners will be announced in the spring and honored on April 25 at a ceremony in the Recital Hall of the Performing Arts Center, presided over by Interim  President Stellar.

To nominate an individual or program for the 2017 President’s Awards for Exemplary Public Engagement or to learn more about the awards program itself, visit the Office for Public Engagement website.

“Public engagement and the University go hand in hand,” said Gross. “I had never been to the public engagement awards before last year and I was just blown away by the awardees and the level of public engagement that was happening here at UAlbany. To anyone considering whether to nominate his or her program or project, I say, ‘Definitely go for it.’ It will make so many people aware of your program.”

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A comprehensive public research university, the University at Albany offers more than 120 undergraduate majors and minors and 125 master's, doctoral, and graduate certificate programs. UAlbany is a leader among all New York State colleges and universities in such diverse fields as atmospheric and environmental sciences, business, criminal justice, emergency preparedness, engineering and applied sciences, informatics, public administration, social welfare, and sociology taught by an extensive roster of faculty experts. It also offers expanded academic and research opportunities for students through an affiliation with Albany Law School. With a curriculum enhanced by 600 study-abroad opportunities, UAlbany launches great careers.