Public Service, Public Engagement Honored at Awards Ceremony

A woman stands at a podium near a line of seven smiling people standing under a screen with the words "Internships in Aging Project/ School of Social Welfare"
The School of Social Welfare's Internship in Aging Project was among the winners of the President's Award for Exemplary Public Engagement. (Photos by Patrick Dodson)

ALBANY, N.Y. (May 4, 2023) — Professor Janine Jurkowski, Associate Professor David Hochfelder and the School of Social Welfare’s Internships in Aging Project were honored last week with the President’s Awards for Exemplary Public Service.

Honorary Awards for Distinguished Public Engagement went to Annalisa Scimeni, Jianwei Zhang and the Department of Geography and Planning’s FLIP — Future Leaders in Planning.

The winners, along with their colleagues and deans, were celebrated at a reception and awards ceremony in the Performing Arts Center, hosted by President Havidán Rodríguez along with Provost Carol Kim and Director of Public Engagement Mary Hunt.

President’s Award for Exemplary Public Service

Janine Jurkowski

Janine Jurkowski speaks to an audience from a podium
Janine Jurkowski addresses the audience at the Performing Arts Center after receiving her award.

Mary Gallant, interim dean of the School of Public Health, introduced Jurkowski, a professor in social, behavior and community health who is both passionate about improving health inequities and committed to building relationships between UAlbany and the community.

“As the School of Public Health’s Associate Dean for Public Health Practice, she not only encouraged and inspired all of us — students, faculty and staff — to become more connected and responsive to the needs of our community, she also taught us how to do that,” Gallant said, calling Jurkowski a bridge builder and a leader.

“Janine has advised UAlbany’s engagement and service strategic planning team, co-chaired the committee that developed the University’s successful application to the Carnegie Foundation for community engaged institution designation, and served as UAlbany’s first Provost Fellow for Publicly Engaged Research and Teaching,” she said.

Jurkowski’s research focus is on the social determinants of health disparities, specifically focusing on low-income and disadvantaged women.

David Hochfelder

Jeanette Altarriba and David Hochfelder
College of Arts and Sciences Dean Jeanette Altarriba with Public Engagement Award winner David Hochfelder.

Jordan Jace, the education director for the New York State Archives Partnership Trust, introduced David Hochfelder, associate professor of history and director of UAlbany’s Public History Program in the College of Arts and Sciences.

Hochfelder’s research interests are in the U.S. history of technology, U.S. urban history and digital scholarship. He is known for his work documenting the history of urban renewal in New York and its impact on people, their homes and businesses. His 98 Acres in Albany project covers stories of the people whose neighborhoods were destroyed to make way for the Empire State Plaza.

“David’s current research is a collaborative, public and digital history of urban renewal called Picturing Urban Renewal, which has won four National Endowment for the Humanities grants,” Jace said, calling Hochfelder a “fierce advocate for preserving key records and making them available for public history projects, cultural programming, teachers and students.”

Internships in Aging

The Internships in Aging Project (IAP) is a partnership between UAlbany’s School of Social Welfare and government and community-based groups dedicated to meeting the needs of older adults by increasing the number of social workers who specialize in the area of aging.

Students in the program dedicate more than 4,000 hours in the field each year, providing services for older adults and aging-related service providers in the Capital Region, said Nina Inman, who introduced the program at the awards ceremony. Inman is an IAP alum who graduated from the School of Social Welfare with an MSW in 2015, and now serves as a project officer for the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration, working on an initiative related to HIV and aging.

With the 65-plus population in the United States estimated to grow from 48 million today to 88 million by 2050, training social workers to work in aging-related positions is paramount, she said. And by this year, IAP will have graduated about 270 students ready to work in the field.

Distinguished Public Engagement Awards

The winners of the Honorary Awards for Distinguished Public Engagement were introduced by Debernee Privott, assistant dean for public engagement at the College of Arts and Sciences and director of the University at Albany in the High School Program, and Sheri Stevens, director of the Community and Public Service Program through the School of Social Welfare.

Annalisa Scimeni

Jeanette Altarriba and Annalisa Scimeni
Dean Altarriba with Annalisa Scimeni

Annalisa Scimemi, an associate professor of biological sciences in the College of Arts and Sciences, studies molecular and cellular processes that contribute to the onset of Alzheimer's disease, with the goal of discovering new approaches for treatment. She also works to educate the community about Alzheimer's.

She has built a partnership with the Alzheimer's Association, inviting association representatives to speak in her classes, volunteering and inspiring her students to volunteer. Through the Society for Neuroscience Hudson-Berkshire Chapter, Scimemi hosts scientific lectures, poster sessions, workshops and networking opportunities, and helps to coordinate events such as Brain Awareness Week.

She is a loyal supporter of STEM education and the UAlbany Student Neuroscience Club. and has provided 78 undergraduate research opportunities in nine years, many filled by students from historically marginalized communities.

Jianwei Zhang

Carol Kim and Jianwei Zhang
Provost Carol Kim with Jianwei Zhang

Jianwei Zhang is an associate professor of educational theory and practice in the School of Education. He works with an interdisciplinary team of researchers and educators to create new pedagogical models and technologies for student-driven knowledge-building and creative inquiry. His research features long-term collaboration with a network of school partners and teachers from the Capital Region and beyond.

Zhang’s team engages students from the partner schools to carry out collaborative inquiry in science and other areas, developing an online knowledge network to support teachers’ learning and innovation focusing on adopting new teaching strategies, technologies and assessments.

Zhang’s graduate students have designed more than 600 mini courses that have been used by educators all over the world, with more than a million users in the past three years.

Future Leaders in Planning

A group of smiling people, one holding a glass award, stand on stage
The FLIP crew accepts their award from Provost Kim and President Rodríguez.

FLIP, a collaboration between the Department of Geography and Planning and the Capital District Regional Planning Commission, is a weeklong summer program that immerses high school students in urban planning experiences and offers them the chance to directly interact with community leaders.

Students from around the region learn about challenges and opportunities related to critical societal issues, such as transportation, land use, sustainability, equity and community engagement, and local food production and access.

Students learn by doing through visits to diverse sites, including Albany’s South End, the cities of Troy and Saratoga Springs, and the Pine Bush Preserve. At the end of the week, they present their conceptual plan for a specific Capital Region site to a panel of community leaders, incorporating the topics and ideas they learned about and discussed through the week.