Campus: CSU, Northridge -- June 20, 2001


CSUN Presents Professor With 2001 Visionary Community Service-Learning Award

Her efforts to enhance students' learning experience through community service have earned Cal State Northridge communication studies professor Kathryn Sorrells the university's 2001 Visionary Community Service-Learning Award.

The award honors the faculty member who has made the most outstanding contribution to the betterment of the community through a service-learning class.

"My goals are to give students an opportunity to turn theory into practice and to have a real impact on society by addressing critical social issues," said Sorrells.

Sorrells, who received her Ph.D. in intercultural communications from the University of New Mexico in 1999, teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in intercultural communications.

In spring 2000, her students were involved in a project with the Los Angeles Team Mentorship program where the CSUN students mentored youngsters at Pacoima Middle School.

That same semester, graduate students in the intercultural communications seminar joined with Pacoima Beautiful, a nonprofit agency that works to improve the environment and quality of life in Pacoima, to gather personal stories from Pacoima residents about what they thought was beautiful about their community.

Sorrells' most recent community-service learning project integrates "Communicating Common Ground" into her courses. The project brings CSUN students to Grant High School in Van Nuys to address racial and ethnic tension at the school.

CSUN students work with ninth grade students in a geography class to address peer pressure, stereotyping, cultural identity, cultural histories, conflict resolution and other issues.

"The goal is to get students from different ethnic and racial backgrounds to talk with each other to enhance their understanding and appreciation of each other," said Sorrells, who grew up in Athens, Ga., but has lived in other parts of the world including Brazil, Japan and Turkey.

Her students, Sorrells said, have responded wonderfully to the idea of community service as part of their coursework.

"It is a growth process for each of them as they begin to see that they can, in fact, have an impact on others in positive ways," she said. "CSUN students have been very enthusiastic in their response to hands-on work in the class and report that they feel they have learned much more through their involvement in the project."

Sorrells has been an assistant professor in CSUN's Communication Studies Department since the fall of 1999.

Other awards she has received include the Cheris Kramarae Dissertation Award and the Communicating Common Ground Award.


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