The President’s Award for Excellence in Service Learning is designed to annually recognize a faculty member and their community partner for engaging students in the best practices of service learning. Service learning at MSU is defined as a teaching method that utilizes student involvement in service to the community to meet instructional objectives of a course. Students apply information from a class in authentic settings while addressing the real needs of the community that have been identified by the community. Best practices that we expect faculty and their community partners to have built into their service learning courses are:

  • Clear identification of learning objectives for the course and how the service supports students’ achieving those learning objectives.
  • Use of evaluation and/or assessment of student learning not student participation in the service component.
  • Use of structured reflection activities in the course that allows students to recount their experiences and the learning acquired in the community setting.
  • Service that is integrated into the course addresses an actual community identified need.

In addition, when evaluating the nominations we look at the quality of the partnership between the faculty member and the community partner for both authenticity and reciprocity. Academic deans, department heads and faculty (tenured, tenure track and adjunct) are strongly encouraged to submit nominations. Individuals are also encouraged to self-nominate. 

Our Honored Award Winners


Dr. Carolyn Wenger, College of Nursing and her community partner Perry Roberts, Executive Director of the Montana Rescue Mission.


Thomas E. McNab, School of Architecture and his community partner Will Patterson, Trails Coordinator for the City of Lewistown, Montana.


Dr. Ada Giusti, Modern Languages & Literature and her community partners Michael Kevane the West African Director for Friends of African Village Libraries, and Hawa Coulibaly, Head of the Women’s Association of Sanambélé, Mali.


Dr. Florence Dunkel, Department of Plant Sciences and Plant Pathology and her community partners the villagers of Sanambele, Mali.


Dr. Bridget Kevane, Modern Languages Department and her community partners Letra Hispánica in Salamanca, Spain and Longfellow, Morning Star, Irving and Hawthorne Elementary Schools here in Bozeman.


Ferdinand Johns, Architecture Department and his community partner the Chippewa Cree Reservation community.


Dr. Anne Christensen, College of Business and her community partners: Human Resource Development Council District IX (HRDC), Student Advocates for Financial Education (SAFE), Montana Department of Revenue, and the Internal Revenue Service.


Dr. Marvin Lansverk, English Department (Community Partners were not recognized in the first year process and no monetary award was available to grant to the recipient).



  Dr. Carolyn Wenger


Dr. Carolyn Wenger and her community partner Perry Roberts, Executive Director of the Montana Rescue Mission were the 2012 recipients of The President's Award for Excellence in Service Learning.  Dr. Wenger is an Assistant Professor in the College of Nursing and was nominated for this award by Jane Scharff, Associate Clinical Professor and Billings Campus Director for the College of Nursing.  Dr. Wenger has partnered with the Montana Rescue Mission since 1988 to engage MSU students in applying their knowledge of nursing to serve the homeless population.  Through Dr. Wenger’s Population Based Nursing course, students conducted weekly health screenings including measuring blood pressure, providing first aid services, and making referrals when necessary.  In addition to health screenings, students worked with Montana Rescue Mission staff to identify pressing needs, educate community members in nutrition and hygiene, and provide needed support.

Nominator Jane Scharff wrote, “As MSU College of Nursing continues to promote quality education with students, the Montana Rescue Mission continues to provide food and shelter to the homeless in the Billings area.” The students who have participated in Dr. Wenger’s course over the last twenty-five years have used the lessons they learned through patient interactions, care planning, needs assessments, and ongoing reflection to establish lifelong professional and personal skills.



Thomas E. McNab


Thomas E. McNab, Adjunct Assistant Professor, and Director of the Community Design Center in the School of Architecture along with his community partner Will Patterson, Trails Coordinator for the City of Lewistown were the 2011 recipients of the President’s Award for Excellence in Service Learning. McNab was nominated by Dr. Fatih Rifki, former Director of the School of Architecture for the service learning work done by Tom and his students to develop the Lewistown, Montana Rails to Trails Master Plan as part of the course Architecture 450: Community Design Center Studio (CDC). The CDC’s goals are to assist community groups and non-profit organizations representing underserved areas or under funded projects and to work with state agencies, city departments, and other regional governmental entities including the federal government with challenging community initiatives. The CDC also offers students an opportunity to hone and apply the knowledge and skills they have acquired in their first three and a half years of their education by working with real world projects and clients. Students participating in the Rails to Trails Master Plan project were responsible to generate a planning document that included research, design, and documentation for the Lewistown, Montana trails system. Over the course of the project, students learned to document meetings by writing minutes and responded to questions from the city and interested citizens; learned to develop a critical path schedule, coordinated with other groups to develop milestones; tracked their teams process within the schedule; appreciated the special conditions of the site context they were designing in; and came to understand the responsibility that architects assume when working with clients.



 Dr. Ada Giusti

Dr. Ada Giusti is an Associate Professor of French and Coordinator of French at Montana State University. She was nominated for this award by Dr. Bridget Kevane, the Modern Languages Department Head and Dr. Isabelle Fernbach, Assistant Professor of French. Dr. Giusti was recognized for implementing high quality service learning into FRCH 323: Advanced Grammar and Composition, MLF 450: La litérature et la culture maliennes, and PSPP 480: Health, Agriculture, Poverty. In addition, since 2001 Dr. Giusti has been a faculty sponsor for 11 students undertaking service learning research projects funded through the MSU Undergraduate Research Grants. In her work as an exceptional instructor at MSU Dr. Giusti and her students in FRCH 323 worked with Michael Kevane, the West African Director for Friends of African Village Libraries, and Hawa Coulibaly, Head of the Women’s Association of Sanambélé in the West African nation of Mali. As a part of this course, students applied their knowledge of French grammar and improved their French writing skills by translating documents for two NGOs that serve francophone rural African communities. In addition the students developed two French-language websites: Friends of African Libraries which promotes the creation of village libraries and literacy in Burkine Faso, and Mothers Against Malaria in Africa, which supports a grassroots women’s enterprise in Mali. This service learning experience exposed the students to an extensive set of unfamiliar vocabulary terms thus providing them with a unique opportunity, while at the same time gave these two non-profit organizations the means to share their mission’s and garner support for their very worthwhile community efforts with the English speaking world.



Dr. Florence Dunkel


Dr. Florence Dunkel is an Associate Professor in the Plant Sciences and Plant Pathology Department and she was recognized for her international service learning work in partnership with the families residing in the village of Sanambele in the West African nation of Mali. Dr. Dunkel created and oversees a Core 2.0 research course titled Health, Poverty, Agriculture: Concepts and Action Research which is an interdisciplinary and vertically integrated service learning course. The partnership began in 2006 when village elders and the village Women’s Association indentified infant mortality rates of 40% to 60% from malaria as an issue they needed assistance addressing. The villagers wanted to know if four traditional herbal medicines that they prepared from leaf collections near the local stream were effective against malaria and if so, in what concentrations. They also sought to break the mosquito cycle safely, sustainably and affordably. And finally the villagers wanted to be able to earn money so that families would be able to afford mosquito nets, commercial medicines and whatever other materials were needed for the bio-control of the mosquito populations. MSU students dove in and tested the plant extracts to determine effectiveness in treating Malaria. They conducted literature research to identify other studies done on such plants and document those outcomes. Other groups of MSU art students worked with local children who designed malaria awareness posters which were hung in the new village library and music students worked with local musicians and wrote malaria prevention awareness songs in the native language of Bambara. The songs were taught to local school children and even received local air time on the radio. In addition, Dr. Ada Giusti worked with the local Women’s Association to explore markets for crocheted hats and blouses. The Association established a pricing formula and began a cottage industry that in one year earned the Women’s Association $800 in cash profit in an economic system where $1 is the typical pay for a man’s work for one entire day outside the village. This partnership continues to flourish as the village identifies additional challenges they would like to work with MSU students to address and Dr. Dunkel’s students continue to learn about the complex web of challenges faced by third world countries and the impacts of those challenges on individual citizens of these nations. They are learning that their enthusiasm, technical, academic and communications skills are tremendous assets when applied to address problems.



 Dr. Bridget Kevane


Dr. Bridget Kevane is an Associate Professor of Spanish in the Modern Languages Department of the College of Letters and Sciences here at MSU. Dr. Kevane was nominated for this award by Associate Professor Dr. Ada Giusti also from the Modern Languages Department and independently by Nick Meyers from the MSU Office of International Programs. Dr. Kevane was recognized for her work on Modern Language 470 and an international service learning course offered to MSU students studying abroad at Letre Hispánica in Salamanca, Spain. ML 470 is Supervised Practicum in the public schools system k-5 and upper division Spanish language students fill a void created when budget cuts in the k-12 system forced an end to foreign language instruction in the elementary schools of the Bozeman Public School District. MSU students follow a prepared curriculum teaching Spanish in their assigned elementary school classrooms once per week. Our students gain outstanding insight into and appreciation for the teaching profession while learning a variety of teaching methodologies through hands-on practice and they are using their Spanish language skills to build an appreciation for multiculturalism and diversity among their young students. In Salamanca, Spain Dr. Kevane partnered with Ada Calvo to design a course which immerses MSU students who are studying abroad into Spanish society, meeting the needs of disadvantaged and marginalized individuals and groups. With a foundation on the conceptual, historic and legal aspects of volunteering in Spain under their belts, the students are matched with a non-profit organization where they begin serving within one month of arriving in Salamanca. The MSU students who are involved acquire a deeper knowledge and understanding of the realities of modern Spanish society beyond the tourist experience, while being empowered to have a positive impact on the global community and contributing goodwill and understanding between Montana and Spanish communities.



 Dr. Anne Christensen


Dr. Anne Christensen is a Professor of Accounting in the College of Business. Dr. Christensen was nominated for this award by Assistant Professor Christie Johnson, also in the College of Business. Recognition was bestowed upon Dr. Christensen for her work developing and sustaining Accounting 494 and Accounting 531 courses, both of which incorporate service to the Bozeman area low income community in the form of free, high quality, income tax preparation assistance. Dr. Christensen worked closely with the local Human Resource Development Council (HRDC, District IX) to reach the low income community with the information on the services available to them. On campus, Dr. Christensen partnered with MSU’s Student Advocates for Financial Education (SAFE) to cross promote the two programs and make referrals to one another as each program provided free, sound financial advice and support to any interested parties. Additional partners included the Montana Department of Revenue and the Internal Revenue service who Dr. Christensen worked closely with to provide the most up to date information and guidelines to students who prepared the tax returns for community members. In addition, students were able to explain complex tax laws to their clients in part due to the resources provided by the state and federal revenue departments. Students not only developed an understanding of relevant tax provisions and applied that knowledge to a wide array of tax issues, but they also learned how to interact and communicate with taxpayers about sensitive financial matters while developing a team-based and strong mentoring relationships with their fellow students.



 Dr. Marvin Lansverk


Dr. Marvin Lansverk is an Associate Professor in the Department of English and the College of Letters and Sciences. He was nominated for this award by Dr. Michael Beehler, then Department Head in the English Department. Beginning in 1997 Dr. Lansverk was the first among his MSU English Department colleagues to experiment with designing a variety of individual service learning courses. He was a recipient of the Montana Camps Compact Faculty Fellowship in 2000 and from 2001 through 2002 served as a Montana Campus Compact Mentoring Fellow, acting as a resource to other faculty members across the state who were working to successfully incorporate service into their curriculum. Dr. Lansverk led workshops across the state of Montana designed to support faculty in their efforts to develop strong and sustainable, service learning pedagogy. It was unanimously agreed that Dr. Lansverk was the ideal recipient of this first ever 2004 President’s Award for Excellence in Service Learning honor. Dr. Lansverk was recognized for his innovative work incorporating service learning into courses such as: Introduction to Literary Study, Survey of Literary Criticism, Mythologies, and Advanced Composition. The MSU students who engaged in service learning through Dr. Lansverk’s courses all partnered with the Bozeman Public School District and/or Spring Meadows Retirement Community. The school district hosted a waning enrichment program called Junior Great Books and through the service of Dr. Lansverk’s students the program came back to life at Chief Joseph and Sacajawea Middle Schools as well as Irving and Longfellow Elementary Schools. MSU students facilitated reading groups with the students at these schools as well as senior citizens residing at Spring Meadows and in some cases the reading groups discussed an appreciation for the practice of storytelling while in other settings the book groups discussed the critical practices of the reader and tested the various approaches to interpretation that were being studied in their course. Students in the Mythologies course introduced the power of myth to the area schools by planning and delivering two major storytelling performances giving the young students the chance to witness, perform and reflect on the significance of myth to communities and cultures. And finally, students in Dr. Lansverk’s Advanced Composition course identified a non-profit organization with current writing needs and they fulfilled those needs by producing newsletters, web pages, brochures etc. taking writing outside of the realm of a mere exercise to real action.