UM Spotlights Service with Sullivan, Community Engagement Awards

More than 20 recipients honored for outstanding contributions

Krista Oliver (left), Karen T. Peairs, Anne Cafer and David Calder celebrate after being honored with Algernon Sydney Sullivan Awards at the 2019 Celebration of Service, hosted by the University of Mississippi Division of Diversity and Community Engagement. The annual awards, the university’s highest honor recognizing service, recognize students, faculty, staff and community members who demonstrate selfless service to others. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

OXFORD, Miss. – University of Mississippi faculty and staff members, a student and several external community organizations were honored Wednesday (April 10) in celebration of their community-engaged research, learning and service work within the LOU community and beyond.

The annual Algernon Sydney Sullivan Awards and the inaugural Excellence in Community Engagement Awards were presented by the university’s Division of Diversity and Community Engagement to students, faculty, staff and community members who demonstrate selfless service to others. The Sullivan Awards are the university’s highest honor recognizing service.

“These award recipients and finalists have distinguished themselves through their outstanding commitment to serving others,” Interim Chancellor Larry Sparks said. “Their efforts go far beyond affecting individual lives – their contributions and spirit ripple through our community.

“They have enriched the lives of people around them in innumerable ways, and their humility, character and sense of responsibility to others set a standard to which we all should aspire.”

Krista Oliver was presented the Student Award. Karen T. Peairs received the Staff Member Award, and Faculty Member Awards went to Anne Cafer and David Calder. The Community Member Award was presented to Libby Lytle of Oxford.

Originally from Tula, Russia, Oliver is a senior majoring in broadcast journalism, with a minor in political science. She was honored for her role as a community assistant in Crosby Hall, where she has been an advocate for students’ health and wellness through bulletin boards and interpersonal interactions.

“The most meaningful part of being a community assistant is the everlasting connections and relationships I’ve made with my girls,” she said. “They needed me in the most confusing, important part of their college experience in so many ways.”

Interim UM Chancellor Larry Sparks presents an Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award to Karen T. Peairs, assistant director for career services in the UM School of Law, during the 2019 Celebration of Service. Through her work at the law school and community and state legal organizations, Peairs has worked to address the unmet legal needs that plague the state of Mississippi. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

Peairs serves as assistant director for career services in the UM School of Law. She has worked to address the unmet legal needs that plague the state of Mississippi, having served many roles with bar associations within the state.

Most recently, she was appointed to the Access to Justice Committee of the Mississippi Bar Association and sits on the Board of Directors for North Mississippi Rural Legal Services.

“Despite all of this service, Karen never seeks the limelight,” her nominator writes. “She volunteers behind the scenes, and people may not even know how much she does for others.”

An assistant professor of sociology, Cafer also serves as coordinator for the Applied Policy and Community Research Institute housed in the UM Center for Population Studies. She works primarily in Sub-Saharan Africa and the Mississippi Delta, where she examines community resilience and social change around food procurement, agricultural systems, environmental sustainability and health/nutrition.

Cafer’s advanced courses are community-based, participatory research courses where students are actively involved with community stakeholders to explore collaborative solutions to nonresilient systems.

“Dr. Cafer is one of the most caring, helpful and giving people I have ever met in my time at the University of Mississippi,” her nominator writes. “She conducts her academic work and service outreach with rigor and genuine passion to help.”

Calder, a clinical professor in the law school and director of the Child Advocacy Clinic, provides training for attorneys and child advocates. He also serves on numerous committees that address policy issues affecting children, including the Guardian as Litem Training Committee, the Parent Representation Committee, the Governor’s Task Force on Children’s Justice and the board of directors of Court-Appointed Special Advocates of Lafayette County.

Erin Oeth (left), project manager with the UM Division of Diversity and Community Engagement, and Interim Chancellor Larry Sparks (right) congratulate Anne Cafer on winning an Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award at the 2019 Celebration of Service. Cafer, an assistant professor of sociology and coordinator for the Applied Policy and Community Research Institute, was honored for her research and her work with students. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

Calder’s nominator writes, “His efforts directly and positively impact the children and families of Mississippi. He quietly makes a difference in the world like many of us aspire to do. He is professional, honest and compassionate.”

Lytle has been in service to the Lafayette County community for 22 years. She retired at the rank of captain from the Oxford Police Department in 2017, with a combined 27 years in law enforcement.

Causes to which Lytle has volunteered include the Human Trafficking Task Force, Oxford-Lafayette Homelessness Committee, Mississippi Assistance Program Committees for both adults and children, and Party in the Park Committee.

An adjunct professor in legal studies at Ole Miss, Lytle also serves as an adult advocate, coordinator of volunteer programs and crisis hotline worker at Family Crisis Services of Northwest Mississippi.

Lytle’s nominator writes, “As a woman and a proud member of the LGBTQ+ community, she proudly advocates for the holistic health and well-being of families of every stripe and continues to strive for a kinder, more just LOU.”

The new Excellence in Community Engagement Award recognizes outstanding accomplishments in community-engaged research, learning, service and scholarship. Criteria include a strong collaboration between the university and partnering communities for the mutually beneficial exchange of knowledge and resources in a context of partnership and reciprocity while fulfilling the university’s mission of scholarly learning, research and service.

Two projects were selected to receive the Overall Community Engagement Award and $5,000 each for their community-engaged work. They are Base Pair: A Biomedical Research Mentorship; and Behind the Big House: Interpreting Slavery in Local Communities.

Base Pair is a 27-year-old collaboration between the UM Medical Center with Mississippi public and private high schools to enhance science education, accelerate STEM education and influence the development of future health care practitioners in Mississippi.

Behind the Big House is a collaboration with academic researchers that ensures historical tours immersing visitors in re-creations of the antebellum era move beyond the large mansions to explore the many extant slave dwellings and interpret the experiences of enslaved people who inhabited them.

Outstanding Community Engaged Awards went to four finalists for research, learning, service and scholarship. The recipients, each of which was awarded $1,000, are:

  • Research: “Exploring Exercise Behavior in Pregnant and Postpartum Adolescents in the Mississippi Delta: The Teen mom Study”
  • Teaching: “Empowering individuals to Reduce Lead Exposure from Drinking Water through Community-Based Research”
  • Service: “Lafayette County Lynching Memorialization”
  • Scholarship: “College 2 Youth: A Multi-Stakeholder Partnership for Improved Health and Well-being in the Mississippi Delta”

The 11 projects selected for the 2019 ECE Honor Roll included:

  • Jackson Free Clinic
  • Red Raider Family Mentoring Program
  • Safe Sex Learning through Safe Reflection and Storytelling
  • Red Door Jackson
  • Eastmoor Estates: Fair Housing Project
  • Voter Empowerment Project
  • Service-Learning in Community Nutrition
  • Marshall County Correctional Facility Restorative Justice Mobilepack-Event
  • Person-to-Person: Special Education Field Experiences with Individuals with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities at the Northwest Mississippi Regional Center
  • Center for Manufacturing Excellence/Baddour Center Packaging Coffee Service Kits

School of Education Symposium on Diversity and Community Engagement Campaigns for Integrated Marketing Communications Students at Regional Campuses