Michelle Tooley, Ph.D., the Eli Lilly Professor of Religion at Berea College, has been selected as a finalist for the 2014 Thomas Ehrlich Civically Engaged Faculty Award. This national award recognizes exemplary leadership in advancing students’ civic learning, supporting community engagement, and contributing to the public good.

Dr. Michelle Tooley in Guatemala
Dr. Michelle Tooley in Guatemala

Tooley was one of just three finalists nationally and the only faculty member from Kentucky to receive the distinction for civically engaged teaching and scholarship. Each year, Campus Compact selects one faculty member to receive the award, as well as several finalists.

Gayle Hilleke, Executive Director of Kentucky Campus Compact, states, “Having Dr. Tooley recognized for her work in civic and community engagement is truly significant for Berea College and for Kentucky. The Ehrlich award is the only major national recognition for senior faculty who make a commitment to engaged scholarship, teaching and research. Dr. Tooley is the first in Kentucky to be selected as a finalist, and we are extremely proud of the work she has done and continues to do.”

Campus Compact chose Leda Cooks, Professor of Communications at the University of Massachusetts Amherst to receive the 2014 Thomas Ehrlich Civically Engaged Faculty Award. In addition to Tooley, the other two finalists were Steven A. Moore, Ph.D., Professor of Architecture and Planning at the University of Texas at Austin and John K. Schorr, Ph.D., Senior Professor of Sociology; Co-Director, Stetson Institute for Social Research, at Stetson University. The Ehrlich Award recipient, Tooley and the other finalists discussed their work in a panel discussion session at the 2015 Annual Meeting of the Association of American Colleges and Universities in Washington, DC.

“In addition to being an invited panelist in a discussion at the annual Association of American Colleges and Universities meeting, Michelle was recognized recently at the Kentucky Engagement Conference (KEC) hosted at Morehead State University in November 2014,” says Ashley Cochrane, director of the Berea College Center for Excellence in Learning through Service.

Dr. Tooley reflected on the award, stating, “It is an extreme honor and privilege to be a finalist for the 2014 Thomas Ehrlich Civically Engaged Faculty Award. As I read through The Great Commitments and what we are invited to be and become at Berea College, the spirit of this award is our calling. For me, it is an “us award” — meaning the award represents many collaborators who work with civic engagement on campus. I see [this spirit] in our students and in how our graduates make positive commitments after graduation in their communities.”

“Michelle Tooley has been successful as a catalyst for mentoring, identifying existing opportunities for involvement in organizations, and — when needed — starting and building new programs,” says Chad Berry, academic vice president and dean of the faculty at Berea College. “She has built partnerships around the world, from the very local to regional, to international partners. She also has actively recruited other faculty to incorporate service-learning into their teaching and courses. She now chairs the Peace and Social Justice Studies Program at Berea College, which she helped to establish and develop. Her influence on students is significant, both while teaching in the classroom and mentoring and nurturing relationships well beyond their graduation.”

At Berea College, Dr. Tooley regularly teaches a service-learning course, Poverty and Justice, which partners with a local organization that helps draw connections to national and global issues of poverty. The course gave Berea students the opportunity to teach a six-week curriculum on global trade and poverty issues to sixth grade students at a local school. She helped to develop the curriculum, which was adopted for use by Heifer Project International. Tooley has incorporated service-learning in international education and travel courses to Uganda, Scotland, and Nicaragua. In Uganda, her students partnered with the Katosi Women’s Development Trust to help build rainwater collection tanks.

For many years Tooley has shared her expertise with two international advocacy organizations, Witness for Peace, which works to change policy to promote peaceful, just, and sustainable communities in the Americas, and Bread for the World, which works to end hunger nationally and internationally. Her many scholarly publications, the most-recent of which is “Ethics as if Jesus Mattered,” (Smyth & Helwys Publishing, Inc. 2014) which she co-edited, focus on Christian ethics and the intersection of belief and social action, particularly focusing on the experiences of groups of people who are marginalized.


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