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Townsend wins first ever Board of Regents System Scholarly Excellence Award

Date: 6/12/2014

By Peter Spotts

LONGMEADOW – Winning an award for work in education is a great honor for any recipient, especially when it’s the first time the accolade has ever been given out.

Such was the case for Longmeadow resident Dr. Rebecca Townsend, associate professor of communication at Manchester Community College (MCC), who received the Connecticut Board of Regents System Scholarly Excellence Award on May 22 for her work on the Partnership for Inclusive, Cost-Effective Public Participation (PICEPP).

“It’s a really big surprise ... I’m very excited,” Townsend said.

“My main contribution was creating a replicable curriculum and research program [PICEPP] that allows community college students to assist transport planning agencies with public outreach,” Townsend added. “I received a Federal Transit Administration (FTA) grant for $77,368 and we’re the only community college to receive an FTA grant. The FTA showing confidence in us is a great honor.”

The program focused on helping transportation agencies get the public input they require to complete their project.

“We used students’ existing social networks,” Townsend said. “The students were divided into research teams and each team decided on two community groups they’re already a part of, such as churches. They went to these groups and talked about the transport needs. The key was that the trust was already there because the students are part of the groups and the community.”

Townsend’s project played a large role in her recognition by the Board of Regents. She was also named a White House Champion of Change for Transportation Innovation in 2012 and the project has seen use in other states.

“The project has been duplicated in several states. Texas, Maine, and Nebraska have used it.  Connecticut has done it twice, once before the [FTA] grant and then again after,” Townsend said.

In order to be eligible to win the System Scholarly Excellence award, Townsend needed to be nominated by a faculty or staff member. Dr. Endia DeCordova, associate dean of institutional advancement and community engagement, nominated Townsend.

“Personally, I nominated her because of the work she’s done to continue to leverage the college and the community and her work in the classroom with students. She’s been an outstanding professional and very worthy of receiving the award,” DeCordova said.

Michael Kozlowki, director of public affairs and marketing for the Board of Regents, explained, “The Scholarly Excellence Award was established to recognize faculty at the community colleges who conduct work befitting the community college mission. One award of $1,000 may be awarded to a faculty member from each of the community colleges, and a single award of $1,000 may be made to the individual who best exemplifies high-quality scholarly excellence. The selection committee consists of the presidents of the community colleges.

“This year, there were six campus-based awards [at the] community college level,” Kozlowski continued. “From those six, one overall Scholarly Excellence Award was made, to Dr. Townsend.”

Townsend is proud of the work that she and her students have been able to accomplish at MCC.

“Few people have an understanding of what a community college can actually do,” Townsend explained. “To succeed is a great thrill.”