Eastern Michigan's Olwell wins Michigan Campus Compact's top award for community service, learning

by Pamela Young, Published March 17, 2010

YPSILANTI — Russell Olwell, professor of history at Eastern Michigan University, has made it his mission to create a bridge between the University and the community through innovative educational partnerships and programs. 

Those efforts paid off when Olwell, director of GEAR UP (Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs) at Eastern, received the Michigan Campus Compact’s (MCC) top award for outstanding contributions in service-learning and community service.

The Ann Arbor resident was honored during MCC’s Service-Learning and Community Service Awards ceremony in February at the Grand Traverse Resort in Acme, Mich.

“This award highlights the most important work we can do as faculty, which is connecting our talented students to community and educational problems, Olwell said. “My students have learned a great deal working with schools and students in our area, particularly about the importance of respecting students and their hopes for the future.”

The Michigan Campus Compact recognized Olwell for his depth of experience, his strong commitment to community engagement, his student support and strong community partnerships. He was also cited for his efforts as director of GEAR UP to transform the educational and co-curricular lives of young people in the Wayne, Westland, Ypsilanti and Willow Run school districts.

GEAR UP’s mission is to significantly increase the number of low-income students who are prepared to enter and succeed in post-secondary education. Eastern Michigan’s six-year, federally funded program helps students in the four school districts attend college. The U.S. Department of Education funds 50 percent of the program while Eastern Michigan, the school districts and community partners fund the remainder.

“Since Professor Olwell’s arrival at EMU in 1999, he has worked tirelessly to create a bridge between the university and the community through innovative educational partnerships and programs,” said Jessica Alexander, associate professor in communication, media and theatre arts, who nominated Olwell.

He has transformed the educational and co-curricular lives of young people in the Ypsilanti, Willow Run and Wayne/Westland school districts for years to come, Alexander said.

Michigan Campus Compact is a coalition of college and university presidents who are committed to fulfilling the public purpose of higher education. The coalition promotes the education and commitment of Michigan college students to be civically engaged citizens, by creating opportunities for community service, service-learning and civic engagement.

Pamela Young

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