Social Work Professor and Alumna Honored with Provost’s Awards for Excellence in Public Engagement

School of Social Work faculty and staff beamed with pride as Professor Louise Simmons received the Provost’s Award for Excellence in Public Engagement at a reception on December 9, 2009. She was among three finalists in the faculty category who were present for the ceremony.

The Provost’s Awards pay tribute to members of the University community and to programs that engage the public to address critical societal issues. “I was thrilled to witness Dr. Simmons be recognized for her tireless efforts to improve the lives of those social work is committed to serve”, stated Salome Raheim, Dean of the University of Connecticut School of Social Work.

Dr. Simmons is an Associate Professor of Community Organization and the Director of the University of Connecticut, Urban Semester Program. Her work embodies the School’s mission to promote social and economic justice and human rights. Dr. Simmons has shown exceptional leadership in creating opportunities for students to actively engage in service learning projects that promote the well being of residents in the Greater Hartford area. As Director of the Urban Semester Program for nearly 30 years, although the School of Social Work has no undergraduate program, Dr. Simmons has led over several hundred undergraduate students in service learning internships.

Dr. Simmons’ scholarly work has made significant contributions to public engagement as well. She is the author of Organizing in Hard Times: Unions and Neighborhoods in Hartford, published by Temple University Press (1994) and editor of Welfare, the Working Poor and Labor, published by M.E. Sharpe (2004).  Her most recent book, Economic Justice, Labor and Community Practice (2009) is co-edited with Dr. Scott Harding and addresses economic upheaval and growing inequality, and how people in local communities are fighting for economic justice.

Dr. Simmons has had intensive community involvement since the 1970s in the Hartford community and on state-wide issues. Her service as an active member on a number of boards with the City of Hartford and the larger Connecticut community is quite impressive. Currently, she serves as the Chairperson of the Board of Directors of the Connecticut Center for a New Economy, an economic rights organization; a Board member of the Institute for Community Research; a Steering Committee member of the Connecticut Alliance for Basic Human Needs and of Citizens for Economic Opportunity and a past Board member of Community Works.  From 1991 until 1993, she served a term on the Hartford City Council with a local third party, People for Change. She also has served on the Human Relations Commission for the City of Hartford, the Permanent Commission on the Status of Hartford Women, and Mayor’s Living Wage Task Force. Currently, she continues to work on issues involved with the Hartford Living Wage Ordinance.

Adamil (Ada) Rivera, MSW ’98, accepted the 2009 Provost’s Excellence in Public Engagement Award on behalf of UConn’s GEAR-UP Program, which she directs. The program works with New Haven high school youth to foster academic success.  Simmons said she was very pleased to see a Community Organization alumna receive the award for the GEAR-UP Program, which is a testament to the impact that the School of Social Work’s Community Organization alumni have in their communities and their work.