2015 Community Engagement Award

Main page content

2015 Recipients

Dr. Marcy Stein, Professor, Education; Dr. Diane Kinder, Professor, Education; Kathy Zapp, RIT Grant Coordinator & Field Supervisor, Education

Communities in Schools in Tacoma and Project RTI (Response to Intervention) are two related projects designed to have a direct and measurable impact on underperforming K-8 students, teachers and schools in the South Sound, with long term partners in the Franklin Pierce School District.  Undergraduate students from UW Tacoma, 7 to 9 per quarter, began providing literacy tutoring in partnership with Communities in Schools in Tacoma in 2012. This partnership has resulted in measurable improvement in student performance while also exposing these students to individuals who value higher education and bringing them to the UW Tacoma campus.

Project RTI was built upon a grant from the U.S. Office of Special Education Programs.  The project prepares teachers to succeed in a multi-tiered school-wide prevention system designed to address the needs of all students, with a particular focus on those students who are culturally, linguistically, economically and academically diverse. The committee was particularly impressed with the thoughtfulness and rigor of outcomes and assessments, and the implementation of evidence-based practices. Examples include the integration of learnings from the partnership into teacher education at UW Tacoma; and the employment of our graduates in the partner schools.

The value of Project RTI to local schools is evident in the decision of Franklin Pierce School District to commit scarce resources to continue the program at the end of grant funding.  One letter of support said, “Project RTI has an amazing track record of focusing on those instructional practices that are most likely to result in student success….The University/School Partnership model that they have designed is surely one that should be replicated as one of the strategies for improving the lives of students in poverty.”  The committee commends this faculty-staff team for building sustainable partnerships with long term positive impacts on teaching, learning, and our community.

Michael Kula, Assistant Professor, School of Interdisciplinary Arts & Sciences

The Tacoma Theater Project was born out of discussions in Michael Kula’s playwriting class that focused on the number of students who had never experienced a professionally staged play and the desire of a graduate student in the Master of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies to create a nonprofit theater company.  It was fueled by a culture of community engagement at UW Tacoma according to Kula, and has resulted in inclusive and relevant theater on campus as well as new mutually beneficial relationships between the school and the community. 

The dream was realized in November 2014 with a production of Unwritten Women, which brought UWT students together with professional actors and a professional director from the University of Puget Sound.  This also integrated various community partners, including students from the School of the Arts for lighting and technical support, resources from the Broadway Center in the form of costumes and props, financial support from UWT Student Theater Actors Guild and a playwright from The Northwest Playwrights Alliance.  A second production, Anon(ymous), debuted in May 2015 for a six-show run produced by Toy Boat Theater and supported through funding from the Tacoma Arts Commission and Interdisciplinary Arts & Sciences.

The committee was impressed with the growth and expansion of the Tacoma Theater Project, but also with the fundamentally collaborative approach to institution-building taken by Michael Kula. In addition, Kula was invited to present this model of collaboration at the conference of the Coalition of Urban Serving and Metropolitan Universities, while his essay, “Zip Car Theater,” was accepted for publication in Metropolitan Universities.  The connections to the community are indeed strong.  One letter of support said,   “I have been moved, impressed, and now entirely immersed in helping realize Michael’s unique and exciting vision for extending the performing arts at UWT to include a vibrant collaborative theatre model.”  The committee commends the Tacoma Theater Project for its deliberate engagement with partners, its thoughtfulness about long-term collaboration, and Michael Kula’s successes in integrating a community-engaged ethic into his own professional work