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​ Dr. Richard M. Battistoni

​Battistoni Receives National Award from Campus Compact

Campus Compact, a national coalition of almost 1,200 colleges and universities dedicated to promoting the civic purposes of higher education, has recognized Providence College’s Dr. Richard M. Battistoni with its Thomas Ehrlich Civically Engaged Faculty Award.

Battistoni, a professor of political science and public and community service studies, resumed the role of the director of the College’s Feinstein Institute for Public Service in 2012. A national expert in civic engagement and service learning, he came to PC in 1994 to serve as the inaugural director of the institute and held the position for six years.

The Ehrlich award is named for a former board chairman of Campus Compact and the president emeritus of Indiana University. It recognizes a senior faculty member for “exemplary engaged scholarship, including leadership in advancing students’ civic learning, conducting community-based research, fostering reciprocal community partnerships, building institutional commitments to service-learning and civic engagement, and other means of enhancing higher education’s contributions to the public good.”

Battistoni said the award “puts me in some great company,” he said. “The people who received it in the past are people who are inspirations for me — giants in the field — and so it’s a great honor.”

Battistoni was nominated by Dr. Sherril B. Gelmon, professor of public health at Portland State University and an Ehrlich award recipient herself. The two of them have worked closely on national Campus Compact projects, including leading Engaged Department Institutes across the country.

In her nomination letter, Gelmon said Battistoni “defines what it means to produce deeply engaged, high-quality academic work.”

The academics, community members, and former students quoted in the letter noted his leadership in developing the public and community service major at PC in the mid-1990s, his work on civic education for high school students, and his innovative ideas on using service learning to teach students and faculty about their roles in fostering the civic life of their own democracy. For example, through Battistoni’s coordination of Project 540, thousands of high school students identified civic problems that affected their lives and created action plans to address them.

Civic engagement in the syllabus

Battistoni, a native of Bakersfield, California, earned his doctorate at Rutgers University in 1982. As a professor at Baylor University, he began incorporating a major civic or community engagement component, such as a significant community-based service or research project, a community organizing effort, or a civic action or reflection commitment, into his courses. Battistoni has continued to do so for every class he has taught since 1989. He is the author or co-author of a number of publications, including Public Schooling and the Education of Democratic Citizens (University Press of Mississippi, 1985).

Dr. Nicholas V. Longo ’96, associate professor of public and community service studies and director of the Global Studies Program, as well as a former student of Battistoni, said in the nomination letter that Battistoni’s research “embodies the very democratic way of thinking and acting that he is researching, and he actually integrates his research into his work.”

“Rick has an astute sense of what it means to be civically engaged, a profound commitment to the formative role community service can play in higher education, and a wonderful ability to forge authentic community partnerships,” wrote Dr. Hugh F. Lena, PC’s provost and senior vice president for academic affairs. “At the heart of his genius in this work is his deep respect for others and his patience with interpersonal relations.”

The Feinstein Institute’s mission is to create relationships with the larger Rhode Island community that allow faculty and students to learn and serve through authentic, reciprocal relationships, Battistoni said. Through the institute, PC developed the major and minor in public and community service studies, the first of its kind offered across the nation.

“I think we have the best academic program of its kind in the country,” Battistoni said.

“Through practice, it’s a very rigorous, solid, experientially-based program,” he said. “Any student who comes through, we are very confident can do just about anything … depending on what kind of issues they want to work on in and with communities.”

As part of the award, Battistoni will receive $2,000 and will conduct a session at the Association of American Colleges and Universities Annual Conference in January.

Reflecting on his career, Battistoni said he was most proud of the graduates of the College’s public and community service studies program.

“I think our alumni are the ones who are testaments to the quality of work that we do,” he said. “They are doing amazing things in the world. That’s always what you’re most proud of — people you’ve mentored and you’ve developed to a certain point, and they go on to do greater things.”

— Liz F. Kay


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