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OSU College of Public Health and Human Sciences finalist for national community service award

The College of Public Health and Human Sciences is one of three finalists for the Harrison C. Spencer Award.

Top of Women's Building at Oregon State University

By Molly Rosbach

Oregon State University’s College of Public Health and Human Sciences is one of three finalists for a national award honoring its record of community service, including its Family and Community Health Extension program and the OSU Center for Health Innovation.

The Harrison C. Spencer Award for Outstanding Community Service is presented by the Association of Schools and Programs of Public Health, the organization that accredits university public health programs across the country. Previous award recipients include Drexel University and Johns Hopkins. The other nominees this year are San Diego State University and City University of New York.

The nomination recognizes many College of Public Health and Human Sciences programs engaging in community outreach, in areas such as parenting education, nutrition and food insecurity, healthy aging, occupational safety and mental health. It also highlights the college’s response to COVID-19, including work on OSU’s TRACE community testing projects. 

“It’s a huge deal. Just being a finalist is a great honor and an important recognition of our work,” says Javier Nieto, dean of the College of Public Health and Human Sciences. “To me, having Health Extension faculty and programs embedded in the college offers very unique opportunities to do community health improvement work that has real impact. This is a critical part of our land grant mission and makes Oregon State University stand out.”

Javier says OSU Extension’s model of on-the-ground engagement, where OSU specialists and experts are living and working in every county in the state, directly connects the university to community members.

“This offers an opportunity to move past the traditional top-down approaches and fully engage with the local community partners who understand the strengths and gaps and can take the lead in determining local priorities,” Javier says. “Our role is to respond to these priorities and provide the technical assistance where we have expertise.”

The college is committed to putting community partners in the lead when working together toward improving community health.

“The priorities driving this work are creating equitable and socially just environments for all Oregonians,” says Anita Azarenko, vice provost for extension and engagement and director of the Extension Service.

The nomination submission packet was assembled by Roberta Riportella, associate dean for extension and engagement and program leader of Family and Community Health; Allison Myers, director of the Center for Health Innovation; and Marion Ceraso, associate professor of practice.

“This is a tremendous honor, especially given the exceptionally high quality of the nominations,” says Laura Magaña, president and CEO of the Association of Schools and Programs of Public Health.

The winner will be announced early next month and will receive a specially designed award along with a $5,000 honorarium, intended to be transferred by the school or program to one or more current or emerging community partners.