Professor wins Outstanding Social Justice Collaboration Award

Professor wins Outstanding Social Justice Collaboration Award


Dr. Laura L. Finley, assistant professor of sociology and criminology, was selected by the American College Personnel Association’s (ACPA) Commission for Social Justice Educators to receive the Outstanding Social Justice Collaboration Award.

Finley was nominated and won for her given the untiring work she does on campus with social justice initiatives including anti-bullying programs, Domestic Violence awareness by means of the annual College Brides’ Walk and the Student Green Team, to help implement environmental initiatives on campus among many other projects.

This award recognizes outstanding collaborative efforts between campus and community groups, offices, organizations, or committees of ACPA and other national associations. The ACPA award recognizes creative initiative taking in a collaborative partnership that addresses an issue of social justice on their campus or in their community, in a progressive and positive manner.

Dr. Scott Smith, Dr. Glenn Bowen, and Christina Leano nominated her for the ACPA award, below is the nomination letter:

“Dr. Laura Finley has enjoyed working with underserved communities and doing her part to create better conditions for community members.  Since 2002, she has sustained her interest in service-learning as a pedagogical strategy and as a way to get her students engaged in the community.  It was in the Spring of 2002 that she was invited to participate a in six-week interdisciplinary Service-Learning Seminar as part of her doctoral program at Western Michigan University.  In part because of her interest in using service-learning to address community issues, her mentor, Dr. Sue Caulfield, and she submitted a proposal and received approval to co-teach a Sociology of School Violence graduate course at Western Michigan that Fall.

By the following year, she was becoming immersed in service-learning; and she incorporated service-learning into various sociology courses at Northern Colorado University from 2003 until 2005.  When she moved to South Florida, she utilized service-learning with independent study students at Florida Atlantic University from 2005 through 2007.

At Barry University, where she has been a faculty member since 2005, she has helped to coordinate the service-learning component of the Perspective Consciousness and Social Justice (SOC 200) course every year.  At the beginning of the 2012-2013 academic year, she assumed full coordinating responsibility but is working collaboratively with colleagues to ensure that the program runs smoothly and efficiently for the 250 students who participate each Spring semester.  In her own SOC 200 course section, the service-learning component has produced evidence that the pedagogy improves student learning, promotes civic engagement, and fosters commitment to the community.

In addition, she has been pursuing community-engaged research and is an active member of Barry University’s Faculty Learning Community for Engaged Scholarship.   Various publications in peer-reviewed journals and presentations at conferences reflect her increasing interest in this type of work.

Some highlights of her service-learning and community engagement experience at Barry are as follows:  Created the University’s Peace-In (held on or near the International Day of Peace) to incorporate peace-related service for students; inaugurated the College Brides Walk (anti-violence initiative) and the Student Green Team (environmental awareness program) as service-learning opportunities at Barry University, 2011-2012;  helped Amnesty International—Broward County Chapter win a bronze prize in the annual Hironaka Award category for work on the College Brides Walk; received Women Who Rock award from Barry University F.E.M.A.L.E’s group for College Brides Walk, Spring 2012; received a Student Affairs award for providing service/engagement opportunities for students, Spring 2012;  received an Award for Community Engagement from North Miami Mayor André Pierre during 2nd Annual College Brides Walk, February 2012.; authored one paper and one book chapter (to be published in late 2012 or 2013) about Barry University’s service-learning efforts.

Taking innovative approaches to service-learning began while Dr. Finley was a faculty member at Florida Atlantic University, where she developed service-learning independent study for two students.  Upon receipt of training, students served as community educators for a domestic violence agency’s program.  Students presented a six-week anti-bullying curriculum to area elementary schools and facilitated other community-based presentations on dating and domestic violence.  The students earned service-learning credit for journaling about their service, including how it connected to curricula in a Family and Society course, as well as recommendations for the agency to improve their program.

At Barry University, she helped to expand service-learning opportunities and activities as part of a 200-level sociology course in which service-learning is an integral component.  Students are required to fulfill a 10-hour service-learning requirement.  She developed and offered new, campus-based options – the College Brides Walk and the Student Green Team – to accommodate students who would otherwise experience difficulties getting transportation to distant (community) locations.

The College Brides Walk was initiated to raise awareness about domestic and dating violence.  It is now an annual event, held each February, on Barry’s main campus in Miami Shores, and involves collaboration with six other area colleges and universities as well as local service providers and organizations, city government, law enforcement, and attorneys.  Students participate in advance of the walk by helping to plan the event; assisting in educational outreach on campus and to area elementary, middle, and high schools; setting up and cleaning up; and photographing the event.   Participating Brides Walk students have also helped coordinate the Clothesline Project, a t-shirt painting initiative that helps facilitate conversations about violence and abuse.  

The annual College Brides Walk, which involves more than 20 campus-based partners (ranging from divisions and departments to staff and student groups), showcases Barry University’s commitment to social justice and collaborative service.  It not only raises awareness on campus but also reaches the larger community through outreach efforts before the walk to area groups, organizations, and schools.  Local media covers the event, which helps to highlight the institution as a good citizen.  Participation by the North Miami Mayor’s Office has resulted in annual proclamations announcing the Friday before Valentine’s Day to be College Brides Walk Day in the City of North Miami.  These proclamations hang at the University as a sign of its good relations.  Additional information is available at

The Student Green Team, which started during the 2011-12 academic year, is intended to help implement environmental initiatives on campus, to educate the campus about sustainability, and to demonstrate to the wider community that the University is committed to environmental preservation.  In its inaugural year, the Green Team helped to revitalize Barry University’s recycling program by assisting Facilities staff in distributing recycling bins and collecting recyclable materials.  Additionally, the Green Team helped educate students, faculty, and staff about what items are recyclable and designed an awareness campaign that involved regular tabling, games, and posters.  Further, the Green Team helped to plan and coordinate Barry University’s Earth Month activities in Spring 2012, including panel discussions, film screenings, speakers, games and activities, and an educational concert.

Moreover, Dr. Finley developed a student service-learning opportunity involving the Peace-In program.  This program has not only enhanced the sociology curriculum but has benefited a local elementary school’s Peace Club as well.

Dr. Finley authored an entry for Teachers Without Borders’ Peace Education in Action compilation, to be published in late 2012 or 2013.  The entry focuses on service-learning as a means of human rights education about domestic violence.  She has also authored a book chapter on holistic domestic violence programming focusing on the College Brides Walk as a service-learning project at Barry University, to be published in 2013 by Information Age Press.   She is a current member of Barry University’s Faculty Learning Community for Engaged Scholarship.”

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