Recognizing our 2018 Civic Engagement Professionals of the Year
NC Campus Compact has recognized two outstanding administrators as our 2018 Civic Engagement Professionals of the Year. Charlotte Williams of Lenoir-Rhyne University received the “Sustainer Award” for her 19 years of civic engagement leadership, and Tamara Johnson of UNC Charlotte received the “Emerging Leader Award” for the significant contributions she has made to campus civic engagement in just five years. Both Williams and Johnson were honored at the 2018 NC Presidents Forum, held at Meredith College on February 9.
For nearly two decades, Charlotte Williams has been an architect of Lenoir-Rhyne University’s community engagement programming.
Williams first came to Lenoir-Rhyne University (LR) in 1999 as a visiting assistant professor and coordinator of the human and community services (HCS) program. Today she serves as Associate Dean for Engaged and Global Learning, and she continues to coordinate the HCS program. Participation in the program has doubled during her tenure. Through her teaching, administration, and civic leadership, Ms. Williams has touched the lives of countless LR students and local citizens.
Williams supports co-curricular service as well, promoting the annual Hands On Hickory event and serving as an advisor to the Circle K club. For several years, she served as the university’s liaison to NC Campus Compact, supervised Lenoir-Rhyne’s AmeriCorps VISTA member, and managed an NC-ACTs grant which provided community service scholarships to students. In 2014, she was honored with the university’s “Outstanding Student Organization Faculty Advisor Award.”
Ms. Williams also models civic leadership. Last fall, she was appointed by the Governor to serve on the NC Human Relations Commission. Previously, she was elected and served two terms on the Hickory Board of Education, and she has served on numerous non-profit boards, including the boards of the United Arts Council of Catawba County, Catawba County Habitat for Humanity, and Cognitive Connection, a local substance abuse program. In 2008, she received LR’s “Community Service Award.” She was also honored by the Hickory Schools Foundation with the “Outstanding Community Partner Award, 2014-15.”
Ms. Williams received her bachelor’s of social work from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and her master’s of arts from the University of Chicago. Earlier in her career, she worked for the City of Chicago as Assistant Commissioner of Planning and as Assistant Deputy Mayor for Community Services.
Over the course of her relatively short tenure at UNC Charlotte, Tamara Johnson has shaped the civic engagement landscape and mapped new pathways that connect students and community.
Her official position – “Research Associate for Academic Planning and Analysis” in the Office of Academic Affairs – belies her significant civic engagement responsibilities.
As the coordinator of the university’s North Carolina Campus Compact working group, Johnson oversees efforts to enhance the practice of community-based learning. In 2015, she was instrumental in establishing UNC Charlotte’s biennial Engaged Scholarship and Community Partnership Symposium. She led committees that organized gatherings for campus and community members around key local issues: Hunger in Charlotte in 2016 and Housing Affordability in 2017. Last fall, she was a key ally for a student-led project to bring Charlotte-Mecklenburg police to campus for a conversation with students and community members about police-involved shootings. Johnson is currently leading UNC Charlotte’s development of a Civic Action Plan. The plan aims to create a set of strategic initiatives that align teaching, research, and service around an urgent community need: economic mobility.
“Tamara acts in ways that catalyze change by serving as the momentum and connection in a system that is decentralized and prone to silos,” says UNC Charlotte Provost Joan Lorden.
Johnson is also committed to student engagement. Since 2014, she has chaired the 49er Democracy Experience, a group of students who seek to engage peers in elections and democratic action. Their collective efforts in 2016 engaged hundreds of student voters and helped UNCC be recognized as a “Voter Friendly Campus.”
Working with colleagues in the Dean of Students office, Johnson also co-founded and co-leads UNC Charlotte’s Bonner Leaders program, which welcomed its first cohort in the fall of 2016. A four-year campus-community collaboration that uses federal work-study funds to subsidize public service, the program places students at local non-profit partners.
Johnson also teaches as an adjunct faculty member in the Global Studies department. In 2015 and 2016 she led summer study abroad trips to Cape Town, South Africa, where she once served as a Peace Corps volunteer.
Johnson received her bachelor’s degree in geography and international studies from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she later completed her Ph.D. in geography. Before arriving at UNC Charlotte in 2012, she was an instructor at UNC-Chapel Hill, UNC Charlotte, and the University of Cape Town.
(Photos by Andrew Krech)