Faculty Receive Outreach and Engagement Awards

MSU clock tower in the winter surrounded by snow

The annual MSU Outreach and Engagement Awards honor faculty, students, and partners working together to produce diverse benefits for others in their communities. Among this year’s recipients are Kyle Powys Whyte, Timnick Chair in the Humanities in the Department of Philosophy, who received the Distinguished Partnership Award for Community-Engaged Research, and Dionne O’Dell, Academic Specialist in the Department of Theatre, who received the Distinguished Partnership Award for Community-Engaged Creativity Activity.

The MSU Outreach and Engagement Awards, which were presented this year on February 19 at the Kellogg Hotel & Conference Center, were established by the Office of University Outreach and Engagement to recognize engaged and scholarly university-community collaborations that make a difference.

“So many good people go about their work quietly, while creating significant positive outcomes that contribute to our local communities and beyond,” said Laurie A. Van Egeren, Interim Associate Provost for University Outreach and Engagement. “These awards feature some of those outstanding partnerships and give us inspiration for what happens when we work together.”

Distinguished Partnership Award for Community-Engaged Research

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Dean Christopher P. Long (far left), Kyle Powys Whyte (center), Chris Caldwell (far right) at MSU Outreach and Engagement Awards ceremony

Kyle Powys Whyte is a Professor of Philosophy and Community Sustainability with a dual appointment in the Department of Philosophy and the Department of Community Sustainability. He has partnered with Chris Caldwell of the Menominee Sustainable Development Institute (SDI) at the College of Menominee Nation in Keshena, Wisconsin, for close to a decade.

Founded in 1994 as one of the first Tribally founded and supported research institutions, SDI serves the Menominee people’s efforts to learn from their history and culture about sustainability, support planning for the future, and to engage institutions and communities outside of the Tribe. The partnership supports indigenous peoples’ preparedness for climate change through a diverse portfolio of research, outreach, and education projects, particularly at the community level.

This partnership also received MSU’s 2020 Community Engagement Scholarship Award.

Distinguished Partnership Award for Community-Engaged Creative Activity

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Dean Christopher P. Long (far left), Dionne O’Dell (in red), and Department of Theatre Chair Kirk Domer (far right) at the MSU Outreach and Engagement Awards ceremony


Dionne O’Dell partners with the 4th Wall Company in the metro Detroit area, and is the advisor of the Sense-Ability Ensemble, a student organization that conducts regular theatrical workshops for neurodiverse students, including those with autism spectrum disorders, through a 10-week residency program.

Led by 4th Wall instructors and MSU students, the workshops culminate in a final performance for friends and family. This partnership has developed two world-premiere productions that tour special education classrooms around Michigan, which include Farm! A Musical Experience and Soda Pop Shop. These productions contribute to a wider understanding of the arts, health, and social/emotional well-being. Additional partners include the Oily Cart Theatre in London, Lincoln Center Education, and the Trusty Sidekick Theater in New York City.