Martin Wolske, GSLIS senior research scientist at the Center for Digital Inclusion (CDI) and adjunct lecturer, is a 2012-2013 recipient of the Campus Award for Excellence in Public Engagement (CAEPE), which is given annually by the Office of Public Engagement at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The awards recognize individuals and teams who engage the public to address critical societal issues.
Nurturing strong relationships with community partners as the foundation to successful, long-term engagement has been a key aspect of Wolske’s work and teaching at GSLIS. According to Sharon Irish, nominator and GSLIS project coordinator, “For 17 years, he has been a positive, cheerful, and practical advocate for marginalized communities all over Illinois.”
Wolske has been with GSLIS for 17 years. He has served as manager of systems services and as director for Prairienet, Champaign-Urbana’s first community information network and the predecessor to CDI. In 2000, Prairienet began partnering with community organizations to establish community technology centers in the greater Metro East St. Louis region. Wolske and his students were instrumental in these efforts, which have led to seventy new centers in the region as well as thirty partnerships with sites in East Central Illinois.
“Deep, meaningful university-community partnerships require a range of institutional actors to be successful. As much as anything this award recognizes so many within GSLIS who have demonstrated a continuing commitment to support engagement scholarship, along with the critical support that has been provided throughout the years by Action Research Illinois and its predecessor, the East St. Louis Action Research Project,” said Wolske.
Wolske is a popular instructor at GSLIS and teaches Community Informatics Studio and Introduction to Network Information Systems, courses that regularly incorporate service-learning. In a letter supporting Wolske’s CAEPE nomination, GSLIS Associate Dean for Academic Programs Linda Smith wrote, “Through these two courses, students engage in meaningful projects that can have a significant impact on a community. . . . While technology is a focus for the projects, it is technology embedded in a public space, designed to help members of a community to accomplish their goals.”
This past fall Wolske and a team of volunteers completed the redesign of a computer lab at the Urbana Free Library. The planning and execution of the project involved a partnership with the library's staff as well as the involvement of students from Wolske’s Community Informatics Studio class.
William Kreeb, president and CEO of Lessie Bates Davis Neighborhood House in East St. Louis, has partnered with Wolske for 12 years. In a letter of support he said, “The approaches that Martin Wolske has introduced at the Mary E. Brown Center & Trinity Outreach Community Center continue to inspire a new generation of creative thinkers. He has developed a curriculum to aid youth with everyday life skills as well as increase computer and media literacy. . . . His dedication and approach to teaching has inspired an entire community. He continues to give his time to help adults and youth learn new skills.”
Wolske’s excellence in educating students was recognized with the 2011 Library Journal Teaching Award. In 2010, he and students from his Introduction to Network Information Systems class received the Champaign Park District’s Service Award for their work on computer labs in the Douglass Annex and the Hays Recreation Center.
Wolske is one of three faculty/staff recipients of this year’s CAEPE award. Brant Houston, GSLIS-affiliated faculty member and professor of journalism in the College of Media, and Madhu Viswanathan, professor in the College of Business were named as well. The Office of Public Engagement also honored student Deirdre Lanesskog of the School of Social Work and the research team Scientific Animations Without Borders with the award.
The CAEPE winners will be honored at a reception on April 30, 2013.