Skip to main content

Carolina honors 11 individuals and one organization for outstanding public service

Compilation of award winner headshots

Chapel Hill, N.C. — On April 15, at the annual Public Service Awards event, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill honored 11 individuals and one organization for outstanding contributions to the campus and broader communities. This year’s event was held virtually; you can watch and share the video recording on this page.

CCPS Director Lynn Blanchard noted that UNC Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz often says, “While we are formally known as the University of North Carolina … We might better be known as the University for North Carolina.”

“That is apparent in considering the many individuals and communities across North Carolina who have benefitted from the teaching, research and service of this year’s award winners,” Blanchard said. “They, in turn, represent the many other students, faculty and staff who engage in some way with the state every day to make a difference.”

At the ceremony, the Carolina Center for Public Service presented the following awards: Ned Brooks Award for Public Service, Office of the Provost Engaged Scholarship Awards and Robert E. Bryan Public Service Awards.


Ned Brooks Award

Honoring a distinguished and sustained record of service to Carolina and the larger community

Anita Brown-Graham’s history with UNC-Chapel Hill reveals a deep dedication to service through her varied roles as student, professor, alumnus and director. After graduating from the UNC School of Law in 1991, she spent three years working in private practice before making her return to the University at what was then the Institute of Government (now the School of Government). For 13 years, she worked tirelessly to serve the state’s public officials on a range of governmental liability and community and economic development issues, becoming a nationally recognized authority on developing strategies to lead communities out of economic distress. Notably, Brown-Graham became the first African American faculty member to be tenured at the School. She left Carolina in 2007 to serve as the director of the Institute for Emerging Issues at North Carolina State University, but she rejoined the School of Government in 2016 to launch the ncIMPACT Initiative. As director of the Initiative, Brown-Graham has spent the last five years leading the effort to expand the School’s capacity to work with public officials on complex policy issues. She works with her colleagues to devise programs to support communities across the state tackling issues including economic mobility, homelessness, workforce preparedness, the opioid crisis, expansion of education and more. Most recently, Brown-Graham was named to head Carolina Across 100, the Chancellor’s five-year initiative to engage with communities throughout the state to make a meaningful impact in the wake of COVID-19.


Office of the Provost Engaged Scholarship Award

Honoring individuals and campus units for public service through engaged teaching, research and partnership


Krome-Lukens headshotAnna Krome-Lukens, for direction of the senior public policy capstone course and collaboration with a wide range of nonprofit and governmental partners. As director of experiential education for public policy since 2015, Krome-Lukens coordinates the semester-long Public Policy Capstone class. Students in the course collaborate in small groups to tackle projects for community partners who seek policy research or analysis on a wide range of topics, such as education equity, environmental justice and affordable housing. Krome-Lukens works each semester to connect those students with regional and national organizations. The partner organizations receive actionable policy recommendations from the student groups while the students gain real-world experience. Krome-Lukens has overseen the capstone program’s doubling in size as the public policy major has grown. To ensure a positive experience for the program’s community partners, Krome-Lukens regularly meets with the community partners to learn about their organizations, the communities they represent and what they need, as well as how their needs overlap with students’ capabilities. The program’s benefit to the community partners is demonstrated by the partners’ continued commitment to the program: More than 40 partners have worked with the capstone program multiple times, and at least half of the partners involved in a typical semester are repeat participants. Students and community partners alike consistently express high levels of satisfaction with their experience in the program, thanks to the thoughtful leadership of Krome-Lukens.


Courtney Woods portraitCourtney Woods, for collaborative environmental justice research projects with communities across North Carolina and establishment of the Environmental Justice Action Research Clinic. Leading by example for students who are learning to participate in community engaged work, Woods works to support community-initiated projects across North Carolina: including an investigation of potential water contamination from a landfill in Sampson County, NC, and data-gathering on anticipated public health impacts of an asphalt plant proposed to be constructed in Caswell County, NC. Woods oversees multiple student-led research projects, such a survey on the environmental and public health impacts of Hurricane Florence on residents of Robeson County, NC, which led to the distribution of cleaning tools to fight the growth of mold. Throughout projects like these, Woods helps guide her students to be more responsible researchers as they participate in community-driven work. For example, in her class for graduate students on environmental justice issues, Woods invites members of impacted communities to teach students directly. Woods recently received funding from the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation for an Environmental Justice Action Research Clinic, which is intended to function like a legal clinic: providing free services to community clients and providing public health students with important opportunities for community engagement and public health practice. Woods’ commitment to community engaged research is further demonstrated by her participation in Class VII of Thorp Faculty Engaged Scholars through the Carolina Center for Public Service.


Slocum headshotMark Little headshotKarla Slocum and Mark Little, for innovative partnership work as co-chairs of Black Communities: A Conference for Collaboration (also known as BlackCom). This conference is an initiative jointly hosted by the Institute of African American Research and the UNC Create Center. Begun in 2018, BlackCom’s mission is to foster collaboration among Black communities and universities to support Black communities’ capacity to thrive and furthering the understanding of Black community life. In 2018 and 2019, more than 600 Black community leaders and academic researchers from across the world attended the in-person BlackCom gathering in Durham — made possible through community partnerships with the City of Durham and numerous other organizations in the city. Due to COVID-19, in 2020 BlackCom pivoted to virtual programming. Little and Slocum hosted an 11-week webinar series on Black Communities and COVID-19. The series paired academics and community leaders in dialogues about health disparities revealed and exacerbated by COVID-19, Black economic futures, the arts and more. In 2021, BlackCom again went virtual as a two-week event with themed roundtable discussions featuring activists, artists, non-university professionals and university scholars. Through workshops and collaboration sessions, BlackCom enables conference attendees to connect with one another and explore possible partnerships on projects or initiatives that support Black communities’ capacity to thrive.


Lavalley headshotCooper headshotRyan Lavalley and Morgan Cooper, for innovative work in partnership with the Orange County Partnerships for Home Preservation, the Orange County Department on Aging and the Marian Cheek Jackson Center, in support of home preservation and repair and aging-in-community. As a post-doctoral research associate in the Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy, Lavalley coordinates community initiatives with UNC’s Partnerships in Aging Program (PiAP). As such, he is the project manager of the Department on Aging’s Handy Helper Program and the coordinator for the Orange County Home Preservation Coalition, both of which aim to improve housing quality in the community. Since August 2019, Lavalley has served as the “community mentor,” or supervisor, for Cooper’s UNC PiAP internship with the Department on Aging. Lavalley also served a preceptor for Cooper’s Gillings Public Health Practicum, in the form of a program evaluation for the Home Preservation Coalition. Cooper then became a steward for university-community partnership, leveraging her position as a UNC Gillings student to complete work in service of improved housing in Orange County. Through his position at UNC PiAP, Lavalley also supports robust community-university partnerships with the Marian Cheek Jackson Center. He provides leadership to signature programs including the Northside Living Learning Household, LINK: Linking Generations in Northside and the Elder Power Team, which create opportunities for students and neighbors to explore issues related to aging, housing and racial equity. Together, Lavalley and Cooper support community networks and cultivate age-friendly communities.


Robert E. Bryan Public Service Award

Recognizing students, staff and faculty for exemplary public service efforts


Ricardo Crespo-Regalado, for work and leadership as the Director of Interpreting at the Student Health Action Coalition (SHAC), a student-run free health clinic in Carrboro, NC. When COVID-19 halted SHAC’s operations and forced in-person clinic visits to cease, Crespo-Regalado helped to spearhead SHAC’s efforts to initiate a multilingual telehealth program. He worked to ensure that the hundreds of wellness check-in calls that SHAC made to its patients were able to reach all patients, regardless of native tongue. Without his leadership and herculean efforts to recruit, train and organize a large team of interpreters, SHAC’s sizable population of patients for whom English is not their first language would not have been able to receive care this year. In addition to serving as director of interpreting, Crespo-Regalado is also a de facto cultural liaison. Having navigated the process of receiving DACA protection at a young age and worked alongside family members in tobacco fields, Crespo-Regalado lends valuable insights on cultural barriers to which SHAC organizers may have previously been blind. Additionally, in his free time, Crespo-Regalado regularly helps to call many of SHAC’s Spanish-speaking patients to follow up about medication access, appointment reminders and vital social work needs.


Sostaita headshotBarbara Sostaita, for leadership of UndocuCarolina and work to generate a well-informed public dialogue on the topic of immigration and build a more inclusive and just community for all. In fall 2018, Sostaita and her collaborators received support from UNC’s Humanities for the Public Good Initiative to found UndocuCarolina, an initiative that works to increase visibility, support and resources for undocumented members of the Carolina Community. With renewed funding in 2019 and 2020, UndocuCarolina has conducted ally trainings, community roundtables and scholarly lectures. UndocuCarolina has educated thousands of students, administrators, staff, faculty and community members about the unique challenges of living while undocumented. Sostaita also led the creation of a new website,, which is now integrated into UNC’s Student Services platform. In sum, Sostaita has catalyzed the creation of a robust community of support for undocumented students, faculty and staff as well as for U.S. citizen students from mixed-status families. UndocuCarolina has been adopted by the Carolina Latinx Center and LatinxEd and will continue beyond Barbara’s spring 2021 graduation, thanks to her selfless commitment to the community.


Jones headshotDawna Jones, for leadership of the Carolina Black Caucus, the Chapel Hill-Carrboro NAACP and specifically the NAACP community transformation and civic engagement internship and work study program. In 2018, Jones was nominated by her peers to chair the Carolina Black Caucus, an affinity group created to engage, empower, celebrate and advocate for Black faculty, staff and students. Under her leadership, the CBC membership has grown by 87 percent. Furthermore, as chair of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro NAACP, Jones worked to form partnerships with EmPOWERment Inc. and UNC-Chapel Hill to create a leadership experience for UNC-Chapel Hill students. The result of those partnerships is known as the NAACP community transformation and civic engagement internship and work study program. This program enables six Carolina students to work with local community leaders, social justice activists and elected officials to help create and implement the strategic plan of the local NAACP in response to social justice issues and disparities in the Chapel Hill-Carrboro community. In its inaugural phase, student participants produced 20 policy briefings detailing current events, legislation and/or social justice advocacy issues, proposed actions for the NAACP and compiled research on what populations are most impacted. A sampling of projects tackled by students in the program: a social media campaign on the impacts of student loan debt on members of the Black community, an analysis of issues impacting mobile home park residents from an affordable housing and education standpoint, an analysis of the new presidential administration’s policy proposals and executive orders in relation to issues and concerns of people of color and a COVID-19 vaccination education panel. None of this would have been possible without Jones’ leadership.


Tufts headshotShannon Tufts, for direction of the Center for Public Technology (CPT) and specifically work on the Public Sector Cybersecurity Response Teams. Tufts has spent the last two decades addressing the needs of information technology professionals working in local and state government. The CPT was founded in 2000, and through that organization Tufts has worked closely with the North Carolina Local Government Information Systems Association to provide collaborative educational opportunities for government IT officials, with the goal of strengthening North Carolina communities through the appropriate use of information technology. Early on in her time at Carolina, Tufts also designed and implemented the first local government Certified Government Chief Information Officers (CGCIO™) program in the United States and continues to run CGCIO™ programs for local government, state agency, K-12 and community college IT professionals across the United States. The various CGCIO™ programs have graduated hundreds of IT professionals across the country. Tufts additionally teaches courses on public sector information systems, including IT investment strategies, embracing technology, project management and stakeholder engagement in technology-enabled government. She teaches as a core faculty member in the UNC Master of Public Administration program and serves on several federal, state and local government committees to promote the effective use of technology in the public sector.


Carolina COVID-19 Student Services Corps (CSSC), for serving as a centralized organizational structure at UNC-Chapel Hill that facilitates coordination across various academic and healthcare sectors to mitigate challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic. This award was accepted by student leaders Katelyn Nicholson, Manas Tiwari and Emily Draper. CCSC was founded as an officially recognized student organization in the fall of 2020. With oversight from the Office of Interprofessional Education and Practice, CSSC partnered with Carolina Center for Public Service (Buckley Public Service Scholars), Heel Life, UNC administration and the School of Medicine to identify volunteer and service-learning activities across the UNC-CH campus in order to provide support during the COVID-19 pandemic. Through CCSC, more than 900 undergraduate and graduate student volunteers have led and served in roles at the asymptomatic testing centers, contact tracing, communication, data analysis, peer support and engagement. CSSC has ultimately built a network that increased the capability and capacity of UNC-Chapel Hill to connect students with volunteer opportunities that were especially challenging to find during the pandemic, and formed partnerships with existing networks to benefit the Carolina community. In the organization’s first month, students served more than 5,000 hours of their time. The student leaders of CSSC have built a sense of community during this unprecedented time.



About the Carolina Center for Public Service

CCPS is a pan-University unit that engages and supports the faculty, students and staff of UNC-Chapel Hill in meeting the needs of North Carolina and beyond. For the past 21 years, the Center has strengthened the University’s public service commitment by promoting scholarship and service that are responsive to the concerns of the state and contribute to the common good.

Comments are closed.