Community Engagement

January 17, 2024

Faculty and Staff Across the UW’s Three Campuses Begin Collaborating to Improve Community-Engaged Scholarship and Learning

Officially kicking off at the start of winter quarter 2024, twelve faculty and staff from Bothell, Seattle, and Tacoma campuses will collectively tackle key infrastructure priorities for community engaged research and learning at the University of Washington. Stemming from the tri-campus capacity-building effort launched in 2022, these Community Engagement Leads will work within and among campuses to assess, evaluate, and build community engagement supports for faculty, staff, students, and community partners.



Building on each campus’ comprehensive assessments of community engagement through the Carnegie Foundation, which led to each campus’ successful classification as Community-Engaged Campuses in 2020, the UW continues to grow our collective abilities to partner effectively and equitably in community. In recognition of the potential of this collective work as the core to an “impact ecosystem”, in 2022 President Cauce directed resources toward improving tri-campus community engagement infrastructure. Supported by a generous anonymous gift, the goal of this tri-campus effort is to catalyze measurable, positive progress across the University of Washington toward deeper, ethical and effective community engagement by building organizational capacities that support, improve, and celebrate community engaged work. In fall 2022 a tri-campus Community Engagement Working Group was charged to synthesize existing understanding of campus and university infrastructure, develop strategies and recommend priorities and processes toward that goal. Over the first half of 2023 the Working Group laid some groundwork for strategically investing resources to build capacity for community engagement, in alignment with existing campus and institutional capacities, priorities, and needs. (See an overview of this effort (PDF).) In spring 2023 President Cauce approved initial priorities and allocated funds to build foundational infrastructure and set the stage for additional capacity-building. The initial priorities for community engagement infrastructure to be addressed through this funding include:

  • Develop community engagement best principles and blueprints in alignment with diversity, equity, and inclusion
  • Support or incorporate community engagement in campus-scale strategies and planning
  • Remove fiscal policy/process barriers to community engagement
  • Improve data collection (tracking, mapping, documentation) and analysis (assessment, evaluation) of community engagement
  • Support faculty and staff community engagement by developing and expanding resources for professional development, promotion and tenure, and other supports
  • Grow student community engagement training and professional development opportunities
  • Build appropriate tri-campus institutional efficiencies and coordination of community engagement to center the benefits to community partners.

To address these priorities, funds were directed toward supporting faculty and staff community engagement leadership positions at each of the three campuses. These positions will work together closely throughout most of 2024 to make progress on these key infrastructure needs, while engaging with broader UW and external community partners.


Meet the Community Engagement Leads

The Bothell Campus has welcomed three individuals into Community Engagement Lead roles: Kara Adams, Mabel C. Ezeonwu, and Paola Rodríguez Hidalgo.


Kara Adams is the Director of Community Engagement and Strategic Partnerships, starting January 2024. In her most recent role as Director of Connected Learning at UW Bothell, Ms. Adams oversaw Community-Engaged Learning and Research, the Collaboratory, co-led the Digital Scholars program for pre-major first generation students, supported the development of student experiential programs, and managed budget and team administration. Prior to serving as the Director of Connected Learning, she was the Director of Community Engagement at UW Bothell and led the university through a multiyear, highly collaborative process to successfully receive the 2020 national Carnegie Community Engagement Classification. Ms. Adams has worked at UW Bothell for over 10 years. Prior to working at UW Bothell, she received a master’s degree in student development administration at Seattle University and worked at regional colleges and nonprofits supporting community-engaged programs.


Mabel C. Ezeonwu, PhD, ARNP, FNP-BC, is a Professor of Nursing and Health Studies at UW Bothell, and Adjunct Professor of Global Health at UW Seattle. She is also a board certified Advanced Registered Nurse Practitioner with a focus on primary care. She has expertise in nursing and global health curriculum development and implementation, and she teaches across undergraduate and graduate programs. Dr. Ezeonwu was the 2020 recipient of the prestigious UW Distinguished Teaching Award, and she is Chair of the Campus Council on Promotion and Tenure. Dr. Ezeonwu’s scholarship integrates global and local community health with emphasis on primary care and health care access issues. As an experienced clinician in maternal-infant care and primary care, she has passion for community-based interventions using community health education and collaborative partnerships as mechanisms for health promotion.


Paola Rodríguez Hidalgo is an Associate Professor of Physics and Astronomy  in the School of STEM. Dr. Rodríguez Hidalgo focuses on using spectroscopy to understand the Universe around us, especially, around supermassive black holes in the centers of massive galaxies where accretion disks are formed (a phenomenon called “Quasars”).  Her passion for education has led her to study the benefits of teaching using community-based learning approaches, with the goal of a more inclusive and diverse scientific community and a more scientifically literate citizenry. In particular, she works towards helping women and people of color sense they belong in STEM/STEAM and increasing the retention of minority populations in science.



The Seattle Campus has welcomed four faculty and one staff member into Community Engagement Lead roles: Catherine De Almeida, Michelle Habell-Pallán, Linda Ko, Michelle Koutnik, and Kathryn Pursch Cornforth.


Catherine De Almeida is an Associate Professor in the Department of Landscape Architecture. Since 2014, she has developed her design research, landscape lifecycles, in which she applies a material lifecycles lens to the inventory, analysis, and design of waste landscapes. Through her work, she emphasizes waste relations by illuminating the performance, visibility, citizenships, emotions, perceptions, attitudes, and injustices of waste materials and landscapes. Catherine is a certified remote drone pilot, a licensed landscape architect, an Honorary Member of the Tau Sigma Delta Honor Society in Architecture and Allied Arts, and a Fellow of Urban@UW, and is actively working with community groups in the Duwamish Valley to address toxic and non-toxic wastes.



Michelle Habell-Pallán is a Professor of Gender, Women & Sexuality Studies and the Director of the Certificate for Critical Race Public Scholarship. She is an adjunct Professor in Communication and the School of Music, and deeply engaged in developing public humanities projects. She served as guest curator of the award-winning bilingual traveling exhibit American Sabor:  U.S. Latinos in Popular Music/ Latinos y latinas en la musica popular estadounidense a collaboration between the University of Washington, The Experience Music Project Museum, and the Smithsonian Institution’s Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES). She is Co-Director of the digital-born, a collaborative endeavor that brings together scholars, musicians, media-makers, performers, artists, and activists to explore the role of women and popular music in the creation of cultural scenes and social justice movements in the Americas and beyond. UW Libraries Women Who Rock: Making Scenes, Building Communities Oral History Archive, a collaborative endeavor that brings together scholars, musicians, media-makers, performers, artists, and activists to explore the role of women and popular music in the creation of cultural scenes and social justice movements in the Americas and beyond. In addition, she is co-PI for Plurifeminisms Across Abya Yala, a research project bringing together scholars from across the Americas to advance scholarship on the ways Indigenous, Black, Chicanx, queer, and feminist scholars, artists, and activists weave music, art, and culture together with attention to institutional and structural formations to create more inclusive and just political frameworks across the region.


Linda Ko MPH, PhD, is Professor and Associate Chair of Research in the Department of Health Systems and Population Health. Dr. Ko is also the Co-Director of the Community Engagement Program at the UW Institute of Translational Health Sciences and the leader of the Outreach, Recruitment, and Engagement Core at the UW Alzheimers Disease Research Center.  She has a broad background in behavioral science with specific training and expertise in behavioral interventions, dissemination and implementation science, and health disparities and applies community-based participatory research approach. She has led and participated in multiple NIH-and CDC-funded studies to promote health equity among minoritized and immigrant communities. She is currently the Principal Investigator on multiple projects. Her multi-cultural/multi-lingual research team has been partnering with the community in Washington State for the past 12 years. She believes community-academic partnership is essential to ensure scientific discoveries benefit all communities equitably and accelerate the translation of research discoveries for public use.


Michelle Koutnik is Associate Research Professor in the Department of Earth and Space Sciences in the College of the Environment. Dr. Koutnik is a glaciologist whose research interests include the dynamics of glacier change, the evolution of glaciers and ice sheets over time, and also the history of climate and ice on Mars. Her work in Greenland and Antarctica involves geophysical data collection at polar field sites and numerical modeling informed by these data; this work is highly collaborative with the international ice and climate research communities. Dr. Koutnik teaches interdisciplinary undergraduate courses that address the impacts and responses of changes in Arctic ice. This includes leading a Study Abroad course to Greenland and Denmark for undergraduate students, contributing to the UW Arctic Initiative, and collaborating with partners at UW and community partners from across the Arctic to define priorities towards circumpolar civic education in the face of a changing Arctic.

Kathryn Pursch Cornforth is the Director of Community Engagement in the UW Community Engagement and Leadership Education (CELE) Center and has a deep history working in and alongside communities to craft learning experiences for undergraduate students; her teaching explores the ethics of community engagement and how experiential learning builds transferable skills. She is a child of the American South, though she has now lived in Washington longer than her native Texas. Kathryn holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in English and Communication from Southwestern University and Masters of Education from the University of Washington. She has been working in community engagement at the UW since 2007.



The Tacoma Campus has welcomed 4 faculty members into Community Engagement Lead roles: Janelle Hawes, Mark Pagano, Duong (Rita) Than, and Anaid Yerena. In addition, the Tacoma campus will be bringing on a Community Engagement Lead staff in the coming weeks.


Janelle Hawes is an Assistant Professor of Social Work and Criminal Justice. Her research investigates the effects of success and failure in school and its connection to criminality in adulthood. She pays special attention to how pathways to crime are shaped by race and gender. Her other research areas include the intersection of mental health and the criminal justice system and alternatives to incarceration in Washington state. She particularly enjoys bringing this area of research into her classroom in the form of an applied project in which students research and take on the roles of various community leaders and collaborate to design an alternative incarceration program for individuals whose crimes are related to mental health. These projects are always encouraging, as they show the innovation and social justice passion of UWT’s students, which they will undoubtedly carry forth to their future careers, benefiting the community.


Mark Pagano is a Professor of Mechanical Engineering. Dr. Pagano joined UW Tacoma in 2015 as the 6th Chancellor of the campus. In this role he championed UW Tacoma’s urban-serving mission through the establishment of Charting our Course, the campus’s 2016-2021 Strategic Plan. He worked to expand access to higher education in the South Puget Sound and has helped expand the portfolio of high demand STEM programs available in the region, such as BS degrees in Electrical, Civil and Mechanical Engineering, an MS in Electrical Engineering and a Ph.D. in Computer Science. After stepping down, Dr. Pagano has been serving with the Mechanical Engineering Faculty. He is a recipient of the Ben Spark’s Medal in ASME which recognizes significant accomplishments in mechanical engineering education and service over an extended period of time ,as well as receiving the National ASEE James H. McGraw Award for outstanding contributions to engineering technology education.


Duong (Rita) Than is an Associate Teaching Professor of Statistics and Mathematics. Ms. Than emphasizes diverse teaching techniques, integrating traditional lectures with interactive activities and engaging math games in her classroom. Her scholarly focus emphasizes creating inclusive learning environments, evident in initiatives like flipped classrooms, project-based learning, mastery-based grading, and creating an interdisciplinary math and personal finance course. In community engagement, she actively involves in Tacoma’s math-related activities, securing grants for hosting Tacoma Math festivals. These events establish connections with community partners and acquaint parents and young children with inventive math games and activities, fostering a positive attitude towards learning mathematics.


Anaid Yerena is an Associate Professor of Urban Studies. Her research interests include housing and community development in the U.S. and Mexico, advocacy organizations, social inequality, and urban governance. Her work investigates the factors influencing local affordable housing policies and practices with a special interest in the impact of community organizations on public decision-making processes. As secondary areas of research, she is interested in the emerging field of e-government and community engagement in the use/design of public spaces. Her previous work was published in Urban Affairs Review, Housing Policy Debate and Housing Studies.


These Faculty and Staff Community Engagement Leads will work together on multiple priorities for increasing the UW’s ability to ethically, equitably, and effectively partner with communities—from local to global. Over the coming months, working in teams, the Community Engagement Leads will be engaging with campuses and community partners as they build new knowledge and resources toward this goal. The Community Engagement Leads will be building on the work of the Community Engagement Working Group, who have been working together for over a year. Appreciation goes toward each of these members, who will continue to liaise with the Community Engagement Leads as well as to lead the overall tri-campus initiative.


Stay informed

If you’d like to learn more about this project, please reach out to Jen Davison, Project Director, Community Engagement, at