Business & Society

Utah State University Awards Community Engagement Champions for 2023

People who have contributed to Utah State University’s efforts to strengthen communities were recognized during the Center for Community Engagement’s Annual Awards Ceremony on Wednesday.

During the ceremony, the USU Presidential Awards for Community Engagement and the Ivory Prize for Excellence in Community Engagement were presented.

Each year, USU recognizes the work of outstanding faculty, staff, students, partners and alumni that exemplifies collaboration between USU and the greater community and demonstrates ongoing commitment to community engagement and positive social change.

Presidential Awards

Jayme Walters received the Community-Engaged Faculty Presidential Award for her outstanding leadership with Transforming Communities Institute, Community-Engaged Research, and the W.A.B. Warming Center.

“Working side-by-side with community members on real problems, developing solutions, and making a measurable impact provide our students with invaluable experiences, skills, and confidence they will take into practice,” Walters said.

Mary Heers received the Community-Engaged Alumnus Presidential Award. As a non-traditional student, Mary graduated from the Caine College of the Arts with a theatre arts emphasis in 1986. Mary was awarded for her extensive volunteer work with Utah Public Radio, bringing community together through programs such as StoryCorps and Wild About Utah.

“I believe telling each other our stories helps bind us together as a community,” Heers said. “Each story I write is a journey of learning. I go. I listen. I learn. Then I come and write the best parts down. Radio lets me share this journey with the community. For me, sharing stories is an act of love.”

Science Unwrapped received the Committed Community Partner Presidential Award. The mission of Science Unwrapped is to demystify or "unwrap" science, technology, engineering and math and engage Cache Valley in the excitement of science learning.

“We face many global challenges that require accurate and swift access to scientific knowledge, and we need to empower people to seek this knowledge,” said Science Unwrapped Chair Greg Podgorski. “Engaging the local community is an amazing team effort involving our committee, speakers, volunteers, and attendees.”

Zoyee Thomas received the Community-Engaged Student Presidential Award. This winter, Zoyee completed over 400 hours of service with the W.A.B. Warming Center, a new organization providing shelter during the winter months for individuals experiencing homelessness in Cache County. Zoyee was a critical member of the on-site leadership team. Every week, she served many hours supervising volunteers, serving guests, and coordinating laundry.

“In community-engaged work, the end goals can change and evolve, and it’s the experiences you gain on the journey that often have the greatest impact on community.”

Shonna Hemmis received the Community-Engaged Staff Presidential Award. Since 2014, Shonna has been a key player in the national service world at USU. Shonna started her service at USU as an AmeriCorps VISTA member at Wilson Elementary School with the Public and School Partnership. In subsequent years, Shonna moved up to VISTA Leader and program coordinator positions for PSP and assumed the director position in 2019. Before her time at USU, Shonna was a youth development coordinator in Cameroon for the United States Peace Corps.

“It's important for me to engage with and serve in the greater community because I truly believe that all community members should have opportunities to find and feel community in Cache Valley,” Hemmis said.

Ivory Prize for Excellence in Community Engagement Awarded to Danielle Berger

The Ivory Prize for Excellence in Community Engagement, generously funded by the Clark & Christine Ivory Foundation, recognizes extraordinary, influential student accomplishments in community engagement. The prize provides a $2,000 scholarship for the recipient and an additional $10,000 to be invested in a program or effort developed and implemented by the recipients.

This year, the Ivory Prize was awarded to Danielle Berger for her development of the Hope Community Garden. The garden will help feed hungry families in Cache County by providing a source of anonymous food aid, a current service gap that may be preventing food insecure individuals from seeking assistance. The community garden will also provide a welcoming outdoor space that fosters connection among community members and serves as an example of green stewardship in Cache Valley.

Established in 2013, the USU Center for Community Engagement is a department within Student Affairs whose mission is to empower students to explore civic identity, develop leadership skills, and address community-identified needs, locally and around the world.

More information on USU Center for Community Engagement can be found at

Danielle Berger

Jayme Walters

Mary Heers

Shonna Hemmis

Zoyee Thomas

The Science Unwrapped Committee.


Kate Stephens
Associate Director
USU Center for Community Engagement


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