Monica Kowal
Monica Kowal, associate dean of the newly designated Office of Community Engaged Learning & Research (CELR).

Monica Kowal has been named Associate Dean of the newly designated Office of Community Engaged Learning & Research (CELR) in University of New Mexico’s University College. Formerly the Research Service-Learning Program, CELR will serve as an interdisciplinary, university-wide office committed to supporting community engaged scholarship and teaching.

Kowal was formerly a lecturer in the Professional Writing Program in the UNM Department of English Language and Literature. She succeeds Dan Young, who retired from the Research Service-Learning Program in June.

The mission of CELR will be to foster quality experiential learning opportunities for students, support faculty with their community-based teaching and scholarship, and facilitate mutually beneficial campus-community partnerships. One initial goal is to work with UNM academic departments to increase the number and quality of service-learning course offerings in all disciplines across campus and support faculty as they work to incorporate service-learning and community based research courses in undergraduate education, from freshman gateway courses to senior capstones. This will include devising a mechanism for designating and identifying courses that are service-learning (SL) or community-based research (CBR) courses and recommend them as options for students.

“We are so thrilled to have Monica join our team in University College,” said Kate Krause, Dean of University College and Honors College. ”UC strives to provide innovative, interdisciplinary curriculum by working with departments throughout campus. The CELR fits this mission perfectly and is a natural extension and expansion of the valuable work done by our Research Service-Learning Program.”

"UNM faculty, staff and students are already doing amazing things in our community," Kowal said. "The goal of CELR is to further that public work by providing resources and eliminating barriers to implementing service-learning projects that promote student learning and address compelling needs in Albuquerque and beyond."

CELR will also partner with Aeron Haynie, executive director of the Center for Teaching and Learning, to offer workshops on service-learning curriculum and course design to support faculty interested in or already doing community engaged teaching. Additionally, Kowal and Haynie aim to establish a Service-Learning Faculty Fellows Program, a unique professional development and research opportunity designed for faculty who are interested in studying service-learning pedagogy in-depth and developing new courses or changing existing courses to focus on community-engaged teaching.

The Service-Learning Fellows Program, which will put out a call for applicants later this year, will provide a theoretical framework for the pedagogy and process of integrating service-learning into new or existing courses and broader academic program, and provide resources and support to faculty as they make service-learning an integral part of their teaching, research and professional service.

"These types of partnerships and activities contribute to student learning, advance faculty research and teaching, support outreach programs across the University and positively contribute to Albuquerque and New Mexico communities," Kowal said. "To do this, however, means that policies and procedures related to community engaged teaching and research have to be developed. Things like memoranda of understanding and student and community partner orientations are just a few examples of what CELR plans to develop over the next couple of years." 

Kowal has already established a new Service-Learning Advisory Board (SLAB), comprised of UNM faculty and staff, to develop recommendations for strengthening service-based learning opportunities integrated with academic instruction. SLAB will provide guidance by facilitating discussion, gathering relevant data, recognizing achievement and promoting best-practices in individual courses and degree programs that choose to integrate service-learning or community-based research into the student experience. 

"UNM faculty, staff and students are already doing amazing things in our community," Kowal said. "The goal of CELR is to further that public work by providing resources and eliminating barriers to implementing service-learning projects that promote student learning and address compelling needs in Albuquerque and beyond.

Kowal will also continue her work as Strategic Planner for Community Engagement in the Office of the Provost, where she collaborates with units across all campuses to track and monitor UNM’s community engagement activities and measure impact.

Kowal will deliver a presentation, “The Scholarship of Engagement: The Practice, Process, and Products of Community-Engaged Scholarship,” on Tuesday, Sept. 15 at 10 a.m. at the Center for Teaching Excellence, University Advisement and Enrichment Center, Room B20. To register, visit: CTE’s Events.

Kowal is a UNM alumna, graduating in 1993 with a bachelor's in English. She holds a doctorate in Curriculum & Instruction from New Mexico State University and her research interests include the institutionalization and sustainability of university community engagement programs, faculty roles and rewards related to community engaged scholarship, university-community partnerships, experiential education, civic engagement and service-learning theory and practice.

Prior to teaching, Kowal was a journalist for 12 years, including eight years working in New York City for Reuters International News Service as a financial journalist and for The Associated Press as National Photo Editor. 

For more information, call the Office for Community Engaged Learning & Research at (505) 277-3355.