A University of Montana professor is the 2016 recipient of the Thomas Ehrlich Civically Engaged Faculty Award, bestowed by Campus Compact, a national network of colleges and universities dedicated to advancing the public purposes of higher education by deepening their ability to improve community life and educate students for civic and social responsibility.
Robin Saha, University of Montana associate professor of environmental studies, was selected for his exemplary leadership in student civic learning and conducting community-based research, fostering reciprocal partnerships, building institutional commitments to engagement and enhancing higher education’s contribution.
The award is named in honor of Thomas Ehrlich, former chair of the Campus Compact board of directors and president emeritus of Indiana University, and is generously sponsored by the KPMG Foundation.“Campus Compact’s programs and thought leadership continue to advance progress in pursuit of higher education’s public purposes,” said Bernard Milano, KPMG Foundation president. “We applaud their work and the work of their member campuses, the best of which is exemplified by the 2016 Ehrlich Award winner, Dr. Saha.”
Saha’s deeply engaged scholarship intersects environmental justice and health policy, emphasizing advocacy for marginalized communities. His nationally recognized work shed light on the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, and has been cited in Fortune Magazine, the Boston Globe and Huffington Post. He also has been recognized for his local, community-based participatory research involving the empowerment of disenfranchised communities to take active roles in data collection and advocacy to achieve significant environmental management improvements.
In addition to being a leading scholar in the environmental justice movement, Saha has spent his career integrating partnerships into his teaching, research and community activism. He consistently engages his students in real-world environmental problems and connects them with affected communities.
“In my experience, civic engagement makes all types of academic endeavors – whether in teaching and learning or carrying out research – relevant and meaningful to all involved,” Saha said. “I especially enjoy enhancing the capacity and commitment of students, our future leaders, and community and university partners to work collaboratively to effect positive and lasting change.”
Beyond his work in the classroom, Saha also advocates for the importance of community-engaged scholarship within the Montana University System. He strives to create opportunities for both faculty and students to promote community engagement, including being a founding member of UM’s Service Learning Advisory Board, as well as being involved in the creation of UM’s climate change studies minor, which is known for its engaged curriculum.
“Robin is an incredibly insightful and community-engaged professor,” said Andrea Vernon, Montana Campus Compact executive director and UM academic enrichment and civic engagement director. “His research and teaching and the work of his students have had profound impacts on the health and well-being of people in the most rural and underserved areas of Montana.”
Vernon said Saha also contributes to the leadership and development of community engaged scholarship throughout the state and beyond by inspiring and supporting colleagues to do this work.
“Professor Saha demonstrates every day that there need be no distinction among teaching, research and service to the public,” said Andrew Seligsohn, Campus Compact president. “His scholarly practice engages students and community members in knowledge creation and action to challenge environmental injustice and produce a more equitable society. We can all learn from Professor Saha’s career.”
The award is bestowed annually to recognize one faculty member and up to four finalists for exemplary leadership in advancing student civic learning, conducting community-based research, fostering reciprocal partnerships, building institutional commitments to engagement, and enhancing higher education’s contributions to the public good.