2022 Community Engagement Awards

Each year, Duke Civic Engagement recognizes one Duke student and one Duke employee for outstanding commitment to community engagement. These individuals have worked collaboratively with local organizers and nonprofits to build capacity and to strive for a more equitable community. Both of their efforts have been grounded in a desire to be responsive to community concerns and have been defined by their thoughtful partnership with others. Duke Civic Engagement awards the 2022 Lars Lyon Volunteer Service Award to Emily Gitlin and the 2022 Duke Employee Community Service Award to Shana McAlexander.

2022 Lars Lyon Volunteer Service Award: Emily Gitlin

In June 2020, Emily Gitlin started supporting the Hypertension Outreach project within the Lincoln Community Health Center. This was the beginning of a relationship that would grow. A rising senior, Emily is poised to earn a Bachelor of Arts in Global Health and a Bachelor of Science in Psychology. She has a heart for community service and public health which is illustrated by her myriad involvements including the Lincoln Community Health Center, The Women’s Institute for Secondary Education and Research (WISER), Duke Partnership for Service, GlobeMed, and the Duke Global Health Institute, all of which she contributed to through long-term projects and initiatives.

As an assistant for the Lincoln Community Health Center’s Hypertension Outreach project, Emily was part of the telephonic outreach to a low-resourced population of Black men whose last blood pressure readings indicated severe hypertension. As a volunteer, she called patients to provide information on how to improve blood pressure, and she also connected them to social services as needed. In her work, she established sustained relationships with over 20 patients. In Fall of 2021, she returned to the project and agreed to mentor new student volunteers who were joining the Hypertension Outreach team. Over the summer of 2021, Emily served as a full-time intern in the organization through the Federally Qualified Health Center. There she supported many areas, such as the COVID vaccine clinic and preventive health screenings. Her work was especially important to patients who were unable to access healthcare during the pandemic. Emily’s work with the Lincoln Community Health Center is a wonderful example of partnering with a local organization – she showed up consistently, listened to understand the work, and then used her talents to accomplish tasks and increase the Health Center’s capacity for service. The Durham community received greater access to healthcare due the efforts of all of Lincoln’s committed staff, and Emily’s dedicated support helped expand their impact even further.   

Dr. Holly Biola from the Lincoln Community Health Center notes that “[Emily] clearly has a commitment to service and has amazing skills and bedside manner…” She emphasized Emily’s long-standing involvement in the center, expanding beyond the initial bounds of course work and into a truly supportive leadership role. Dr. Biola described Emily working with patients as “insightful”, “compassionate”, and having “perseverance”. She stated, “The world would benefit from her going into a career in public health as she has told me she intends to do.” For her demonstrated commitment to reciprocal partnership and impactful community engagement, Emily will receive the 2022 Lars Lyon Volunteer Service Award, an annual award established in 1989 as a way to honor the life and values of Lars Lyon, a Duke undergraduate student known for his generous spirit who passed away at the age of 21 after a battle with cancer. The award grants a $14,000 partial scholarship towards Duke tuition for the 2022-23 academic year.

2022 Duke Employee Community Service Award: Shana McAlexander

Throughout the 2021-2022 school year, Shana Lee McAlexander has served as the Student Action Board (SAB) advisor for the Triangle Nonprofit & Volunteer Leadership Center (TNVLC). The SAB is a team of local high school students in grades 10-12 who work together to design and implement community engagement projects throughout the year, responding to identified community priorities and fostering partnerships with local nonprofits. Through participation in the SAB, students learn about their own leadership styles, develop key project management skills, and build a sense of community with peers from across the region.

As their advisor, Shana has provided the support and guidance necessary for this program and its participants to thrive. She has shown a deep dedication to working with TNVLC staff to ensure she is providing the most enriching experience possible. Her nominator, Becca Fiely, Development & Community Outreach Manager at TNVLC, shares that “Shana has been an incredible force in SAB… She shows an enthusiastic dedication to the students and the work they’re doing and an overarching commitment to the student’s success.”

At Duke, Shana is an associate director in the Pratt School of Engineering, where she leads grant operations for the Harnessing AI for Understanding & Designing Materials (aiM) Program, a Research Traineeship program supported by the National Science Foundation. In honor of Shana’s community engagement efforts, Duke Civic Engagement is donating $200 to The Triangle Nonprofit & Volunteer Leadership Center, whose mission is to make a difference by strengthening nonprofits and engaging volunteers.