Dr. Alysa Handelsman arrived on the Wofford campus four years ago with a mission: To teach students the value of service, leadership and community engagement by creating community-based learning and research opportunities across her anthropology courses.
Last summer, Handelsman and a group of Wofford students, in collaboration with Dr. Jennifer Bradham, assistant professor of environmental studies, and neighborhood leaders, canvassed the Una, Saxon and Arcadia neighborhoods in Spartanburg County to identify and map abandoned and condemned properties. They presented their findings to Spartanburg County Council, which is now using their research to create a revitalization plan and will spend $1 million to demolish some of the buildings.
Results like that are one reason Handelsman, assistant professor of sociology and anthropology, has been named Wofford’s winner of the first Sullivan Foundation Award. The award, created to celebrate the foundation’s 100th anniversary, recognizes a faculty or staff member who has “worked diligently with students to teach concepts of service, leadership, community engagement, and innovation and entrepreneurship in addressing community problems.”
She will receive the award at the first Sullivan Showcase, which will be held Friday night (March 24) in Charlotte, North Carolina.
“This award recognizes the collaborative work we’re doing with the backing of the provost and the president,” Handelsman says. “It shows how community-based learning and the research that students, community partners, other faculty and I are engaged in remain a part of the Wofford vision. I’m honored and excited that our collaborative, bridge-building work is being recognized and supported.”
Handelsman was nominated by President Nayef Samhat.
“Since joining the faculty four years ago, Dr. Handelsman has been actively committed to teaching and mentoring students, staff and her faculty colleagues on the value of being an active servant leader,” Samhat wrote in his nomination letter.
In addition to leading research projects in the community, Handelsman teaches a community sustainability seminar. The seminar requires students to take on collaborative community-based learning projects. With community partners, students work either to design or implement programming or to support and further develop existing programming and initiatives across Spartanburg’s neighborhoods.
“This award is an acknowledgement of the enormous amount of work she has done since she arrived on our campus,” says Dr. Timothy Schmitz, Wofford’s provost. “She is completely dedicated to it and is extremely interested in maintaining the connections she has already established while creating more. Her commitment is impressive and her sense of obligation to our community partners is admirable. I can’t imagine anyone more deserving.”