Recognizing faculty partnerships with community.

Each year, UW Tacoma examines faculty members to identify up to three individuals who have taken significant strides to provide innovative community-based work and recognize them with the Distinguished Community Engagement Award. 

A variety of criteria are considered for the recipients of this award. An applicant’s work may be long term or short term with a single or multiple partners on various subjects. However, the actions must have taken place in the last three years, and an ethical mutual benefit is expected in such work between the public community and the university’s community. 

2020 marks the seventh year presenting the award. The application and nomination process for this year’s recipient is currently underway. Students, staff and faculty can nominate who they deem to have merit. Self nominations are also accepted. The deadline for submissions for this year’s award is Jan. 17.

In 2019, there were two recipients of the award: Dr. Michelle Montgomery and Dr. Turan Kayaoglu.

Montgomery was recognized for their strides in building relationships between multiple sectors and geographies. They are committed towards increasing collective knowledge of histories, cultures and political struggles of indigiousnes populations. 

“Being a brown, Indigenous women … educator and scholar that navigates the institutional racialized realities of power and privilege with over twenty years of experience … I was truly grateful and astounded to be acknowledged as a valued Indigenous faculty member of urban serving community,” Montogomery said.

Montgomery is an enrolled member of the Haliwa Saponi and descendant of Eastern Band Cherokee.Their successes include collaborations with Tribal Colleges and Universities, Indigenous pedagogy through the lens of Eco-Critical Race Theory. They are the advisor for the Indigenous Climate Change Work group and committee member for Rising Voices of Indigenous People in Climate Science, providing a indigenious, multi generation decolonized platform to share resources that interconnects our identities to nature.

“As a Critical Race Theorist, race is seen as a social construction, but it is also understood to have very real effects that are cultural, psychological, and material,” Montgomery said. “Hence,

it is important to focus on curriculum, community partnerships and pedagogy. If an urban serving university wishes to meet the needs of a diverse body of students and communities, then such populations should have positive, empowering experiences in their classes and transparent, ethical partnerships.”

Kayaoglu’s engagement with the community primarily focuses on bringing understanding and awareness to global issues as well. They are dedicated to promoting tolerance, creating support and dialogue for Muslim communities that is both inter-faith and inter-cultural.

Kayaoglu collaborated with Tacoma’s Muslim community to bring speakers to class. They are a faculty adviser for the UWT’s Muslim Student Association and was vice president of World Affair’s Conciel for many years. Under his term with WAC, he provided quarterly World Classroom events. They also writes articles challenging American Muslims to combat anti-semitism in their community.

“After accepting my position at UW Tacoma in 2005, I immediately engaged in building a stronger, Muslim community on campus and beyond,” said Kayaoglu. “I stepped up as a Muslim partner in Tacoma’s interfaith coalition in order to advance religious freedom and tolerance in the South Sound.”

Kayaoglu also worked besides the Associated Ministries of Pierce County, the University of Puget Sound, and the Pacifica Institute to establish Tacoma’s first interfaith iftar. Iftar is known as the dinner after sunset that breaks the fast during the first month of ramadan.

“As a catalyst for building community and connecting individuals and institutions inlasting interfaith coalitions, I know that these gatherings will continue to impact the greater Tacoma community for years to come,” said Kayaoglu.

To submit a nomination and find application requirements go to