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Sandy Pope

SU's PACE Earns Excellence and Innovation 'We the People' Award

SALISBURY, MD---When Dr. Sandy Pope was asked to take over as co-director of Salisbury University’s Institute for Public Affairs and Civic Engagement (PACE) in 2015, he hoped to heighten enthusiasm in the program and help not just the SU community, but those in the greater Salisbury area and the Eastern Shore as a whole.

PACE has grown beyond far beyond that expectation, leading SU to earn the prestigious Carnegie Community Engagement Classification from the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching in 2020.

In recognition of its many achievements, the American Democracy Project (ADP), a division of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASC&U), recently announced PACE as its 2023 Excellence and Innovation “We the People” Award recipient. The accolade honored the institute for “its outstanding results and potential to influence and serve as a model for other institutions.”

“Salisbury University is not a self-contained entity. We share so much of our culture, including civic engagement, with others throughout the Eastern Shore,” said SU President Dr. Carolyn Ringer Lepre. “Through its ShoreCorps / AmeriCorps and Presidential Citizen Scholars programs, and many other outreach initiatives, PACE is at the forefront of these efforts. This well-deserved award underscores the importance of civic learning through community engagement, the cornerstone of PACE’s philosophy.”

“This is an award that is chosen by people who are also doing this work,” said Pope, who continues his role as the director of PACE. “The award tells us that we are doing this as well as any other campus in the country, which is always nice, to have validation from your peers.”    

The AASC&U honor recognizes strategic plans and teams dedicated to advancing civic learning and engagement. A collaborative, campus-wide effort has made this commitment especially effective at SU.

Partnerships across campus, including a key connection with the Interdisciplinary Studies Department, have allowed PACE to grow its offerings efficiently while continuing to make a big impact on students and the region.

“Community engagement has come through strategic investments and careful shepherding of limited resources, especially those prioritizing high-impact engagement programs that build on our many partnerships with the community,” said Pope. “We have learned to be efficient and work together.”

Just as importantly, PACE has established a reputation as a reliable ally to those on and off campus.

“SU trusts PACE with the oversight and management of the civic and community engagement course requirement in the new general education program,” said Pope. “Two of the largest community groups in the area — the Community Foundation of the Eastern Shore and United Way of the Lower Eastern Shore — trust PACE as a partner in hosting the annual 120-person Nonprofit Summit conference.

“Elected officials trust PACE, with a recent mayor of Snow Hill (MD) and county executive of Wicomico County launching their campaigns through a training program hosted in partnership with the Salisbury Area Chamber of Commerce and the Greater Salisbury Committee. Students also trust PACE, with more than 1,500 touching at least one program each year.”

That reputation continues at the national level. The American Democracy Project also has recognized the generosity of Pope and others for consistently sharing their work and findings with the larger ADP network to build a stronger movement for how to institutionalize civic engagement work throughout the U.S.

For more information on PACE visit its webpage.

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