Written by: Sophie Steidle ‘25, Pace Center Student Correspondent; Elsie M. Sheidler, Senior Associate Director
Photography: Dan Komoda
John H. Pace, Jr. ’39 Center for Civic Engagement honored two students with the A. James Fisher Jr. ‘36 Memorial Award and one community partner and one faculty member with the Community Engagement Award in recognition of their commitment and dedication to service and civic engagement. On November 8, members of the Princeton University community and guests of the honorees gathered on-campus for a luncheon to recognize and celebrate the contributions of the four honorees and their long-standing commitment to service and the community.
Given in honor of A. James Fisher, Jr ‘36, the Fisher Award is awarded to Princeton University students who have demonstrated an entrepreneurial spirit, a zest for life, a love of people, and a loyalty to Princeton. The Fisher Award was presented to seniors Alison Parish ‘24 and Isabella Shutt ‘24. The Community Engagement Award is presented to community partners and Princeton University faculty and administrators who exemplify a commitment to service that inspires others to respond to the needs of the community. The Community Engagement Awards were presented to Eleanor Letcher, Executive Director of CONTACT of Mercer County NJ, and Dr. Alberto Bruzos Moro, faculty member in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese.
In her welcome to the Fisher Award and Community Engagement Award guests, Pace Center Executive Director, Kimberly de los Santos emphasized the value of community to service, stating, “... I also want to recognize each of you. You are a part of this community. You are citizens of Princeton. Service can be invisible sometimes; and events like this help us to see fellow citizens and honor our relationships to each other, and the good work being done.” Each honoree was introduced by a Princeton University staff member and presented a framed certificate commemorating their service accomplishments and contributions to the community.
Adding to the festivities was Tyler Michael, a junior from Trenton Central High School who provided musical background. Michael is a member of the marching band and the orchestra at his high school and is an active and engaged member of Princeton University’s Trenton Arts at Princeton program.
Fisher Award Student Honorees
Alison Parish ‘24
Alison Parish is a senior in the Department of Anthropology and from the Bronx, New York. Parish, who participated in the Novogratz Bridge Year Senegal program, was recognized for her entrepreneurial spirit in her sustained work with Nu Jange Ci, a Senegal-based program dedicated to providing experiential learning opportunities for local youth. Her initiative and motivation to create social media campaigns, build a website, and spearhead crowdfunding initiatives were instrumental in promoting and engaging others with the program. As Jenny Wagner, Pace Center Assistant Director for Internships, noted in her introduction of Alison, “... Alison’s entrepreneurial spirit and love for the homestay community in Senegal made her one of the key players in Nu Jange Ci’s success … the relationships she built in Senegal have carried forward into her study of French and anthropology, her research in West African immigrant communities and her passion for improving healthcare experiences of historically marginalized groups.”
As a student, Parish has been a Butler College RCA and head fellow. She has been a member of the Disability Task Force and has served as a member of Princeton’s diSiac Dance Company. When asked about receiving the Fisher Award, Parish emphasized the importance of giving back to the community, “…I think it’s about all the people who have really supported and invested in me. I know that in order to do service work, it’s really a holistic community process. And so I recognize that even though I’m winning this award there are so many people both in this room and not in this room who I would say have contributed just as much to all the projects as I have.”
After Princeton, Parish plans on attending Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and is looking into various fellowship programs. She has applied to Fulbright France as an English teaching assistant and is hoping to engage in the French community while continuing to participate in service given her interest in medicine. “I really see my plans post-Princeton figuring out how to connect my anthropological interest…to provide better quality patient care and patient service, especially for underrepresented and under-resourced areas.”
Isabella Shutt ‘24
Isabella Shutt is a senior in the School of Public and International Affairs, receiving a certificate in African American studies. From a small town in western North Carolina, Shutt was recognized for her exceptional contributions to the community and her selfless acts of service. Introduced by Melissa Mercuro, Associate Director in the Office of Community and Regional Affairs, Mercuro described how, “... Isabella describes herself as the ‘connective tissue’. Whether it’s connecting people, ideas or funding opportunities, Isabella uses her skills and love of people to bring communities together.” Shutt collaborated with the Princeton Arts Council to conceive of Porchfest, an initiative to connect campus and community through live local music offered on porches throughout the town of Princeton. To get more students aware of the Campus Farmers Market, Shutt came up with the idea of handing out $5 coupons that students could use to make purchases at the weekly market, drawing hundreds of students to the market.
Shutt has contributed to campus life at Princeton in a variety of ways. Serving as a leader with Princeton Presbyterians, she has developed skills that have allowed her to better understand people and their needs. As offered by Reverend Dr. Andrew Thompson Scales, Chaplain at Princeton Presbyterians, Shutt brings, “... energy, intelligence, imagination, and love to campus life… she loves people with passion and hope…” On-campus, Shutt is the former Campus and Community Affairs Chair which is part of the Undergraduate Student Government (USG). In her position with the USG, Shutt has emphasized and focused on developing student interest in the town of Princeton. As Shutt says, “I think a lot of it is just getting students to come into…neutral territory with people that maybe they haven’t interacted with in the past.”
Post-graduation, Shutt would like to attend the Princeton Theology Seminary and maintain the connections and mentors she has fostered at Princeton while continuing to connect undergraduate students with mentors.
Community Engagement Award Honorees
Dr. Alberto Bruzos Moro
Dr. Alberto Bruzos Moro received the Community Engagement award in his faculty role as University Lecturer in the Department of Spanish and holds the position of director of the Spanish Language Program and co-director of the study abroad program Princeton in Spain. Bruzos is an ardent and active collaborator with the Program for Community-Engaged Scholarship (ProCES), a program that connects community perspectives, knowledge, and priorities with academic courses. Through his course, Spanish in the Community, Bruzos equips students with critical resources to address topics of significant importance. The course focuses on the relationship between language and identity, political debates surrounding Spanish and English, and bilingualism, with his most recent partnership with the English as a Second Language (ESL) program at El Centro of Catholic Charities in Trenton NJ. The meaningfulness and intention of the community-oriented work associated with his course is replicated in his collaborations with many other local community agencies and programs, including among others, Princeton Young Achievers, the Princeton YWCA, the Princeton Arts Council, and HomeWorksTrenton.
In her introduction of Bruzos, Tara Carr-Lemke, Associate Director at ProCES, says that Bruzos, “... inspires students to participate in community engagement by inviting his class to learn alongside local Spanish-speaking community members. He is under no illusion that his students are merely providing a tutoring service or language exchange at El Centro; instead, he prompts students to consider the contextual ailments that form the environment for English language learning and the factors that shape the people in it.”
Upon receiving his award, Bruzos shared, “I am very happy for the award. That is not a surprise. But I feel…wonder…do I really deserve this? There are so many people at this university that build this community.”
Eleanor Letcher received the Community Engagement Award in her role with CONTACT of Mercer County, a longstanding community partner of Princeton University. Lechter was instrumental in supporting CONTACT Princeton, Princeton University’s branch of the emotional support and suicide prevention crisis hotline. With CONTACT Princeton, Princeton University students are trained as volunteers to answer and respond to calls from the local CONTACT hotline and the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
Introducing Letcher, Pace Center Associate Director, Dave Brown, described her as someone who, “...not only listens; she actively listens – and there is a huge difference…whether it is for our community engagement student leaders…or our residential life student leaders in RCA trainings, she…regularly comes to campus and gives on-off trainings on how to be there for each other…how to listen.” Working with CONTACT of Mercer County for nearly four decades, Letcher originally got her start while searching for something to do while raising her young children. Letcher recalls attending a training session and felt a connection.
CONTACT Princeton initially started after a young woman studying at Princeton approached Letcher with the desire to start a club at Princeton embodying the program. Ten years later, CONTACT Princeton works closely with doctors at University Counseling & Psychological Services (CPS) and continues to run smoothly and efficiently with the help of Letcher. As Letcher noted, “Never underestimate the power of a young woman with a great idea … in terms of mental health and suicide, there is a great need for additional support. Unfortunately the suicide rate is rising for young people. There are lots of reasons and lots of stressors. At the end of the day people need someone to talk to.”