WAUKESHA, WIS.— Dr. Elena De Costa, associate professor of Spanish at Carroll University, has been chosen by Wisconsin Campus Compact to receive the 2013 Sister Joel Read Civic Engagement Practitioners Award. The award, named after a former president of Alverno College in Milwaukee, recognizes outstanding college or university faculty or staff for significant contributions to civic engagement on their campus.
“I am honored by this recognition,” De Costa said. “More importantly, it will inspire students to do more for the community and be the civically engaged, lifelong learners we want them to be.”
De Costa will be honored at a ceremony in Madison on March 22.
Wisconsin Campus Compact, part of the national Campus Compact, works to strengthen civic engagement and service learning partnerships between Wisconsin’s colleges and universities, and the communities they serve.
De Costa was recognized for serving as a vital link to the growing Hispanic community. A founding member of the Waukesha Hispanic Collaborative Network, she serves several nonprofit organizations, churches, educational institutions and government agencies. A member of the Plowshare Center board of directors, she also serves as coordinator of bilingual interpreters and translators for the Waukesha community, on the Program Advisory Committee of Healing Hearts of Waukesha, and the Latin American and Jewish Advisory Board at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. She served five years on the Waukesha Fire and Police Commission.
De Costa requires all of her students to do community service.
“My students are just about everywhere in the community as both interpreters and translators,” she said. “This is an excellent experience for them and demonstrates the value
of learning in the real world outside the classroom where they are needed and welcomed. They gain self-confidence and a sense of self-worth by their participation in our community.”
De Costa has been instrumental in connecting the Carroll University campus to the community. With her help, Carroll has hosted many community forums on a variety of topics – bullying, peace, economic prosperity, literacy, violence and equality – that have featured nationally known speakers, films and panel discussions. Opportunities for students to get involved include partnerships with the Waukesha School District’s bilingual elementary schools, Milwaukee’s United Community Center, the Waukesha County Community Dental Clinic and the Hispanic Resource Center.
Through the Waukesha Hispanic Collaborative Network, De Costa was involved in planning what has become an annual Hispanic Family Health Fair. She brings her own students to the fair and helped connect Carroll’s health sciences programs to provide resources to the Hispanic community through a health assessment booth. Carroll students in nursing, physical therapy and the physician assistant program provide a variety of assessments and health information services during the fair.
De Costa is also the driving force behind El Coloso: A Colloquium of Voices in our Community, a Spanish language magazine produced each spring by students in one of her Spanish classes. Partnering with local organizations, the magazine is distributed throughout the community for free.
“Dr. De Costa recognizes that learning happens in the classroom and in the community,” said Dr. Douglas N. Hastad, Carroll president. “With her guidance and through her example, students are inspired to continue serving, which helps Carroll University fulfill its mission. The Carroll community is extremely proud of Dr. De Costa’s accomplishments and pleased to see her achievements recognized statewide and beyond.”