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USM Professor Fath Recognized with Service-Learning Award

Wed, 03/15/2023 - 12:22pm | By: Christy Kayser

USM ProfessorDr. Aaron Fath, assistant teaching professor in The University of Southern Mississippi (USM) School of Psychology, has been recognized with the Outstanding Faculty Contributions to Service-Learning Instruction in Higher Education award by the Gulf-South Summit on Service-Learning in Higher Education. 

The award is given to an individual who has demonstrated excellence in creating and sustaining opportunities for engaging college/university students in service-learning.  

Fath has integrated service-learning into his classes since 2020, working with Southern Pines Animal Shelter to design student learning experiences to address shelter needs. Students in Fath’s Summer 2020 Research Methods class collected data for Southern Pines on issues faced by pet owners that result in the inability to care for their pets.  

This information enabled Southern Pines to develop a new Pet Resource Program to support families with pets. Fath has also redesigned his senior seminar course so that students can use the research gathered by previous classes to write grant proposals for Southern Pines.   

Fath has also worked to arrange counseling sessions for Southern Pines employees from graduate students in USM’s Center for Behavioral Health. Animal rescue workers often suffer from compassion fatigue, which is the emotional and physical exhaustion that can develop from the constant demand of supporting others in need, The counseling program, called Operation Refuel, has been so successful that the clinic has expanded counseling services to animal rescue groups statewide.  

“Dr. Fath has created a transformational partnership with Southern Pines, creating curriculum and initiatives that support the needs of both USM students and the shelter,” said Christy Kayser, director of USM’s Center for Community Engagement. “His classes provide great examples to students of how the skills they are learning will be used outside the classroom.”   

Fath will be recognized during the Gulf-South Summit’s annual meeting in April. The mission of the Gulf-South Summit is to promote networking among practitioners, research, ethical practices, reciprocal campus-community partnerships, sustainable programs, and a culture of engagement and public awareness through service-learning and other forms of civic engagement.  

The Center for Community Engagement promotes service and service-learning on The University of Southern Mississippi campus and throughout the Hattiesburg community. To learn more about the CCE at Southern Miss, call 601-266-6467.