CU-Boulder Education Professor Receives National Service Learning Award

Published: Feb. 3, 1997

Richard Kraft, professor of education at the University of Colorado at Boulder, is the winner of a national award for his pioneering work in combining community service and teaching.

Kraft received the 1997 Thomas Ehrlich Faculty Award for Service Learning from Campus Compact, a national coalition of 525 college and university presidents based at Brown University in Providence, R.I. The coalition honors one faculty member annually.

The award will be presented Feb. 22 at the Campus Compact Presidents' Leadership colloquium in Washington, D.C. Service learning integrates community service into traditional classes to connect academic concepts to the outside world and enrich student learning.

The award includes a $2,000 grant to support service learning. Kraft plans to use part of the money to fund a trip with 20 graduate students over spring break to build two playgrounds in El Paso, Texas, and Juarez, Mexico.

Kraft is the second CU-Boulder winner of the Ehrlich award in the three years it has been given. Cathy Comstock, a senior instructor in the comparative literature and humanities department, was named the first winner in 1995.

Comstock supported Kraft's nomination in a letter to the nominating committee. "My own experience of him as a colleague is that he is so helpful yet so without self-aggrandizement that it is almost like having shoe elves do one1s work in the night."

Campus Compact: The Project for Public and Community Service is a coalition of more than 500 college and unversity presidents. The group is a project of the Education Commission of the States, a Denver-based organization that helps state officials develop policies to improve education.

"Professor Kraft's efforts have been invaluable in promoting service learning as a key way of combining educational experiences with service to off-campus communities," said CU-Boulder Chancellor Richard Byyny. "We are extremely proud that two of the first three winners of this national award are from CU-Boulder."

Kraft, 55, was born in Kangting, China, and has taught at CU-Boulder since 1968. He was a member of the Colorado State Board of Education from 1983 to 1989, serving as its vice chairman from 1987 to 1989.

Since 1985, Kraft has organized dozens of conferences and panels on service learning and edited a prominent book in the field, "Building Community: Service Learning Across the Curriculum," now in its second printing. An undergraduate teacher education course with a service component is now a requirement of the CU-Boulder teacher education program.

His own public service activities have involved dozens of organizations and school districts. He has served as a faculty sponsor of CU-Boulder's Volunteer Clearing House, the first campus center for student volunteerism in the United States. The center started in 1965 and still operates today.

Kraft started small business loan and partner school programs in Chile, Nicaragua, Ethiopia and Ghana and has given workshops on service learning and experiential education in Ecuador, Chile, Botswana, Ghana, Ethiopia and Nicaragua. He and his wife, Helen, are planning a sabbatical in 1998 to do volunteer work in either Tanzania, New Guinea or Honduras.

The Thomas Erlich Award is named for the former president of Indiana University and chair of Campus Compact from 1989 to 1994.