Kirshner, advocate of young people in classrooms and communities, receives Chase Faculty Community Service Award

CU Boulder educator honored for teaching, research, volunteerism
By Staff

Ben Kirshner
Ben Kirshner

An exceptional educator whose teaching, research and community outreach are improving the lives of young people in Colorado and beyond, the University of Colorado’s Ben Kirshner, Ph.D., is the recipient of the 2016-17 Chase Faculty Community Service Award.

Kirshner is an associate professor in the School of Education at the University of Colorado Boulder and faculty director of CU Engage: Center for Community Based Learning and Research.

The Chase Faculty Community Service Award is presented annually to a full-time CU faculty member who provides exceptional service to the community. An advisory council recommends an award-winner to CU President Bruce D. Benson, who bestows the honor, which includes a $10,000 grant sponsored by an endowment from JPMorgan Chase through the CU Foundation.

Kirshner is an internationally recognized scholar of youth development; community-based, participatory research; youth activism; and educational policy.

“He is not only improving the lives of young people, but his approach involves young people as partners and citizens in working to improve their communities,” his nominators wrote. “His work exemplifies the integration of education and civics toward humanitarian goals.”

Besides contributing to the public good through pro-bono service and work as a faculty member, Kirshner has shown administrative leadership in his founding and directing of CU Engage, a center that collaborates with communities, schools and organizations to address complex public challenges. Its students, faculty and staff develop and sustain equity-oriented partnerships that facilitate engaged learning and mutually beneficial community-based research.

Kirshner’s current research examines youth organizing, participatory action research and new forms of digital media as contexts for learning and social justice change. Among his many published works is the book “Youth Activism in the Era of Educational Inequality,” which won the Social Policy Award for Best Authored Book from the Society for Research on Adolescence in 2015. His research has attracted grants from national research foundations and earned the attention of the White House, where last year he attended first lady Michelle Obama’s summit on “Successful Strategies from Schools and Youth Agencies that Build Ladders of Opportunity.”

His experiences working with young people at a community center in San Francisco’s Mission District motivated him to want to study educational equity and the design of learning environments, which he pursued at Stanford’s Graduate School of Education. Kirshner has been a faculty member at CU Boulder since 2004.

“Wow, it is an honor to win this award and be recognized for work to understand and support student voice and political activism by young people from marginalized groups,” Kirshner said. “Young people deserve to be part of decision-making about quality education systems and I’m thrilled for such efforts to be highlighted by this award.”

The Chase Faculty Community Service Award – established in 1991 with a $100,000 donation – is funded annually by an endowment from the JPMorgan Chase Foundation through the CU Foundation. The endowment provides an annual award of $10,000 to a full-time faculty member at the University of Colorado who has rendered exceptional service in his or her community.