Anthropology Professor Susan Needham was a finalist for the Campus Compact’s 2016 Thomas Ehrlich Civically Engaged Faculty Award for her passion in involving her students in research and relationships that greatly benefit the communities that California State University, Dominguez Hills (CSUDH) serves.
A national coalition of colleges and universities, Campus Compact created the Ehrlich Award to recognize faculty who demonstrate exceptional engaged scholarship, including an ability to lead students in progressive civic learning; who conduct community-based research; promote and create community partnerships; and are committed to service-learning and civic engagement.
Needham, who along with the award’s winner and other finalists, will be honored at the Campus Compact’s Western Region Continuums of Service Conference in Denver in April 2017
It was surprising to be nominated for the award, but it was really nice. I feel very honored to have been recognized,”
Needham’s selection as a finalist focused largely on her teaching, service and research of the local Cambodian community. She has been conducting ethnographic and linguistic research in the Cambodian American community in Long Beach since 1988, and she incorporates some form of service learning or community engagement in each anthropology course she teaches at CSUDH. She finds that engaging her students in community-based research keeps her closely connected to the needs and concerns of the community.
“In our field methods class the students go to sites in the Cambodian and Native American communities in Long Beach where they work in teams to do an ethnographic study,” said Needham. “Last year was the first time the students went to the American Indian Changing Spirits Recovery Program. After completing their research they put together a presentation of their work and showed it to the group. They were so impressed with the students’ presentation that they wanted to rework it to put it on their website. That was a wonderful confirmation and affirmation of the work that we’re doing.”
Last year, two out of three of Needham’s student teams earned top honors at the annual CSUDH Student Research Day. One achieved 1st place and the other 2nd in their respective categories.
Needham’s community-based research projects include the Cambodian Community History and Archive Project of Long Beach, and research regarding the near eradication of Cambodian shadow puppetry. In 2013, she and a student traveled to Cambodia to track down one of the country’s last puppet masters. They purchased 25 custom-made shadow puppets and brought them back to the archive in Long Beach, which is home to the largest Cambodian population outside of Southeast Asia.
Needham’s talent for community service is also highlighted by the physical impact she and her students have had on the Cambodian community, both locally and abroad. She was a major player in the 2007 designation of Cambodia Town in Long Beach. In 2006, she took several CSUDH student to Cambodia, and when they returned they created the Joy of Learning Cambodian School Project at CSUDH, which raised $800 for supplies for a school in Cambodia. The following year the students raised $900 for more school supplies and two desperately needed toilets.
“Susan Needham’s accomplishments as a faculty-scholar and her engagements with our students and communities exemplify and realize the mission of our university,” said Jerry Moore, professor and chair of CSUDH’s Department of Anthropology. “We are proud to have her as a colleague and we applaud her for this national recognition.”