“The Social Impact Awards honor communicators who use their platforms to better their community and the global community at large,” according to PR News Online.
April 20 marks the 2022 PR News Social Impact Awards. Sacred Heart University’s Dr. Mark Congdon has earned a spot among the finalists for Mentor of the Year and Outstanding Educator of the Year.
Having only been at Sacred Heart for two years, Dr. Congdon has taught nine service-learning courses where he worked with students on twelve different diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) projects.
Dr. Congdon was inspired to pursue service-learning during his undergraduate experience at the University of Maine where he participated in several service-learning projects.
“That was transformational. I assumed all colleges were like that and then when I got my master’s in PhD, I realized it wasn’t,” said Dr. Congdon. “That’s something that I knew I wanted because I took a lot from it.”
Dr. Congdon’s classes at Sacred Heart combine public relations and communications with social justice, giving students the chance to work with nonprofits, such as U.S.-El Salvador Sister Cities (USESSC) of which he serves on the national board of directors.
After his first semester at Sacred Heart, Dr. Congdon worked with students to develop a larger community engaged initiative called Uniting Hearts. Uniting Hearts’ purpose is to bring light to social issues each semester.
The first semester of Uniting Hearts was spring 2021 and the theme was “Celebrating Differences Through Allyship.”
Dr. Congdon is continuing the Uniting Heart initiative this semester under the theme “Uniting Hearts Through Cultural Immersion” and will include a variety of events, such as a Culturefest Block Party in April.
“The goal here is that it’s going to be educational, but it’s going to be a celebration of learning,” said Dr. Congdon. “Connecting to the Bridgeport community and inviting the Bridgeport community to be a part of SHU.”
Apart from Uniting Hearts, Dr. Congdon is also working with students to partner with the Bridgeport education fund. The students are helping the fund with their social media presence and finding mentors for the fund’s mentorship program. Dr. Congdon and his students are currently planning a staff versus students kickball tournament to raise money for the fund.
All of Dr. Congdon’s efforts towards service-learning and teaching students to use their skills towards bettering the community have earned him a spot among the finalists in the Social Impact Award as well as accolades from his colleagues.
“Mark’s passion for social justice is contagious,” said Prof. Jane Paley. “I like to visit his office when I see him to exchange ideas and draw a little inspiration. He’s always percolating.”
“He’s incredibly enthusiastic,” said Prof. Bindig-Yousman. “We’re so happy that he’s working with our undergraduate students and bringing his enthusiasm and commitment to these issues to Sacred Heart.”
Dr. Congdon is excited to be a finalist, but to him, it is a shared victory.
“It’s good to be recognized for your work, but to me, I think it’s more so about the work of the students,” said Congdon. “I wouldn’t be able to be nominated or to be a finalist if it wasn’t for the work my students are doing in the community because if it wasn’t for them, the award wouldn’t even be possible.”