Texas Tech University

Texas Tech Recognized for Exemplary Community Engagement Project

George Watson

September 21, 2022


The recognition is from the Association of Public & Land-grant Universities.

Texas Tech University was recognized today (Sept. 21) by the Association of Public Land-grant Universities (APLU) for a community engagement project that has helped hundreds of Lubbock K-12 students learn to read and write.

Literacy Champions, a partnership between the Texas Tech College of Education and the Lubbock Independent School District (LISD), was honored as an Exemplary Project as part of APLU's 2022 W.K. Kellogg Foundation Community Engagement Scholarship Awards.

The project, launched in 2018 by professor Mellinee Lesley to improve literacy instruction and educational outcomes in Lubbock schools, was formally recognized at an awards ceremony during the Engagement Scholarship Consortium's 22nd Annual Conference.

“Community-engaged scholarship is central to our mission at the College of Education, and we are thrilled to receive this honor,” said Jesse Perez Mendez, dean of the College of Education. “Mellinee Lesley has long championed literacy efforts, and this is a well-deserved recognition of a project that has made a difference right here in our backyard. Because of this important work, Lubbock children have more opportunities to succeed.”

Michigan State University, the University of Louisville and West Virginia University were also recognized for exemplary projects.

In 2014, LISD identified a lack of writing skills as a significant barrier to high school students' future opportunity and success in higher education with a disproportionate impact on students from underrepresented groups. The district reached out to Texas Tech for help addressing the persistent challenge of writing skills facing students. 

Over the years, the partnership evolved from several schools and faculty to one high school where a team of graduate students led by Lesley collaborate with a team of English teachers to address student writing skills. The partnership has impacted 20 teachers and more than 2,500 students, leading to steady gains in student writing.

Literacy Champions has become a sustainable, evidence-based solution to help teachers better meet their students' needs. Each year, Texas Tech researchers, the instructional coach, and teachers co-develop research, analyze data, and leverage their findings to improve student learning outcomes. Participants in the collaboration have shared results from this project widely, publishing manuscripts with findings from their work and papers in peer-reviewed journals. 

“We are very proud of our College of Education faculty and staff who have worked so diligently to ensure that their research is activated in the form of improving educational outcomes for students and their teachers in the Lubbock ISD,” said Provost and Senior Vice President Ron Hendrick.

Lesley described the project as “multifaceted” with “far-reaching implications,” noting the importance of the findings for schools across the nation facing similar issues. 

“This work has also revealed critical insights about carrying out long-term engaged scholarship,” Lesley said. “It has provided a great opportunity for doctoral students interested in learning about engaged scholarship.”

Since 2007, APLU and the Engagement Scholarship Consortium, with support from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, have partnered to honor engaged scholarship and partnerships of four-year public universities. 

The awards recognize programs that demonstrate how colleges and universities have redesigned their learning, discovery and engagement missions to deepen their partnerships and achieve broader impacts in their communities.

APLU also announced that four of its member universities have been selected as regional winners of the 2022 W.K. Kellogg Foundation Community Engagement Scholarship Award.

“Congratulations to this year's regional winners of the Kellogg Community Engagement Scholarship Awards and our exemplary projects,” said APLU President Mark Becker. “Community engagement is a critical part of public universities' mission, and we're pleased to highlight the work of institutions that are engaging communities in need. From the underserved areas of their communities and states to overlooked regions of the world, public research universities are engaging communities to solve the most pressing problems they face.”

About the APLU

APLU is a research, policy, and advocacy organization dedicated to strengthening and advancing the work of public universities in the U.S., Canada and Mexico. With a membership of more than 250 public research universities, land-grant institutions, state university systems and affiliated organizations, APLU's agenda is built on the three pillars of increasing degree completion and academic success, advancing scientific research and expanding engagement. Annually, member campuses enroll 5 million undergraduates and 1.3 million graduate students, award 1.3 million degrees, employ 1.3 million faculty and staff and conduct $49.5 billion in university-based research.