Psychological Science professor lauded for innovation

Monday, April 29, 2019

James Cook, a professor in the Department of Psychological Science at UNC Charlotte, has received the 2019 Outstanding Educator Award, a top honor given by the Society for Community Research and Action (SCRA), Division 27 of the American Psychological Association.

The Outstanding Educator Award recognizes an SCRA member who has made exemplary and innovative contributions to the education of students about community psychology and community research and action.

The award recognizes Cook’s long-standing and far-reaching contributions to community psychology and community research and action through education. These include scholarly contributions to understanding the building of campus and community partnerships and teaching a variety of community psychology-related courses at the graduate and undergraduate level. Cook will receive the award officially at the organization’s biennial conference in Chicago in June.

“This is just a great honor to have my colleague Ryan Kilmer and our students nominate me, and then to have my national colleagues recognize the work that we have done to build a strong program here at UNC Charlotte,” Cook said. “This is clearly a recognition of the collective efforts of our students and faculty. It’s so great to have the spotlight put on our program again.”

Students commented about the powerful and collaborative experiences they gain working with Cook; they noted these experiences set them on the path for success and prepare them to work for social change. Particularly noteworthy, the selection committee said, is the impact he has had on students who have gone on to practice community psychology in a range of settings. Letters of support spoke about his “learning-while-doing” approach and his long history of facilitating class projects that benefit both students and community partners in meaningful ways.

In addition to his coordination of the Community Psychology Training Program at the doctoral and master’s levels, Cook created and has continuously coordinated the Community Psychology Learning Community for transfer students that helps them learn about community psychology and develop a strong sense of community at UNC Charlotte.

Cook also played a critical role in the Community Psychology Training Program’s selection in 2013 for the SCRA’s Outstanding Program Award, in recognition of its innovative approach and focus on community research and action. To engage students in applied community efforts, the program builds enduring partnerships with local and state organizations.

Cook has received numerous awards in recognition of his work. Among them, the North Carolina Campus Compact, a coalition of 38 public and private colleges and universities, named Cook as the recipient of its 2014 Robert L. Sigmon Service-Learning Award. He was the first recipient of the Provost’s Faculty Award for Community Engagement, the predecessor to the Bonnie E. Cone Professorship in Civic Engagement. In 2009, he received the Gov. James E. Holshouser Jr. Award for Excellence in Public Service from the UNC Board of Governors.

Cook leads the Community Psychology Research Lab at UNC Charlotte, along with colleagues Ryan Kilmer, Victoria Scott and Andrew Case. A recent article in the UNC Charlotte Magazine and CLAS publications showcased their work.