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DATE:  April 14, 2006       
CONTACT: Dr. Karen Middleton, Professor, College of Business, (361) 825-5533; Steve Paschal, Public Affairs, (361) 825-2336
Texas Recreation and Parks Society Honors Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi Professor for Community Service

In Dr. Karen Middleton’s eyes, being a teacher is more than lecturing, handing out assignments and grading papers; it’s also a teacher’s duty to inspire students to work to better themselves and their community through participation in projects outside the classroom.

For the past three years, Middleton, a professor of management in the College of Business, has put that belief into practice by getting her students involved in the American Democracy Project, a nationwide initiative to increase student involvement in community volunteer projects. In March, the Texas Recreation and Parks Society (TRAPS) recognized the A&M-Corpus Christi professor for her efforts by naming her as its 2006 Educator of the Year.

In 2003, Dr. Middleton asked the University’s Community Outreach Department to help her identify ways that students in her Leadership and Managerial Effectiveness class could initiate and participate in meaningful civic actions. She was directed to the City of Corpus Christi’s Parks and Recreation Department.

“Dr. Middleton approached us to discuss ideas for some class objectives and projects and together, we agreed on the projects,” said Maureen Mahoney, program services superintendent for the Parks and Recreation Department. “Since then, four Parks and Recreation Department facilities have received much-needed makeovers.”

 The first project taken on by Middleton’s students was the renovation of the Lindale Senior and Junior Community Centers. Using $30,000 in donations and gifts-in-kind from local businesses, they remodeled the Senior Center’s dining room, library, meeting room, pottery and pool rooms, patio and entry. They also purchased a games and a karaoke machine. The Junior Center received four computers with new educational and recreational software as well as a remodeled entry that included bulletin boards and a large showcase.

Most recently, one of Middleton’s classes took on two more projects, a makeover of the Joe Garza Recreational Teen Center and the renovation of the Broadmoor Park Senior Center. The teen center includes a game room, a library, a computer room, an audio-visual room and a “meet your friends” room. A new entryway and additional storage space were added to the senior center which was also equipped with new game tables and equipment.

While the projects were selected by Middleton, the scope of the work was left to her and the students. Students presented their plans, scope of work, hours/days work would be completed and a final presentation to the community when the projects were complete. Student received their grade for the class based on the completion of the project.

“I want students to get out of the classroom and actually design and lead a project through to fruition,” Middleton explained. “The objective is not just for the students to gain experience in managing projects but to also give them the opportunity to meet and associate with business leaders in the community.”

As Mahoney pointed out in making the presentation, Dr. Middleton was instrumental in the success of these projects.
“She worked side by side coaching, advising, mentoring and seeking donations,” Mahoney said. “Dr. Middleton is a stellar example of how the educational community and the service orientated community can compliment each other.”

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