Students and educators at Tennessee Tech University have a history of putting service to their community at the top of their priority lists.
Since 2004, 10 TTU faculty or students have been awarded the Harold Love Outstanding Community Service Award from the Tennessee Higher Education Commission. This year, another two, political science professor Lori Maxwell and TTU senior Kolby Denham, will be added to that number.
“Faculty and students like Lori and Kolby help to uphold Tennessee Tech’s rich history of service and create a campus culture that drives others to pursue meaningful work that enhances our society and our world,” said TTU President Phil Oldham.
Maxwell has been at TTU since 1995 and has worked her way up through the ranks of adjunct, visiting and assistant professor to associate professor in the political science and sociology department. She advises all political science students as well as the pre-law student club and TTU’s chapter of Pi Sigma Alpha, the national political science honor society.
“During her time at Tech, Lori has organized and facilitated a multitude of projects with far-reaching impact. From collecting shoes for third-world countries to food drives for the community, Lori is always hands-on alongside her students,” Oldham said. “She is a constant advocate for civic engagement, serving as an adviser to numerous student organizations and working diligently to connect students with internships and service experiences that promote political awareness.”
Maxwell distinguishes herself across campus by her willingness to help others and spearhead improvement efforts. For more than five years, she helped to organize the university’s Take Back the Night march and rally to end violence against women and children and has organized debate tournaments and other events to introduce young children to the American political process. With the political science honor society students, she has also helped to collect shoes with Soles for Souls and gifts for seniors living at the Home Instead Senior Care.
Outside of her work in the classroom, Maxwell is committed to making the university and community a better place. She serves as the faculty head of TTU’s service and leadership learning village in New Hall South, sits on several university committees, and belongs to the Tennessee Political Science Association.
“In addition to all of her responsibilities as a faculty head and co-leading the largest residence hall at Tennessee Tech, Dr. Maxwell still fulfills her duties as a professor of political science and a pre-law adviser,” said Matthew Mosley, assistant coordinator at New Hall South. “I can often walk by and see that she is either busy working with a particular student or teaching a class. Even in her extraordinary dedication to all of her positions, she still allots time for me to stop in.”
She has published nearly 20 publications, including papers, book chapters and reviews. She has also given more than 15 presentations at conferences in her field.
Last year, she received one of two of the university’s Home Instead Senior Care Distinguished Service Learning Awards. She has been nominated for TTU’s outstanding faculty teaching award and the honors faculty teaching award.
Kolby Denham is a senior music major from Thompsons Station who has been involved in service learning at Tennessee Tech for most of his college career.
“Throughout his college career, Kolby has been highly involved in civic engagement,” said Kaitlin Salyer, assistant service coordinator at TTU. “It is a part of who he is as a person and always will be.”
Denham helped to establish and is student leader for the university’s food pantry, which was created one year ago to help feed TTU students in need and solve the hidden hunger problem confronting many American universities. The pantry has served nearly 300 students, some of whom have come back more than once. The program has grown so much that the university is looking for a larger space to house the donated food.
He served on a team with four other students to coordinate a community-wide coat drive for One Warm Coat. The drive collected nearly 500 coats from the campus and area residents. Every year since 2010, he has helped to organize the university children’s book collection. The drive usually collects approximately 500 books, which are distributed to children in area schools with the goal that each child will get to take home at least one.
Denham is a member of Mu Phi Epsilon, the professional music service fraternity, and has contributed hours of service on behalf of the group since he joined in 2011.
In addition to these projects, he volunteers with the university’s Service Learning Center. Every semester for three and a half years, he has spent at least 50 hours working there, overseeing other student volunteers and advising students on which projects would fit best with their interests.
“Kolby has spoken many times over the past few years about how much he enjoys working with and advising other students,” Salyer said. “He has a wonderful rapport with people of all ages, ethnicities, backgrounds and interests. He is so down-to-earth and kind-hearted that it helps him to gain respect from others.”
Each year, THEC gives the Harold Love Outstanding Community Service Award to 10 faculty, staff and students. Nominations are accepted from all colleges and universities in Tennessee.