2023 Howard R. Swearer Engaged Faculty Awards for Research and Teaching

This year’s recipients represent some of the excellent engaged scholarship by faculty at Brown with community partners in Rhode Island.
April 13, 2023

From a very strong pool of nominees, a committee of community partners, students, staff and faculty selected Dawn King and Linford D. Fisher as the 2023 recipients of the Howard R. Swearer Engaged Faculty Awards for Teaching and for Research, respectively. They will be recognized at both the Swearer Center End-of-Year Celebration on April 28 and the University Awards event on May 1.

​Howard R. Swearer Engaged Faculty Award for Research

Linford D. Fisher, Associate Professor of History 

Community Partner: Tomaquag Museum


Since 2015, Linford D. Fisher, Associate Professor of History, has served as the PI for Stolen Relations: Recovering Stories of Indigenous Enslavement in the Americas (https://indigenousslavery.org/) and, in more recent years, developed a deeply collaborative approach that Rae Gould, Executive Director of the Native American and Indigenous Studies Initiative (NAISI) at Brown, deems “a model for how Brown can do important engaged scholarship with tribal communities.” Tribal representatives–appointed by tribal leadership–are involved in critical aspects of the project and paid for their time and expertise; as members of multiple subcommittees, Fisher writes, they work together “on wording choices, design questions, sources, and interpretations.” Tribal interns and high school, undergraduate and graduate students have been engaged as research assistants, and Indigenous elders and youth from Native nations in the region have participated in summer institutes. Gould appreciates how these activities “help to build bridges and connections with local tribal peoples in positive and powerful ways.” Lorén Spears, Executive Director of the Tomaquag Museum, also considers the project “extremely important as it recovers a hidden history that, if properly interpreted, can go a long way to help a wider public understand the important role Indigenous enslavement played in settler colonialism as well as the ongoing historical trauma it imposed on our communities.” By producing a publicly accessible database and a museum exhibition, as well as peer-reviewed scholarly articles and a forthcoming book, Stolen Relations will “allow the community and scholars alike to look at this painful history with not only a colonial but Indigenous perspective.” In addition to NAISI, the Tomaquag Museum, and 13 Native nations and communities, the Center for Digital Scholarship, the Center for the Study of Slavery and Justice, and the National Endowment for the Humanities have been important supporters of this work.


Howard R. Swearer Engaged Faculty Award for Teaching

Dawn King, Senior Lecturer in Environment and Society

Community Partner: African Alliance of Rhode Island 

For more than a decade, Dawn King, Director of Undergraduate Studies and Senior Lecturer in Environment and Society, has taught two community-engaged courses each year: ENVS 0110: Humans, Nature, and the Environment and ENVS 1555: Urban Agriculture. Julius Kolawole, founder and Director of the African Alliance of Rhode Island, describes her as “a consistent and passionate supporter of our work” and “a gifted professor with such unique abilities of understanding the communities and student needs.” She has mentored around 60 students who have completed a wide array of valuable projects with AARI, several of whom went on to become board members. As noted in a January 2021 spotlight, her commitment to AARI and other partners (George Wiley Center for Justice, Southside Community Land Trust, and many more) persisted through the pandemic; although in-person engagement was not allowed, students could still make valuable contributions–and find significant learning and meaning–through communications, fundraising, organizing and research projects. Experienced students also can serve as TAs in later iterations of the courses, supporting their peers and the sustainability of local partnerships. Kim Cobb, director of the Institute at Brown for the Environment and Society, emphasized that King “has developed a framework for the student projects that extends beyond one semester, with projects handed off across semesters, over the years, until the project achieves the goals of the community partner.” She addresses ethical issues early in each class and follows up with both students and partners to understand and share longer-term impacts; a report prepared for the Conservation Law Foundation, for instance, was later shared with the RI Hunger Elimination Task Force and influenced its priorities.