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UConn student, professor win state community service awards (Released: 4/19/96)

by Elizbeth Omara-Otunnu, Office of University Communications.

A University of Connecticut student and a faculty member are among the winners of the 1996 State Higher Education Community Service Awards.

They received their awards today from state Higher Education Commissioner, Andrew G. De Rocco, at a ceremony in the Judiciary Room at the State Capitol.

Nine awards are made each year, divided into three categories: individual, group and special. This year for the first time the award winners received a monetary award to be donated to a charity of their choice.

Erica Karlovits of Lincroft, N.J., a junior majoring in geography, received an individual award for outstanding community service. Karlovits is president of the UConn chapter of Habitat for Humanity, an international organization of volunteers that builds or renovates housing for low- income families. "Erica lives and breathes Habitat," said Diane Wright, coordinator of the UConn Center for Community Outreach.

This year, Karlovits dramatically increased membership of the chapter to include more than 200 students, faculty and staff through her outreach efforts, which included making presentations to student organizations and residence halls. Last fall, to raise awareness of homelessness, the UConn chapter slept out in tents on the Student Union Mall around a wooden playhouse the students built, called the Love Shack. The structure was later sold to raise funds for a homeless shelter in Willimantic.

Each Saturday, Karlovits schedules up to 40 volunteers to build houses at several different work sites, including New London and Vernon. During Spring Break, she led 20 students building a house for a low-income family in Myrtle Beach, S.C.

Karlovits plans to donate her award to Habitat for Humanity.

Jeffrey Fisher of MANSFIELD, a professor of psychology, received a special award in honor of his contributions to the community. Fisher is an expert on interventions to change AIDS risk behavior among teen-agers. He has developed AIDS prevention programs, based on a social psychological model, that combine information about AIDS with learning the motivation and behavioral skills needed to prevent the transmission of the AIDS virus.

Fisher has done extensive unpaid community service, communicating the results of his work through lectures and workshops to health education teachers, high school students and college students, and serving as a consultant at no cost to community-based and government organizations, including the Red Cross and the Connecticut Department of Health Services. "These outreach efforts flow primarily from his desire to help those in need as well as from a commitment to share knowledge that he has obtained from his research efforts," said Ronald Growney, an associate professor of psychology and head of department, who nominated Fisher for the award.

"The importance of Dr. Fisher's outreach efforts is due in part to the 'life-and-death' social consequences of the psychological problems on which his efforts focus," Growney said. "Dr. Fisher's work is an excellent example of how the tripartite mission (research, teaching, and service) of the University can be embodied in the excellent work of one researcher."

Fisher will donate his award to the Connecticut AIDS Action Council.

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