Laurie Kennedy, an administrator in the School of Nursing (SON), and assistant professor of nursing Dyanne Semogas, are being honoured for their work with the community through the McMaster Student Outreach Collaborative (MacSOC).
The McMaster Alumni Hamilton Community Impact Award recognizes outstanding contributions by faculty, staff and graduates of McMaster who have made a positive impact on the Hamilton community within the past three years, enhancing quality of life while reflecting the University's values of integrity, quality and teamwork. Kennedy and Semogas, who were jointly nominated, will receive this award on September 25 during a luncheon at the Hamilton Art Gallery. Dr. Jean Clinton (BA in music ‘77, MD ‘81) and Mary Anderson (PhD in English ‘00) will also be given this award.
Kennedy has worked at McMaster since 1989, and she earned her BA in sociology from the University in 2004. Semogas has been with the SON since 1990. Together, they have supported MacSOC since it was started by two nursing students in 1999.
MacSOC is an interdisciplinary group of volunteer students, staff and faculty who work with the community to conduct outreach for those who are marginally housed, homeless or at risk of homelessness in Hamilton. They provide food, clothing, and health and social services information.
Kennedy takes care of the logistics of MacSOC's activities, whether it be budgeting, gathering donations, planning fundraising events, or making sandwiches. Semogas assists with grant writing for the program to get funding for food; evaluation of the program's outcomes; collaborates with various community stakeholders to get support for MacSOC; and connects students with the group.
"The committee was impressed with the program, the length of the program, and most importantly the impact of the program on the lives of those who they support," said Karen McQuigge, director of Alumni Advancement, explaining why the pair was selected.
Among other things, MacSOC led to the creation of a Health Sciences course examining issues of poverty and homelessness, focusing on the local Hamilton community; led to further development of the service learning approach for all students entering nursing; and paved the way for the work being done in several neighbourhoods as part of the nursing school's Health in the Hubs initiative.
"We share this honour with all the people we serve — the people who live in poverty, are marginalized and need a place to come to for support,' said Semogas. "It fundamentally is what nursing is all about — making a difference in the lives of others."
Kennedy keeps in touch with some former students and they tell her how their involvement with MacSOC "provided them with a meaningful educational experience in the community, one that resonated with them after graduation,' she said. "I believe more can be learned from sitting down and talking to one another for half an hour than can been learned from a book or a lecture."