Pfeiffer University’s Kelly Misiak honored as an emerging leader in N.C. civic engagement

Francis Center

Kelly Misiak, director of service scholars for Pfeiffer University’s Francis Center for Servant Leadership, has been named the 2016 Civic Engagement Emerging Leader Professional of the Year by North Carolina Compact, a coalition of 35 public and private colleges and universities.

The award recognizes a staff person in the state for efforts to institutionalize a campus-wide vision of service, support the engagement of faculty and students, and form innovative campus-community partnerships. The “Emerging Leader” designation honors a staff person with less than five years of professional work in the field.

Misiak joined Pfeiffer’s Francis Center for Servant Leadership in July 2014. She has since expanded service opportunities to address local hunger, engaged more students in Francis Center programs, and coordinated high-quality alternative service break trips.

“In just a couple of years,” said one nominator, “she has become the face of service and volunteerism at Pfeiffer.”

Misiak’s impact comes in part from her focus on hunger, an issue that mobilizes students and affects the community. She brokered a new partnership with the national Food Recovery Network and Pfeiffer’s Sodexo dining services, and she led the creation of a new community garden on campus. Last year, the programs yielded more than 1,000 pounds of food, which was distributed to families through meals hosted by local partner the Community Table and Inn. Over eight community meals, Pfeiffer students served and dined with 354 low-income community members.

Misiak deliberately fosters student leadership in these programs, but she will also “roll up her sleeves” to serve beside students, such as baking home-made desserts to supplement food recovery deliveries.

Pfeiffer University has been nationally recognized for engagement. In 2014, Misiak was an institutional co-author of the university’s successful application to the national President’s Honor Roll for Community Service. In 2015, Pfeiffer was one of 15 North Carolina schools to receive a prestigious community engagement designation from the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.

Administrators credit Misiak for “doing more with less” and carrying out high-quality programs on tight budgets. They also praise her professionalism and commitment to principled community engagement, marked by respect for community members and partners. During the 2014-15 school academic year, nearly 600 Pfeiffer students participated in a university-sponsored service activity, including 40 alternative break participants, and 22 Bonner Leaders who served local nonprofit organizations.

“Kelly’s daily interaction with Pfeiffer’s students provides an exemplary guide for operating effectively in the world—as employees, volunteers and citizens,” said Dr. Ashley Oliphant, director of the Francis Center for Servant Leadership. "The Francis Center is extremely pleased that North Carolina Campus Compact has recognized the extraordinary quality of her work. Without a doubt, our longstanding relationship with N.C. Campus Compact has provided immeasurable value to the development of Pfeiffer’s civic engagement programs.”

Misiak earned a master’s degree in public affairs and nonprofit management from UNC-Greensboro. Previous work centered on environmental education, including a year of AmeriCorps service with the Great Basin Institute in Nevada.

The Compact will recognize Misiak at its annual PACE (Pathways to Achieving Civic Engagement) Conference, held at High Point University on February 10. More than 230 faculty, staff, students, and community partners representing 40 colleges and universities in nine states will participate in the day-long event.

Cathy Kramer, of Warren Wilson College in Swannanoa, was named the Civic Engagement “Sustainer” Professional of the Year, recognizing her for more than five years of outstanding work in higher education community engagement.