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Academic Staff Spirit of Community Service Award 2023 – Gina Smith

June 29, 2023

Some individuals transcend their job descriptions, dedicating their time and efforts to serve their community. Gina Smith, a resource specialist with the Wisconsin Center for Environmental Education (WCEE) at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, exemplifies this. Her commitment to the campus and community earned her the UW-Stevens Point Academic Staff Spirit of Community Service Award. 

Smith has made a significant impact on the center and its programs, despite a short tenure at the WCEE, which is housed within the UWSP College of Natural Resources. Her ability to collaborate with staff, K-12 teachers and experts on and off campus sets her apart. Recognizing the importance of inclusive education, she designed a groundbreaking lesson called KEEP Black Leaders in Energy, shedding light on the contributions of historical and contemporary Black leaders in the energy field. This has garnered widespread acclaim and will be featured in an upcoming webinar hosted by the Wisconsin Energy Institute. 

Gina Smith, a resource specialist in the Wisconsin Center for Environmental Education, won the 2023 Academic Staff Spirit of Community Service Award.
Gina Smith, a resource specialist in the Wisconsin Center for Environmental Education, won the 2023 Academic Staff Spirit of Community Service Award.

Further evidence of Smith’s commitment to inclusive education and collaboration lies in her efforts to update and re-write two lesson guides for the LEAF, K-12 Forestry Education Program. Realizing the significance of diverse perspectives, she brought together individuals from various Native American Tribes and Nations throughout Wisconsin, along with fourth-grade teachers, for focused discussions. The focus group, consisting of members from eight different tribes, worked closely with Smith to review LEAF’s curriculum materials. Together, their goal was to ensure fair and accurate representations, incorporating narratives that authentically reflect the rich histories of all people who have inhabited the land now known as Wisconsin. Additionally, they sought to include diverse ways of learning about our world and thinking about the environment, creating lessons that embrace and celebrate different cultural perspectives. 

Smith’s impact extends beyond the boundaries of the university. Her dedication to service is evident in her involvement in various boards, committees and volunteering roles outside of UW-Stevens Point. She took on the role of a cross-country coach while working full-time, exemplifying her commitment to empowering young athletes.

Colleagues and collaborators hold Smith in the highest regard, praising her exceptional work ethic, listening skills and commitment to driving projects forward. Tera Fieri, instructional coach at Marathon School District, spoke highly of Smith’s dedication, saying, “She is the face you want people to know in these organizations, as she will always go above and beyond to build community in this work.”. 

Smith embraces the seven dimensions of wellness. Her involvement in diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives and her assistant cross-country coach role have nurtured social, physical, mental, emotional, intellectual, vocational and environmental wellness. Leveraging her expertise, she has inspired educators, engaged learners and positively impacted the environment. Her leadership roles on committees and her written work highlight her commitment to professional development and knowledge sharing.  

“Smith’s work and life embody the importance of service in building a healthier community environment, both on and off campus,” said Brian Sloss, dean of the College of Natural Resources. “Her contributions have transformed the WCEE and left an indelible mark on the broader community. Gina’s passion for community service and her unwavering commitment to collaboration serve as an inspiration to all those who seek to make a positive impact on society.”