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October 9, 2009
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
UNC Charlotte Professor Receives UNC Board of Governors Award for Excellence in Public Service
CHAPEL HILL—James R. Cook, associate professor of psychology at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, received the Award for Excellence in Public Service today from the Board of Governors of the multi-campus University of North Carolina. The award, announced during the Board’s regular October meeting, was established in 2007 to encourage, identify, recognize, and reward distinguished public service and outreach by faculty across the University. The 2009 award carries a $7,500 cash prize and was presented by UNC President Erskine Bowles and Public Service Award Committee Chairman Ron Leatherwood of Waynesville.
Cook, who has taught at UNCC for the past 29 years, is described by students and colleagues alike as a dedicated teacher, caring mentor, and remarkable role model. A community psychologist by training, he has repeatedly drawn on his professional expertise, experience, and personal values to forge University-community partnerships that help improve the lives of those who are too often marginalized or overlooked in today’s society: the homeless, the economically disadvantaged, people with physical or mental disabilities, the elderly, and the families of children with serious emotional or behavioral problems. For nearly three decades, he has been a trusted and consistent link between UNCC and the city and county agencies and diverse community organizations that serve these vulnerable groups. Time and again, he has volunteered to serve on regional task forces and committees and has helped numerous non-profit organizations develop strategic plans, write grant proposals, develop training materials for family care-givers, evaluate services, and build coalitions. Those organizations credit Cook with helping them secure more than $24 million in external grant funding to serve the homeless and mentally ill.
Cook was also recognized by the Board of Governors for instilling the value of public service in his students. He has used his sustained involvement in the community to expose students to valuable educational experiences and research opportunities in the Charlotte region. In fact, every student in every class Cook teaches is involved in some significant form of community service. As one student explained in supporting Cook’s nomination, “For Dr. Cook, service to the community is not an academic pursuit or even a career choice. It is simply a way of life.”
In addition to his faculty role at UNC Charlotte, Cook has for 23 years been an active board member of Mecklenburg Open Door, an organization serving adults with serious mental health problems. He has also served as president of the local Mental Health Association and served on the Community Works Advisory Board and numerous other advisory committees. Previously, Cook has been honored with the Pete Peterson Distinguished Service Award of the Mecklenburg County Mental Health Association and the President’s Award of the NC Mental Health Association.