CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – Dr. Jane Hoppin of North Carolina State University and Dr. Arwin D. Smallwood of North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University received the 2021 Governor James E. Holshouser, Jr. Award for Excellence in Public Service during today’s regular meeting of the UNC Board of Governors.
The award honors faculty who exemplify the University’s commitment to service and community engagement. Created in 2007 and renamed in 2013 to honor former Gov. James E. Holshouser, Jr., the award was designed to “encourage, identify, recognize and reward public service by employees of the University.”
Dr. Jane Hoppin is a professor of biological sciences at NC State, where she has developed a comprehensive and active research program that has as its core mission the improvement of public health. Throughout her career as an environmental epidemiologist, Dr. Hoppin has sought to identify the influences of environmental exposures on health outcomes in populations in North Carolina and across the globe.
“The complexities of establishing trust in communities to which you are an outsider while managing to conduct high-quality research that has the ability to affect not only the subject community, but communities globally, are challenges with which most of us have not contended,” said NC State Chancellor Randy Woodson. “Dr. Hoppin has embraced these challenges expertly, conducted groundbreaking research in environmental epidemiology, established important research and training collaborations across North Carolina, and continues to improve the quality of life for underserved communities through meaningful public service.”
Dr. Hoppin was instrumental in establishing the longstanding Agricultural Health Study (AHS), which is funded by the National Cancer Institute and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. Since 1993, the AHS has enrolled more than 89,000 farmers and their spouses in Iowa and North Carolina, led to hundreds of publications identifying associations between pesticide exposures and human disorders, and helped to inform and facilitate safer practices to protect agricultural communities.
At NC State, Dr. Hoppin expanded her research and outreach to the high-profile work involving industry contamination of the Cape Fear River Watershed with per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), including GenX. She quickly mobilized her team to respond to the news of the contamination in a watershed that affects millions of North Carolinians. She secured rapid response funding from the National Institutes of Health and contributed substantially to the successful NIEHS funding of NC State’s Superfund Center, which is dedicated to understanding PFAS toxicity and improving its remediation. To date, she has recruited hundreds of citizens, collecting surveys and blood samples, and will help answer their pressing questions about their exposures and long-term health effects.
Dr. Arwin D. Smallwood is a professor of history and chair of the Department of History and Political Science at North Carolina A&T. As a historian, he is committed to providing historical work that aspires to a role in everyday life and to building a healthy North Carolina through community engagement. Through his teaching, research and service, Dr. Smallwood directly connects students with the community at large. He frequently takes students on trips to visit residents in the areas they are studying to learn about traditions and culture – informing the work those future historians produce and providing communities with a way to create their own historical narratives.
Through partnerships with museums, public schools, and other academic institutions, Dr. Smallwood works to empower North Carolina citizens to honor their past while creating stronger communities. Some of his projects have included a collaboration with the Greensboro Historical Society and the International Civil Rights Museum to digitize slave deeds and make them readily available to the public. Dr. Smallwood serves on the board of the Tryon Palace Commission as well as Chair of the Historical Society of North Carolina.
In 2014, he created the Warmoth T. Gibbs Conference and Lecture, an annual event that brings together hundreds of public-school students, A&T students, Greensboro residents and noted historians to delve into questions of the community’s past.
“Motivated by a genuine interest in community engagement, Dr. Arwin Smallwood has proven success as a teacher, scholar and researcher who is adept at building external and internal relationships, and creating partnerships with other organizations on local, regional, national and international level,” said NC A&T Chancellor Harold Martin, Sr. “Through his public speaking appearances and participation in community-based organizations, he has transformed pedagogy and historical research related to the relationships between African Americans, Native Americans, and Europeans in North Carolina.”
“Dr. Hoppin and Dr. Smallwood represent the best of our public service mission, in different and exemplary ways,” said UNC President Peter Hans. “Through their work and outreach across North Carolina, they have helped improve the health and enrich the lives of their fellow citizens. We are grateful that they have also provided their students with an outstanding model of how to serve with excellence and compassion.”
“Public service is born of selfless reinvestment, a desire to use talents, passions, and abilities to help others — without a guarantee of personal profit or return,” said UNC Board of Governors Chair Randy Ramsey. “This part of our University’s mission lays important groundwork for the future of public higher education in North Carolina. I’m grateful to Dr. Hoppin and Dr. Smallwood for reminding us that public service isn’t just an action. It’s also an attitude.”
Hoppin and Smallwood will each receive a $7,500 stipend and a bronze medallion in recognition of their work.