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Fostering the community: Carla Trentelman awarded for John A. Lindquist Award

Carla Trentelman, Professor of Sociology at Weber State University.
Weber State University
Carla Trentelman, Professor of Sociology at Weber State University.

Carla Trentelman, a retiring sociology professor at Weber State University, is the recipient of this year’s John A. Lindquist Award. Given annually, the John A. Lindquist Award works to acknowledge Weber State University faculty who have fostered students’ learning through community engagement.

For Trentelman, using community engaged learning means employing a service component into her teaching. The students who take community engaged learning classes with Trentelman complete service work in the community and conduct community based research as part of the course work.

“The service works to help them learn more about what it is we are learning in class,” Trentelman said.

In Trentelman’s contemporary social issues class, students focus on one social problem and do 15 hours of social work that is connected to that problem. The assignments given out help students connect what they see in their service work and what they are learning in the classroom.

“Some students will choose to work on issues related to poverty and they might put in their 15 hours through the food pantry at Weber State,” Trentelman said.

This method of teaching helps students see the inner complexities of many social issues, creating a deeper connection with course material while also giving back to their community. This work can also help students find jobs once they graduate or move on to higher education.

Trentelman said community-based research helped the campus community.

In her environment society course, her students conducted research on how the Weber State community thinks about water conservation. The students brought the information they gathered to the WSU Energy and Sustainability office. The research from that class has helped the campus be more knowledgeable on the subject and what education is needed for campus to better understand water conservation.

Beyond community engaged learning in classrooms, Trentelman’s career shows many examples of her dedication to her community.

After graduating from high school in Montana, Trentelman moved to Utah to be with family in January 1978. In the fall of 1979 she enrolled at Weber State College as a Vista Volunteer, a program that paid tuition in exchange for volunteer service. Trentelman graduated in 1982 with a bachelor’s of general studies in sociology.

Once graduated, Trentelman began her first career in addiction counseling. Trentelman worked in addiction counseling for two decades before deciding to shift gears and go back to school.

“I couldn’t picture having one career for the rest of my life, so I planned then to go to grad school after my kids were grown,” Trentelman said.

While working in addiction counseling, Trentelman felt that the “progress, not perfection” mentality has been good for her students. She wants to see how her students grow over the course of a semester and their ability to make progress in learning, writing and handling difficult concepts. Trentelman said watching her students make progress is one of her favorite parts of being a professor.

Trentelman started graduate school in 2001 at Utah State University with a focus on environmental sociology. In the summer of 2005, Trentelman began working at Weber State as an adjunct professor while working to get her Ph.D. Then in 2009, Trentelman received a tenure position at Weber State and began her position on campus officially.

“I love it here; it’s my dream job,” Trentelman said.

Protecting and conserving the Great Salt Lake is another passion of Trentelman.

“I moved here in 1978, and I didn’t ever learn anything or think about the lake until 1995,” Trentelman said. “At that point I read the book ‘Refuge’ by Terry Tempest Williams and that totally shifted my thinking. I became very interested in the lake.”

Trentelman did her Ph.D dissertation work on the Great Salt Lake. She conducted surveys, focus groups and interviews to see how people who lived near the lake felt about it and how it affected them. At Weber State, Trentelman implements that research into her environmental sociology courses.

Outside of work at Weber State, Trentelman enjoys spending time with her husband and grandchildren, and also bird watching. Bird watching is one of the things that brought her closer to the Great Salt Lake.

Center of Excellence and Learning invited Trentelman to host their Last Lecture event last semester. The Last Lecture is an event where retiring professors are honored and can speak on any topic of their choosing.

Trentelman asked those attending her Last Lecture to bring food to donate to the Joyce Hansen Hall Food Bank at the Catholic Community Service.

When it comes to John. A Lindquist Award, Trentelman said the award is an important acknowledgement of the community engaged learning. The award celebrates the connection and commitment that students have to their communities and communities have to students.

Trentelman said that while this award might have her name on it, this is about the effort her students, community partners, the members of CCEL and herself have done to give back to the community.

“John A. Lindquist and many of his children have been very invested in that kind of commitment, so it is very fitting that there is this award named after him, that is all about acknowledging the importance of this work and partnership,” Trentelman said.

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Cooper Hatsis
Cooper Hatsis, Culture Assistant Editor

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