Blooming Support for Civic & Community Engagement

By Ann Tria Wise

Surrounded by the beauty of the Kampong National Tropical Garden in Coconut Grove, Florida, Phi Beta Kappa presented the University of Miami’s Office of Civic & Community Engagement (CCE) with the fifth Key of Excellence Award and its $10,000 prize in April.

Katy Sorenson, founder and CEO of the Good Government Initiative and former Miami-Dade District Eight Commissioner, served as the event emcee. Robin Bachin, assistant provost for Civic and Community Engagement at the University of Miami, accepted the award in support of the CCE’s work. 

“We are honored and humbled to be accepting this award from such an esteemed academic organization.  The award draws attention to the importance of linking academic knowledge in the arts and sciences to the public purposes of that knowledge for improving and enhancing our communities locally, nationally, and globally,” said Assistant Provost Bachin.

The CCE seeks to solve complex social problems—and prepare students to make significant contributions to community well-being in South Florida. Its tools include the University’s diverse academic resources, spirit of innovation, and deep connections to the region. Major initiatives, such as UM Civic Scholars, Civic Engagement High School Partnership, Engaged Faculty Fellows, and the Imagining America Research Collaborative on Civic Professionalism, promote positive social change. They also create a baseline of research on the role played by civic engagement in undergraduate liberal arts and sciences education.

Thanks to the leadership efforts of CCE, the University of Miami received a Community Engagement Classification for 2015 from the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.

“We are deeply impressed with the CCE’s exemplary, cross-campus commitment to advancing the civic purposes of higher education through engaged scholarship and community collaboration,” said Phi Beta Kappa Secretary John Churchill. “We particularly applaud CCE’s extensive array of arts and sciences community-based projects for underserved and vulnerable populations in Miami, an area known to lag behind other U.S. metropolitan regions in indicators of civic well-being.”

Previous recipients of the Key of Excellence Award include Arizona State University’s Project Humanities, the Massachusetts Cultural Council, the Wisconsin Science Festival, and the Washington Consortium for the Liberal Arts.  To learn more about Phi Beta Kappa’s Key of Excellence Awards, visit

Above: Office of Civic & Community Engagement Director Robin Bachin (ΦBK, Brandies, 1988) with members of her staff at the April event. Photo by Jenny Abreu.

Anne Tria Wise is the Director of the National Arts & Sciences Initiative at Phi Beta Kappa. She can be reached at (202) 745-3230 or