By Gretchen Minekime April 28, 2022
Joanne Guillery credits her relationship-building skills to her time in the Peace Corps. She has honed and used those skills in every chapter of her career – as a community organizer, fundraiser, and now as the office manager for NEST (Nature, Environment, Science & Technology) Studio for the Arts. These skills are at the heart of why Guillery is the recipient of the 2022 Anne K. Heinz Staff Award for Excellence in Outreach and Engagement
The annual award is given to a staff member who goes above and beyond to establish and support community-engaged scholarship (i.e., teaching, creative work, or research) between CU Boulder and outside communities. The recipient is granted $5,000 to support program needs identified by the staff member and sponsoring department.
NEST was established in 2017 to enhance cross-campus collaboration and community outreach. It develops art-science exhibitions, funds graduate fellowships and offers community grants. NEST focuses on current issues such as climate change, human rights, resource scarcity, and other environmental concerns.
Guillery was nominated by Erin Espelie, co-director of NEST and associate professor in cinema studies and the moving image arts and critical media practices. Espelie credits Guillery, a half-time employee, with introducing NEST to tens of thousands of people by stewarding over 100 exhibitions, community events, lectures, film screenings, panel discussions and workshops. Seventy-five percent of the events were presented to audiences external to campus. And, NEST’s productivity increased during COVID thanks to Guillery’s approach and passion for the work.
“NEST’s success is due to its openness, flexibility and ability to be creative within partnerships and funding,” said Guillery. “CU Boulder has resources that community organizations often don’t. Us sharing improves the experience for everyone. It’s about listening and then coordinating and then listening again and coordinating some more.”
Guillery’s generosity and natural curiosity helps NEST break down ideas about who can collaborate. NEST works with nearly 30 departments at CU Boulder, supporting mainly graduate students in their explorations outside their own fields of study. Broadening her own horizons and helping others do the same is Guillery’s favorite part of the job. She finds great value in learning what it’s like to be in someone else’s shoes or to work with different styles.
“Students have said that NEST has given them more opportunities to think about their work broadly. For example, a chemical engineer worked with a ceramicist and created a wall hanging that absorbs toxicity from the air in nail salons. Our students have the opportunity to think of scholarship in a community-centered way and across disciplines. The fresh approach also helps leverage funds from different grant sources,” said Guillery.
Guillery finds satisfaction supporting engaged scholarship work, because NEST’s work happens without the limitations of traditional institutional boundaries and helps to actualize work that probably wouldn’t be funded through traditional channels. She also thinks university staff are more influential than they sometimes assume.
“Department admins make the human connections and create the community at CU. So, if we invest time trying to connect people with the external community, the scholarship happening by students and others can be brought to more people,” urged Guillery. “Outreach is critical to providing opportunities for everyone to see that there is scholarship that is collaborative, synergistic, applicable and approachable. Scholars don’t only stay on campus in formal settings.”
The 2022 Anne K. Heinz Staff Award for Excellence in Outreach and Engagement was presented on April 20 to Guillery at the CU Boulder Outreach Awards Luncheon. Charla Agnoletti and Nomita Chhabildas (2020 and 2021 recipients) were also honored at the luncheon—the first held since 2019.