By Jeanne McDonald May 3, 2021
Nomita Chhabildas, PhD, is the winner of the 2021 Anne K. Heinz Staff Award for Excellence in Outreach and Engagement, which honors staff members who have demonstrated outstanding professional commitments to and success with community outreach and engagement initiatives.
Chhabildas is director of the Attention, Behavior, and Learning (ABL) Clinic in the CU Boulder Department of Psychology and Neuroscience, which has been helping families better understand their children’s learning and emotional needs since 2004. During that time, the clinic has provided psychological and educational evaluation services to over 800 families from Colorado and surrounding states with the goal of maximizing mental health and academic outcomes for children and adolescents who are experiencing academic, behavioral or emotional difficulties.
A licensed clinical psychologist, Chhabildas is the driving force behind the initiation and expansion of the community outreach provided by the ABL clinic. She is responsible for all aspects of the clinic including overseeing the evaluation services and providing training for clinical graduate students. In addition to helping families access appropriate resources, Chhabildas also fosters collaborations with community providers, offering professional development trainings to area schools and agencies.
“I am excited to announce that Nomita Chhabildas has been selected for this award,” said Sara Thompson, dean of continuing education and vice provost for outreach and engagement, whose division funds the award. “It is clear that the clinic’s community impact has been far reaching largely due to her hard work and unwavering dedication. She exemplifies the spirit of the staff award through her ability to go above and beyond to understand and meet the needs of both the community and her students.”
Chhabildas has demonstrated an exceptional ability to use scarce resources efficiently. The ABL clinic receives no departmental or university general funding, relying solely on grants , awards, and clinic fees. The clinic works to offer high quality of services to families of varying socioeconomic status. The clinic’s research has found that children with significant academic difficulties were much less likely to be evaluated if their family was in the lowest quartile of population income. Chhabildas has maintained an unwavering commitment to provide scholarships for families in need since the inception of the clinic.
Most recently, her efforts have been especially essential to address the obstacles and constraints presented by the COVID- 19 pandemic. During this time, she leveraged her strong collaborative relationships with a wide range of stakeholders, including parents, teachers, Children’s Hospital Colorado and other agencies to develop procedures that have allowed the clinic to continue to provide safe and valid assessments both in-person and remotely. These efforts have provided critical flexibility during this incredibly challenging time and may now allow them to reach rural families that have not been able to come to the Boulder clinic in the past.
According to Professor Irene Blair, chair of the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience, “Nomita’s leadership, innovation, collaboration and communication with other agencies, her belief in the clinic’s ability to improve mental health and academic outcomes, and her passion for serving the community have allowed this clinic to benefit hundreds of families across Colorado. Nomita has consistently implemented creative and innovative strategies to improve the quality of services provided by the ABL clinic for children and families in our community.”
The staff award includes $5,000 which Chhabildas will receive to support the clinic’s outreach activities. It is part of the Outreach and Engagement Professionals Network (OEPN) initiative sponsored by the Office for Outreach and Engagement. The OEPN is a campus community of practice that seeks to increase collaboration, professional development opportunities and recognition of campus outreach and engagement work.