Outreach staff award winner announced

March 24, 2017 • by Sue Postema Scheeres

The Office for Outreach and Engagement is pleased to announce that Pilar Prostko, program coordinator and facilitator for the CU Dialogues program, has been selected as the recipient of the 2017 Anne K. Heinz Staff Award for Excellence in Outreach and Engagement.

The award, presented at the annual Outreach Awards Luncheon on March 23, honors staff members who have demonstrated outstanding professional commitments to and success with community outreach and engagement initiatives. In addition to public recognition, Prostko will receive $5,000 to support CU Dialogues outreach activities. 

“On behalf of the chancellor and provost, we are excited to recognize Pilar for her work in promoting understanding of different perspectives on and off campus,” said Sara Thompson, dean of the Division of Continuing Education and vice provost for Summer Session and Outreach and Engagement. "This recognition underscores the important role our staff play in shaping tomorrow’s leaders and positively impacting humanity through innovative outreach and engagement work.” 

The CU Dialogues program brings together diverse members of the CU Boulder and the wider Boulder community for facilitated dialogues that promote understanding through open sharing of perspectives and experiences to enhance course curriculum. 

“I am honored to be recognized by this award, while at the same time acknowledging that this kind of work cannot be accomplished alone,” Prostko said. “I am continually inspired by our dialogue participants, from students to Housing Facilities Services staff, to administrators, to CU Boulder faculty. Without their belief in us and the work we do, none of this would have been possible. This recognition will provide us with inspiration and energy to keep working on making this program a vehicle for creating understanding in our university community.” 

In her nominating letter, program director Karen Ramirez wrote that Prostko helped grow the program from a model project when she was hired in 2009 to a program that now holds 30 to 35 dialogues per semester on a variety of topics. In 2016-17, the program held 58 dialogues in 23 differents units and departments, reaching 1,402 students and 78 community members both in and out of the classroom. This year, 77 dialogues are scheduled, including a dialogue that brought together self-identified conservative and self-identified liberal students to discuss the recent election. 

Prostko’s work in identifying partnerships has helped build the program into an important campus resource. “Pilar helps everyone recognize that students, faculty and staff members are all active participants in the university’s educational mission,” Ramirez wrote. 

Off campus, Prostko has expanded the network of community partnerships, including the University Hill Neighborhood Association and Frasier Meadows. Students are now visiting the retirement community for dialogues that Prostko is organizing. “She has changed CU Boulder’s sense of community, expanding who belongs on campus and bringing ‘outside’ community members into the life of the university,“ Ramirez wrote.

The awards are administered by the Office for Outreach and Engagement and the recipients were selected by a committee that includes Peg Posnick, outreach coordinator for the Department of Theatre and Dance, Armando Pares, assistant dean of Continuing Education, and Cathy Comstock, faculty director for the Farrand Residential Academic Program.  

The award was named for Anne K. Heinz to recognize more than 25 years of support to campus faculty and staff and her leadership in CU Boulder outreach and engagement. Heinz served as dean of Continuing Education from 1997 to 2015, and as the first vice provost for Outreach and Engagement from 2009 to 2015.