Professor Emily Auerbach to Receive National Distinguished Service Award

The Association of Public and Land-grant Universities’ (APLU) Commission on Access, Diversity and Excellence (CADE) has named University of Wisconsin-Madison Professor Emily Auerbach and the late Pennsylvania State University Vice Provost W. Terrell Jones as the 2014 co-recipients of the CADE Distinguished Service Award for significant contributions to increasing diversity and access in the public higher education community.

Auerbach is the first tenured faculty member to be honored with the Distinguished Service Award while Jones is the first person honored posthumously. Nicholas P. Jones, executive vice president and provost of Penn State, will accept the award in his honor during a ceremony Sunday, November 2 at APLU’s 127th Annual Meeting in Orlando, Florida.

Now in its 15th year, the Distinguished Service Award was established to recognize individuals who have demonstrated sustained accomplishments in one or more of the Commission’s targeted focuses, including providing access and opportunity in higher education; enhancing the undergraduate experience; increasing diversity in the academic community; creating socially beneficial partnerships; and providing leadership related to diversity and beneficial social change.

“We are extremely excited that two outstanding individuals have won the CADE Distinguished Service Award,” said John Michael Lee, Jr., vice president for Access and Success at APLU. “For Auerbach, this award recognizes her amazing efforts in giving voice and support to an important population in the city of Madison, Wisconsin. For Jones, it helps to celebrate a lifetime worth of contributions and accomplishments to diversity in higher education.”

Emily Auerbach, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Throughout her professional career Auerbach has developed numerous programs that open the doors of opportunity for traditionally underrepresented populations in higher education. Under her direction as founder of the UW-Madison Odyssey Project, a free nine-month, six-credit college-level class in the humanities for people who have faced adverse obstacles to completing their education, the program has grown from an idea inspired by her own parent’s struggle in escaping poverty to one that has helped students from homelessness, incarceration, and addiction earn college degrees.

As part of the program, students receive free tuition, textbooks, childcare, and a weekly dinner through support from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, grants, and private donations. Ethnic minorities represent the majority of the students who participate in the project.

Prior to the founding of the Odyssey Project in 2003, Auerbach was recognized for her service in the community in a number of capacities, most noticeably as a speaker in retirement centers, prisons, churches, community centers, schools, and in libraries. She has also taught online and through the mail by adapting some of her textbooks into Braille.

“I am passionate about diversity and access, so the CADE Distinguished Service Award is a great honor,” said Auerbach. “As the Director of the life-changing University of Wisconsin-Madison Odyssey Project, I’ve helped to empower adults near the poverty level to move from homelessness to UW-Madison master’s degrees, from incarceration to meaningful work in the community. My goal as an outreach professor and public radio host for the past 30 years has been to bring the riches of the liberal arts to a wider, more diverse population.”

former Penn State Vice Provost W. Terrell Jones also was honored