Barber-Dansby receives local Jefferson Award

Guide, empower, and encourage: these are the three words Purdue Polytechnic Institute Senior Lecturer Andrea Fay Barber-Dansby uses to evoke the mission of her multifaceted work.

Guide, empower, and encourage: these are the three words Purdue Polytechnic Institute Senior Lecturer Andrea Fay Barber-Dansby uses to evoke the mission of her multifaceted work. Fay recently received the local Jefferson Award for Outstanding Public Service, through the Purdue Office of Engagement, an honor created by Multiplying Good to recognize individuals who serve their communities and in turn, “generate ripples of good.” 

Andrea Fay Barber-Dansby

In addition to serving her community through organizations and initiatives like Junior Achievement, the Purdue Black Alumni Organization, the “Step-Up” program, and the “Quality-of-Life Fund,” Fay created her own tutoring service called Strive Learning. Strive Learning, and Fay’s additional work teaching, advising, creating, and mentoring are connected by the core value behind Fay’s pursuit to generate good: education.  Fay explained why it’s so important to her that her students, and students of color in particular, comprehend the enduring value of education. 

Coming from a marginalized community — whether you’re talking about being female, or being black — once you have your certificate or degree, no matter what obstacles may come your way, you still own that knowledge. If one door closes, or you’re in a toxic situation, you’ve got that skill set and can move on. 

Andrea Fay Barber-Dansby

Fay has been tutoring since she was an undergraduate student at Purdue. She said, “at the core of who I am, I’m an educator. Seeing that light bulb come on and that hunger for knowledge and learning in students is what keeps me going. I’m always trying to instill that we have to be lifelong learners. I consider myself a lifelong learner, and I have a goal for myself to to learn something new every day.” 

Fay said that the ultimate goal of her work is to uplift and empower people and communities her initiatives reach. This was the focus of one of her most recent initiatives, Food Engineer Adventure Campwhich inspired her director at the time, Corey Sharp, to nominate her for the Jefferson Award. The Food Engineer Adventure Camp identifies many STEM careers and opportunities in the food supply chain, to then introduce girls of color to the systems and technologies in the food sector. Her project involves a collaborative week-long camp with community partners like the Anderson Community School Corporation, the local Meijer superstore, the Anderson Career Center – D26, the IoT Smart Farm, Purdue Extension, both Madison County Chamber of Commerce, and more. At the camp, students are able to journey through the food supply chain with hands-on activities that include interacting with local growers & food companies, field trips, building an indoor garden, meal budgeting & shopping, and a food challenge competition. At one point in the process, a local company chose not to participate in the camp, explaining in the declination letter they did not wish to support diversity and inclusion initiatives.  

“It was frustrating, and it could have derailed me, but I knew I needed to press on. I was able to find another corporate partner, Nestle, and they’ve been great and very interactive with the students. We’ve already had two successful camps, which are inspiring young ladies to consider STEM in ways they might not have if not immersed with these organizations for an entire week,” said Fay.  

Fay shared that many of the students in this new camp enrolled in several of the other Purdue Polytechnic Anderson affiliated programs. Fay said that the fact they keep returning motivates her, as does the value Purdue places on engagement. 

It’s an honor to be a part of an institution that values all facets of what we do in higher education.

Andrea Fay Barber-Dansby

“To be a part of the Purdue family and see how engagement is valued at a nationally recognized research institution, to hear all of the stories and see what faculty are doing to help communities while teaching, furthering research, and helping the next generation advance in society is just amazing.”

At the Multiplying Good Conference, where Jefferson Award winners are recognized, Fay said, “This an incredible honor, to join a remarkable community comprised of caring, passionate, innovative leaders of all ages, coming together and striving to make the world a more humane place.” 

This new community ties to the core of Fay’s mission. 

“In our country, the most underutilized resource we have is our people. There are so many brilliant people whom we’re not tapping into their skill set,” Fay said. “We’re going to need everybody’s skills and talents to tackle all the challenges we have in our country. Our fellow citizens must be empowered and believe in themselves again.” 

Fay’s work, the efforts of Multiplying Good to recognize community impact, and Purdue’s support for engagement are facilitating important efforts to meet these challenges. 

Click for more information about the Jefferson Award and how to submit nominations of engagement- and service-oriented Purdue faculty and staff, including previous submission examples.

Source: Office of Engagement service-learning graduate teaching assistant Kayla Vasilko.