The New England Resource Center for Higher Education (NERCHE) has named Margaret Pfeil, assistant professor of ethics and moral theology at the University of Notre Dame, as a finalist for the 2011 Ernest A. Lynton Award for the Scholarship of Engagement for Early Career Faculty. A faculty member in the Department of Theology, Pfeil holds a joint appointment with the Center for Social Concerns and is a Faculty Fellow of the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies.
The Lynton Award recognizes a faculty member who connects his or her teaching, research, and service to community engagement. The Lynton Award emphasizes engaged scholarship, characterized by work tied to a faculty member’s expertise that benefits the external community and is visible and shared with community stakeholders, while reflecting the mission of the institution.
In support of Pfeil’s nomination, Andre Gingerich Stoner, Director of Interchurch Relations and Holistic Witness, Mennonite Church USA, says, “Professor Margie Pfeil integrates scholarship and community engagement in many extraordinary ways, enriching the experience and understanding of both her students, the academy, and the broader community. I served as a Mennonite pastor in the South Bend community for more than a dozen years and have deeply appreciated the insight, engagement, and spirit of collaboration that she contributes in numerous settings. In her involvements she brings together great scholarly insight, a deep commitment to the common good, and rich personal experiences in social engagement in our community and beyond.”
Pfeil’s work has addressed a diversity of issues, from energy conservation to food issues to the challenges of war, to community art. Her commitment to connecting teaching, research, and service to community engagement is most evident in her recent work launching the Monroe Park Grocery Co-op in downtown South Bend. This community-based research project stemmed from her undergraduate theology class, Synergos: The Theology of Food Co-Ops, which helped connect Catholic social tradition with food.
“This has been my most innovative research work to date,” Pfeil says, “and as conversations with community partners deepen around our grant funding to identify a longer-term goal related to food security, I am quickly realizing that this one vein of research will probably become my life’s work.
“There is an urgent need in our city, region, and nation to rediscover skills for reconnecting people with the land, making healthy, affordable food available to poor people in the inner city, generating much needed markets for the goods of local farmers, and building webs of relationship among people in both settings.”
Reflecting on her community engagement scholarship, Pfeil writes: “Every human being is gifted by God with the capabilities to teach and learn, and these gifts are meant to serve the common good of society. By exercising the preferential option for the poor, I try to locate myself as teacher and learner on the margins of society, in solidarity with those who are most vulnerable to systemic forms of injustice. From that vantage point, it is possible to work with those most directly affected as moral agents. Together, we can identify research interests and create a space for all concerned to participate in exploring those questions with a view toward serving the common good, i.e., the fulfillment of the integral well-being of each and every member of society.”