Photos of UC Davis IARSCLE award winners Liza Grandia (left) and Keith Watenpaugh (right).

International Honors for Two Public Engagement Champions

Associate Professor Liza Grandia and Professor Keith David Watenpaugh have been honored by the International Association for Research on Service-Learning and Community Engagement (IARSLCE) for research and partnerships with a tangible impact on the daily lives of people in countries such as Guatemala and Syria. 

IARSLCE is a non-profit organization devoted to promoting research and discussion about service-learning and community engagement. Its mission is to promote the development and dissemination of research on service-learning and community engagement internationally and across all levels of the education system. Grandia and Watenpaugh will receive their awards in October 2023 at the IARSCLE annual meeting in New Orleans.

UC Davis now boasts four IARSCLE winners — Assistant Professor Clare Cannon and Dr. Katherine Kim received awards in 2022. All have received support for their community engagement work through grants and programs offered by UC Davis Public Scholarship and Engagement (PSE).

"I am very proud of Liza Grandia and Keith Watenpaugh for their outstanding contributions to community-based research and teaching," said Michael Rios, vice provost of public scholarship and engagement. "Their participation in PSE programs enabled us to enhance their work and elevate them as leaders in community engagement."


Liza Grandia smiling in front of a plain background

Liza Grandia

Department of Native American Studies
Director, Indigenous Research Center of the Americas
College of Letters and Science

Grandia was selected as winner of the 2022 IARSLCE Community Outcomes and Impact Award for her multiple, mutually beneficial partnerships with communities in Central America. The award recognizes research with a significant impact on an organization or program, and which has measurably benefited a community. 

A cultural anthropologist by training, Grandia has spent thirty years as a scholar-activist-ally working with Maya movements and environmental organizations in Guatemala and Belize. Having halted a World Bank-financed pipeline with investigative research for an undergraduate term paper, she learned from a young age the transformative power of scholarship. While in graduate school, her monograph on Q’eqchi’ traditional ecological knowledge helped Maya communities win co-management of a national park and a constitutional land case, which restored Maya governance to southern Belize. Her first two books documented how a World Bank loan led to disastrous land grabbing across Q'eqchi' territory and compelled the World Bank to cancel negotiations for another $90+ million loan. As founder and coordinator of the Q’eqchi’ Scholars Network, she mentors younger scholars to put their research into service of Indigenous and environmental justice movements.  

For the last decade she has accompanied a Q'eqchi' peasant movement to defend and steward their remaining lands with improved agroecological practices. This work has been partially supported by Public Scholarship and Engagement through its Public Impact Research Initiative and a Community Engaged Learning Faculty Fellowship

A survivor of an environmentally-induced cancer, Grandia’s current book and next major projects will challenge the harms caused by agrochemical corporations in Mesoamerica. To launch this work, she won a Mellon Foundation New Directions Fellowship to retrain herself in environmental health and toxicology. In parallel activism at home, she has led parent, citizen and student efforts in her town, school district, and University of California system in banning Roundup, forging safer pesticides policies, demanding climate action, and improving indoor air quality — for which she won a northern California "grassroots activist" award in 2019 and a "sustainable hero" faculty award.


Man with arms crossed in front of blurred out buildings

Keith David Watenpaugh

Professor and Founding Director, Human Rights Studies
College of Letters and Science

Watenpaugh was awarded the 2022 IARSLCE Public Scholarship Award for the Article 26 Backpack project, which seeks to ensure universal academic access and mobility, especially for those displaced by war or violence. The award recognizes exemplary interdisciplinary research that generates non-traditional scholarly products, presented in a manner that is widely accessible to targeted audiences and/or the general public. 

This Article 26 Backpack digital platform provides a much-needed resource for vulnerable populations to safely store and share educational documents with universities, employers and funding agencies. The ecosystem has reached more than 3,600 refugee and displaced youth in the Middle East, South Asia, East Africa and California. 

Watenpaugh is a leader in thinking about what role higher education can have in the face of developing global citizenship and support for democratization and human rights amongst refugee young people, who are often fleeing authoritarian states. For his work on education as a basic human right, Watenpaugh received a Ford Foundation Core Grant (2018), a 2019 Institute of International Education Centennial Medal, a U.S. Congressional Commendation recognizing the impact of this work, and the 2021 Edmund O’Brien Prize for individual achievement in Human Rights Education from Human Rights Educators-USA. He was a UC Davis Public Scholarship Faculty Fellow in 2020.

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