Jabari Jones Awarded the 2022 Outstanding Community Service Award

Jabari Jones, SAFL PhD candidate in Earth & Environmental Sciences (ESCI), was recently awarded the 2022 Outstanding Community Service Award! As a community organizer, educator and volunteer, Jabari is working to redefine what it means to be a graduate student at the University of Minnesota. 

According to Hima Hassenruck-Gudipati, a postdoctoral fellow at SAFL and ESCI who nominated Jabari alongside Dr. Andrew Wickert, "Jabari has an expansive approach to engaging with communities in Minneapolis, at the University of Minnesota, and in our field. Recognizing and compensating this labor of redefining what a geoscience grad student looks like can often get lost. I thought this was a fantastic opportunity to change that and highlight Jabari's powerful work."

When he’s not conducting research, Jabari volunteers in Twin Cities schools with Science for Scientists and tutors with Migizi, an organization focused on nurturing the educational, social, economic and cultural development of Indigenous youth across five districts in Minnesota. In his neighborhood in south Minneapolis, Jabari coaches ultimate frisbee at a local high school while providing support to his community through his volunteer work with the Calvary Emergency Food Shelf.

“Lots of students care about community engagement and making a positive difference, but often we get caught up in the professional requirements of academia and we feel limited in the time and space we can devote to things outside of research,” Jabari says. “I’m trying to push at that framework and say: all of these things really matter. Teaching and community-based research are all part of the University’s and many departments’ mission statements. There is space to do these things and include them as an important part of your work.”

 At the University, Jabari has led efforts towards diversity and community engagement, including co-organizing with Kat Catner (ESCI staff), Maddy Nyblade (ESCI grad student), and Kali Mansur (ESCI undergrad) ESCI’s first-ever Environmental Community Engagement Summit. Through academic articles like “We Need Accomplices, not Allies in the Fight for an Equitable Geoscience” and “More than fun in the sun: The pedagogy of field trips improves student learning in higher education,” Jabari shares his perspective and expertise with the larger academic community while challenging his colleagues to interrogate issues such as racism and accessibility.

Jabari Jones teaching
Jabari teaching undergraduate students from the University of Minnesota.

According to Dr. Andrew Wickert (ESCI), “Jabari advances our understanding of both the natural and human landscapes, intersecting analytical and compassionate approaches to predicting changes in flooding (and how we influence this), improving scientific education for all, and reminding us of the importance of just and equitable access to nature on the health of our society. Jabari's service-oriented morals, interdisciplinary approach to solving pressing problems, and insightful independence of thought continue to inspire lasting change in how we as a group relate to our science and our community.” 

Jabari has also carried his activism and community-focus into this academic work, evident in projects such as “Just water or Just Water.” Alongside an interdisciplinary, international team of social and physical scientists, Jabari is working to unravel the social, demographic and economic factors that influence stream restoration planning and siting. This is a perspective that is often left behind, with researchers and practitioners often focusing solely on hydrology, geomorphology and ecology.

Through his dedication to community engagement and environmental justice, Jabari is a model of what it means to pursue academic work while rooted in community. Congratulations, Jabari – and thank you for your service!