The Coalition of Urban and Metropolitan Universities (CUMU) is pleased to announce that Lynn E. Pelco, Ph.D., has been awarded the 2020 Barbara A. Holland Scholar-Administrator Award, an award that recognizes the growing need for research-informed leadership in higher education.

In her virtual acceptance of the award, Pelco shared, “This award is so important because it shines a spotlight on the scholarly approach that many university administrators are taking in their community engagement work. In community engagement offices around the country, scholar-administrators are actively contributing to their university’s research and teaching missions, they are collaborating across disciplines and sectors in innovative ways that address pressing societal needs…the Barbara Holland Scholar-Administrator award reminds us why forward-thinking institutions are recommitting to their community engagement missions.”

The Holland Scholar Award is typically presented in-person at the CUMU Annual Conference. However, due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s award was presented virtually. View the presentation by Tom George, chancellor emeritus, University of Missouri–St. Louis, and former CUMU president.

Pelco serves as associate vice provost for community engagement at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU). Pelco joined VCU in 2008 as director of VCU Service Learning and was promoted to her current role in 2012. Additionally, Pelco holds the position of affiliate professor of counseling and special education in the School of Education. She earned her MS and Ph.D. in school psychology from The Pennsylvania State University and was a post-doctoral fellow at The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in the department of behavioral psychology.

Lynn shared that her personal history had significant influence on her leadership approach. She was one of the first in her family to attend college and experienced some of the many ways that campuses undermine female, first-generation, and low-income students. Pelco’s experience working with racially and economically diverse students experiencing mental and physical health challenges allowed her to appreciate some of the privileges she enjoyed, but also solidified the importance and power of assets-based approaches to building inclusive learning communities.

Pelco is committed to developing the next generation of campus and community leaders. She guides development of her office’s operating budget to ensure that it aligns with university priorities, including improving underrepresented minority student graduation rates and building faculty capacity for participating in community-university partnerships.

Additionally, Pelco established a graduate and undergraduate service-learning teaching assistant program in 2009. Annually, this program trains more than 80 students, helping VCU strive towards its institutional community-engagement priorities. Pelco demonstrates through her work that she effectively uses scholarship to guide these administrative decisions.

Pelco was nominated by David Timberline, project manager for the Center for Community Engagement and Impact (CEI) at Virginia Commonwealth University.

“She is an innovative and rigorous scholar as well as a compassionate and creative administrator. She embodies Dr. Holland’s commitment to effective community engagement,” said Timberline.

Another recommender stated, “I cannot possibly quantify the significance of Lynn’s work. Even if such a thing could be captured adequately in quantifiable terms, Lynn’s reach and impact extend far beyond what I am in a position to observe.”

CUMU could not agree more. There are numerous additional accolades shared by Pelco’s recommenders and the award selection committee. Again, congratulations to Lynn Pelco!

Founded in 1989, the Coalition of Urban and Metropolitan Universities (CUMU) is the longest-running and largest organization committed to serving and connecting North America’s urban and metropolitan universities and their partners. CUMU focuses on strengthening institutions that are developing new responses to the pressing educational, economic, and social issues of the day. Learn more at and follow CUMU on Twitter.

Barbara A. Holland, Ph.D., is a professor, researcher and consultant recognized internationally for her scholarship and expertise on organizational change in higher education with a special focus on the strategic impacts of community engagement as a method of teaching, learning and research. Her current academic affiliations are Distinguished Community Engagement Professor at University of Nebraska Omaha, and Senior Scholar at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis and University of North Carolina Greensboro. She has served in senior academic administrative roles at several universities in the United States and Australia, held a visiting scholar role in the US Department of Housing and Urban Development headquarters for two years during the Clinton and Bush administrations, and was Executive Director of the federally-funded National Service-Learning Clearinghouse for seven years. The library collection, upon the closing of the Clearinghouse, was moved to the Criss Library at University of Nebraska Omaha in 2011 and is called The Barbara A. Holland Collection for Service-Learning and Community Engagement.

Located in the heart of Richmond, the capital of Virginia since 1779, Virginia Commonwealth University serves an integral role in the economic health of the city and the state, educating the current and future workforce, reaching out to the community, advancing research and enhancing patient care.

VCU was founded in 1838 as the medical department of Hampden-Sydney College, becoming the Medical College of Virginia in 1854. In 1968, the General Assembly merged MCV with the Richmond Professional Institute, founded in 1917, to create Virginia Commonwealth University.

Today, VCU offers comprehensive undergraduate, master’s, doctoral and professional programs and encompasses one of the largest academic health centers in the nation. With $310 million in externally funded research awards for the 2019 fiscal year, VCU is one of only 28 public universities in the country with an academic medical center to be designated by the Carnegie Foundation as “Community Engaged” with “Highest Research Activity.” Its centers and institutes of excellence support the university’s research mission and involve faculty from multiple disciplines in the arts, public policy, biotechnology and health care discoveries.

VCU enrolls more than 31,000 students in more than 200 degree and certificate programs in the arts, sciences and humanities. Twenty-two of the programs are unique in Virginia, many of them crossing the disciplines of VCU’s 11 schools and five colleges. VCU has a full-time instructional faculty of more than 2,500 who are nationally and internationally recognized for excellence in the arts, business, education, engineering, the humanities, the life sciences, social work and all the health care professions. With more than 24,000 employees, VCU and VCU Health also have a significant impact on Central Virginia’s economy.

Through the guidance of its strategic plan, Quest 2025, VCU is working to meet the demands of diverse populations through impactful research and creativity, rigorous study, and extensive community engagement and is taking its place among the nation’s premier urban, public research universities.

VCU and the VCU Health System have been honored with prestigious national and international recognition for top-quality graduate, professional and medical-care programs, reflecting a commitment to be among America’s top research universities, supporting students, faculty and the VCU community.