Northeast State’s David Haga has earned the 2015 Harold Love Outstanding Community Service Award. The award is presented by the Tennessee Higher Education Commission (THEC) to recognize demonstrated success in public service. Five students and five faculty/staff members are honored statewide each year.
Haga, instructor of Learning Support Mathematics, was cited by THEC for his work with the College’s Student Needs Project, a program started in 2012 to address non-academic, socioeconomic factors impacting student success and retention.
Haga helped raise about $65,000 to support the project through a combination of private fund-raising through the Northeast State Foundation and through a Tennessee Board of Regents Access and Diversity grant.
Data compiled for 2013-14 show the project served 323 students who posted an 85 percent retention rate from fall 2013 to spring 2014. In addition, project participants earned 68 awards at the College’s spring 2014 Honors Convocation and were awarded 50 degrees/certificates at the spring 2014 Graduation ceremony.
“While the Harold Love award does recognize me, I think more significantly it recognizes the College’s people and what we’ve accomplished working together,” Haga said. “The heart of Northeast State is its people, and I’m incredibly proud of what we’ve done as an institution. I believe the Student Needs Project could serve as a model for other institutions.”
The General Assembly created community service recognition programs for Tennessee higher education students and faculty/staff in 1991. In 1997, the awards were named for the late Rep. Harold Love, who was instrumental in passing the legislation.
Individuals receiving the recognition represent the many dimensions of community service – volunteer work, public service, charitable service, and leadership roles in community organizations. They serve as ambassadors for community service among the many diverse higher education communities in Tennessee.
Haga said a student he taught in spring 2012 was his inspiration for the project. The student was a middle-age woman suffering in an abusive relationship. She came to class faithfully, but was visibly upset a good deal of the time. After finding the courage to leave the relationship, she found herself homeless, yet persevered to complete her courses, transfer to East Tennessee State University, and graduated with a degree in Nursing.
“It was just something I couldn’t ignore,” Haga said. “This woman was giving it everything she had and facing all these difficulties by herself. Her courage inspired me; I knew we could do something to help her and students like her.”
Haga began discussions about the SNP during the College’s 2012 Because of You Campaign, which is an annual event to raise scholarship funds for the Northeast State Foundation.
Early initiatives include increased funding for Student Emergency Fund Scholarships, an Emergency Gas Certificate program, a consortium to coordinate efforts across campus, and a mobile food pantry, which grew from a master’s degree project by Raylene Steward, TRiO Student Support Services Tutor Coordinator.
In 2014, the College institutionalized the Student Needs Project and its initiatives became permanent services administered through the office of Scholarship Programs & Student Needs.
“I’m proud for us as an institution. This isn’t something that originated in Washington, D.C., or in Nashville,” Haga said. “This is something that grew right here from our hearts, and we figured out how to make a difference and get things done.”
Haga said more than 100 Northeast State employees financially supported the program last year, many through payroll deductions each month. The project involves more than 30 campus offices and programs.
THEC will honor Haga and other recipients on April 23 at a reception in Nashville. Each recipient will receive a $1,000 cash prize.
Haga earned his bachelor’s degree from King College. He started at Northeast State in 1990 as Developmental Studies Mathematics Lab Coordinator, a position he held until 2000 when he accepted a faculty position teaching Learning Support Mathematics.
The Student Needs Project is funded through private donations. Individuals wishing to donate to the project are invited to write checks to the Northeast State Foundation (Memo: Student Needs). For more information on the Student Needs Project, visit http://www.northeaststate.edu/studentneedsproject/.