Niki Messmore

2022 Community Engagement Professional Award Winner

Niki Messmore, Director of Medical Service Learning at IU School of Medicine, earned the Community Engagement Professional Award from Community-Engaged Alliance.

Established in 2006, the award honors professional staff who demonstrate an ability to effectively cultivate, facilitate, and maintain high-quality partnerships with community organizations and representatives.

Messmore has worked in service-learning for the past 7 years, and her community work is rooted in lived experiences which drive her towards changemaking. Among her work, in 2020 she secured an $81,884 grant from the Serve Indiana Commission to start a new AmeriCorps program to connect medical students to community organizations and teach social issues.

“Since joining the School of Medicine, my role in community engagement shifted to focus on the 1,200 medical students across 9 campuses. Pre-med education and medical schools nationally do little to engage students in understanding these issues beyond plain statements like ‘African Americans have higher blood pressure than whites’ wherein race (a social construct) becomes a genetic factor, instead of discussing how systemic racism contributes to this health disparity. In this role I have been able to enrichen our school-wide co-curricular programs, deepen community partnerships and move away from transactional relationships, and help shift curricular efforts towards incorporating these topics into student learning,” Messmore said.

In her previous role as Coordinator for Civic Engagement at IUPUI, Messmore transformed the Alternative Breaks program by ensuring equity and access for all students and encouraging students to develop trips that spoke to their own personal experiences. She has also coordinated large-scale days of service in 2019 and 2020 with 400 participants across 6 community partners.

“The concept of ‘community voice’ is a pillar of my practice. When establishing partnerships with nonprofits, I guide students and faculty to ask what the organization actually needs rather than prioritizing student learning ahead of the community. Beyond service, I work to disrupt the dominant narrative by providing education on the social issues and their connection to structural issues in society – I never want students to take the charity approach of ‘I did X and now I feel good,’ but to walk away understanding what they can continue to do in their personal life to address social issues,” Messmore said.

In recommending Messmore for the award, Morgan Studer, Director of Faculty and Community Resources at IUPUI Center for Service and Learning, said, “Niki does not compartmentalize who she is from the work that she does. If professional obstacles present themselves, she works to move those obstacles and transform the situation through advocacy, education, and persistence. She is the embodiment of a Community Engagement Professional.”

Messmore was nominated by IU School of Medicine. Applications and nominations for the 2023 Community Engagement Professional Award are open until July 8, 2022.


Published May 5, 2022

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