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Widener Alumna/Faculty Member Wins Award

November 12, 2013

LittlefieldA Widener alumna and faculty member has won the 2013 Alexander Charters Outstanding Continuing Educator Award from the University Professional and Continuing Education Association Mid-Atlantic Region. Dr. Cathy M. Littlefield of West Chester, Pa., holds both a bachelor’s degree and a doctorate from Widener, as well as an MBA from West Chester University. She won the award that recognizes scholarship, leadership, and contributions to the continuing education profession by an individual who entered the profession less than 10 years ago. 

Littlefield was profiled in the November 2012 issue of GroW, the newsletter for the Continuing Studies Division. Here is the text of that story by Sam Starnes:

When Hurricane Andrew decimated the small town of Homestead, Florida, twenty years ago, Cathy Littlefield was working as a housekeeping training manager for a beachfront resort hotel 77 miles to the north in luxurious Boca Raton.

Instead of staying put at the comfy resort unhit by the storm, she organized a contingent of hotel employees to travel down to the damaged neighborhoods and help victims of the hurricane. “The people were so grateful just to have a plate of rice and beans,” said Littlefield, now an adjunct faculty member in Widener’s School of Education, Innovation, and Continuing Studies.

The act of helping those in need—one form of civic engagement—made an impact that has stuck with her for two decades now. “It changed me forever,” she said.

Today, Littlefield teaches the benefits and importance of civic engagement to Continuing Studies students in her course Becoming a Civically Engaged Professional. The course, which she taught for the first time in spring 2012, focuses on promoting learning through active participation in service experiences. (The class will be offered again in spring 2014.)

Coursework for the class that meets for four hours on every other Saturday includes readings on civic engagement, planning and organizing the Continuing Studies Day of Giving Back project, and interviewing a civic leader. Littlefield also brings in guest speakers such as former West Chester Mayor Dick Yoder and a local pastor who takes students on a tour of Chester.

“It opens your eyes to the possibility of getting involved,” Littlefield said.

A Widener faculty member since 2009, Littlefield has also taught Introduction to Applied Supervision and Effective Planning and Organization in the Continuing Studies Division, and Special Events Management in the School of Hospitality Management.

Her road to teaching is not one the Unionville, Pennsylvania, native would have predicted when she graduated from Widener in 1990 with a bachelor’s degree in hospitality management. After graduation she moved to Louisville, Kentucky, to work for Hyatt Hotels and completed the company’s management training program.

In 1991, she moved to Florida, where she worked for the Boca Raton Resort and Club for four-and-a-half years. The large hotel on the Atlantic Ocean had 2,200 employees who hailed from 27 different countries. “At one point, I could say hello in five languages,” she said.

After a brief stay at a job in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, Littlefield returned to Chester County, Pennsylvania, and earned an MBA from West Chester University. She met her husband, Dan, and they started a flower business in West Chester. They initially started with a retail shop but now handle only special events, primarily weddings.

She began working on a doctorate in higher education administration at Widener five years ago and completed it in the summer of 2012. She said her experience as a florist and in the hospitality management business benefited her as she has transitioned into a career in higher education.

That experience also translates well to civic engagement. She has helped adult students like Theresa Fagan realize that the work they do in their communities is an expression of civic engagement.

“I was able to reflect on how I was already engaged in my community and realize how many people in my life are civically engaged,” Fagan said. “It doesn’t have to be a big event; it could be as simple as helping out a neighbor taking groceries in, making meals for people in your church community, or planting flowers for someone who isn’t able to do it for themselves. It made me realize that simply being a good citizen is being civically engaged.”

The most recent issue of the GroW newsletter was published earlier this month and is available online.

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