Foundation Award for Service

Suzanne Walker-Pacheco

Suzanne Walker-Pacheco

Sociology, Anthropology, and Gerontology
Reynolds College of Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities

I. Philosophy of Service

My core philosophy is that everyone should have the opportunity to maximize their life experience. As an anthropologist, I have conducted research in other countries and feel privileged to have been immersed within various cultures. Life experience and global events have inspired my passion for teaching about and taking action on social and environmental justice issues. Students share this sentiment and thrive on their introduction to action-oriented projects that impact the world in a positive way. My inaugural Action Anthropology class in 2019 led to my current and most comprehensive service project: the Paws to the Polls voter education initiative.  

My service endeavors consistently include MSU students. The rewards of engagement, community, and inter-cultural interactions are too valuable not to share, and skills are obtained in the process. For example, Paws to the Polls students participate in every aspect of the initiative, and skills gained by previous members have increased their success in obtaining and succeeding in full-time employment after graduation. Former students who work with me on public affairs endeavors often continue along a path involving civic engagement or community service.  One of the most gratifying rewards of service is infecting the next generation with the public affairs bug. 

II. Examples of Service


At the university and college levels, I have a continuous history of active participation, which includes service on the Public Affairs Conference Committee and twice as departmental representative on the Faculty Senate. Past university service has included the Citizenship and Service-Learning Oversight Committee, College Council, Gender Studies Committee, Latin American, Caribbean or Hispanic Studies Committee, and planning committee for an MSU conference: “Childhood Obesity Prevention: A Call to Action.” I have conducted forensic anthropology workshops, including for the Expanding Your Horizons program for middle school girls – always involving MSU students. Other activities include public affairs panels, diversity-related fora, organizing guest lectures, presidential scholarship interviews, and presentations in Biology, Geology, GEP 101, and UHC 110 classes. 

In the Sociology and Anthropology Department, I have served numerous active roles. 

Examples include organizing a banquet for our graduate program’s inaugural year, serving since 2016 as the Anthropology Club advisor and overseeing the Student Anthropology Conference and serving for twelve years as faculty advisor for the Lambda Alpha Anthropological Honor Society. Other long-term departmental service, including roles as chair, have included the Scholarship Committee and the Faculty Evaluation Committee. For the Display Case Task Force, I have collaborated with students for past displays. I have served on nine faculty and department head searches and chaired three.  

The majority of my service involves student participation and mentoring, with a particular focus on enhancing the student experience. I have a long history of establishing additional opportunities for students; I have had at least 44 students under my supervision for Directed Research, internships, and field schools. My most recent service endeavor is the most significant and impactful of my career: the creation, maintenance, and growth of the campus voter education initiative, Paws to the Polls, which I established with a group of MSU students in early 2020. This initiative embodies Missouri State University’s public affairs mission and aims to change the culture of voting at Missouri State University. The initiative’s “arms” are voter education, outreach, and voter support. Included in our many activities and efforts are having developed a voter education curriculum for GEP 101, produced videos on voting and the public affairs mission, created a voter education booklet, website content, and published a brief article in the e-Journal of Public Affairs. We have delivered over 200 presentations, distributed thousands of voter information booklets, held dozens of tabling events, and host trivia nights both on and off campus. In the fall of 2022, we introduced Voter Awareness Week and have held four Voting Fairs. We’ve also hosted a legislator discussion panel and two candidate forums. Via the Office of Public Affairs Support (our main campus partner), MSU is part of the American Democracy Project and the Tufts University National Service Learning and Voter Engagement project; MSU was recognized for raising voting rates in 2020 and 2022. We have a growing number of campus and community partners, including the local League of Women Voters and the Greene County Clerk’s office.      


Scholarly reviews have been part of my Professional Service, for which I have reviewed journal articles, book chapters, and grant proposals for American Journal of Physical Anthropology, Journal of Human Evolution, Plenum Publishing, and Wenner‑Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research. I have also conducted external reviews for promotion for faculty.


Leading a Latino children’s literacy program (“Club de Cuentos”), which was an official service-learning Community Partner, from 2001 to 2009 allowed me to develop strong ties with the local Latino community and served as the basis for forming cross-cultural interactions between MSU students and local Latino individuals. Student volunteers read to children in and out of the formal program and connected with family members to connect them to the broader Springfield community. My involvement in Latino community organizations turned to improving the status of minority health in Southwest Missouri, and included Ozarks Regional Alliance, a Diversity Issues Committee of the local Health Department, and others. These connections led to, and strengthened, my subsequent research and service on Latino health issues in Southwest Missouri and both research and service pursuits within an interactive diabetes and obesity prevention program for Latino immigrant families in Springfield. Student involvement in all endeavors enhanced their experienced and contributed to skill-building.

Community Education

My long history of community educational involvement and engaging students with the community is exemplified by my role on the Springfield/Greene County Library committee that brought a traveling national exhibit to our library system from the Smithsonian’s Human Origins Program in 2016. I was involved in all aspects of bringing the exhibit, Exploring Human Origins: Promoting a National Conversation on Human Evolution, to The Library Center as well as participating and co-programming once we were chosen as one of the 19 locations in the U.S. I developed workshops and displays that students helped to run, served on panels, co-produced a brochure for the general public, and conducted presentations.    

Over the years, I have presented numerous additional lectures to schools, libraries, and local organizations on field primatology, ecology and conservation, Venezuelan culture, and forensic anthropology.  

I consistently provide unpaid forensic anthropology consulting to law enforcement officials, medical examiners, and coroners by identifying skeletal remains in Greene, Camden, Christian, Lawrence, and Texas counties. This work involves students when possible and has paved the way for a student publication as well as internships and job opportunities.  

III. Future Commitment to Service

My commitment to service is integral to my career and my identity and will continue as it has played out in the past. Other university service will continue as in the past. It takes all hands on deck to run a functioning department, and I will continue to do my part. Additional service activities, however, call for my time and efforts to be focused more on a particular aspect that occupies a great deal of time and dedication: applied civic engagement.  

My campus civic engagement efforts have been broad-based, and the outreach and actions of Paws to the Polls have expanded. Apart from this initiative, many other opportunities related to civic engagement have appeared and fulfillment of these is on the horizon. These include an invitation by the League of Women Voters to take over a state-level podcast; I would ensure that student participation is a key component, and could strengthen existing connections between my department, Political Science, and Communication, Media, Journalism, and Film. 

There is a great deal of future opportunity for the MSU campus community in the realm of civic engagement. For example, at least three universities in Missouri have personnel interested in using Paws to the Polls as a model, and we will begin meeting this summer to help them to establish such initiatives. Our community outreach has increased thanks to efforts of the Paws to the Polls graduate assistant (provided by Political Science) as well as community organizations and businesses who have either reached out or agreed to partner with us for educational, informational, or fundraising activities. The roots of the Paws to the Polls initiative have taken hold and the branches continue to spread, brining opportunity and enrichment to many at MSU. 

IV. Topics related to service for which you are available for presentations and/or consultations (e.g., public affairs, relationship of service to teaching, and relationship of service to research).

Public affairs pillars, examples of interweaving teaching and research with service, civic engagement, student involvement in social and environmental justice issues.