The University of Missouri System Thursday announced E. Wendy Saul, the Allen B. and Helen S. Shopmaker Endowed Professor of Education at the University of Missouri–St. Louis, as the recipient of the UM System President’s Award for Cross-Cultural Engagement.
UMSL Associate Provost Paulette Isaac-Savage — accompanied by Saul’s nominators — surprised Saul with the award during a course on language, literacy and culture. The engagement award, which includes a $5,000 prize, is the second of ten presidential awards to be presented in 2015 and specifically recognizes faculty who promote cross-cultural engagement through education, research and service.
“Wendy has personally and professionally modeled cross-cultural engagement,” her nominators wrote. “She has built a career that has touched thousands of people around the world and a legacy of hundreds of future educators dedicated to global literacy and cross-cultural education.”
Saul believes that literacy empowers people to control their own destinies and guides social and economic change in various cultural environments. Because of that belief, her career has focused on supporting literacy efforts to reach children and educators throughout the world. Though she joined the UMSL faculty in 2003, her international literacy education efforts began as early as 1997 when she participated in the Open Society Institute program in Lithuania, Azerbaijan and Liberia. The institute sought to employ reading and writing as tools to promote critical thinking in both post-Soviet and developing societies. From there, her global efforts led her to teach and provide outreach in Ecuador, Kuwait, Kosovo, China, and beyond.
Perhaps her most significant cross-cultural engagement to date comes from her work as executive director of the International Book Bank (IBB). In partnership with CODE Canada, IBB increases global literacy by donating brand new books to charities in developing countries. Facing a near shut down, Saul restructured the administrative and operational processes of IBB two years ago. Now, back on strong footing, IBB has sent 1.5 million books this year alone to recipients in the developing world. Since its founding in 1987, IBB has shipped more than 25 million books across four continents.
“I am especially proud of the shipment that recently landed in Liberia,” Saul said. “We fundraised for books to be delivered to children unable to attend school because of the Ebola crisis.”
In addition to IBB, Saul serves as vice president of Critical Thinking International, a non-governmental organization that supports active learning and critical thinking in the developing world with a focus on developing materials and strategies that support student engagement in classrooms.
The UM System President’s Awards are presented annually to faculty members across the four campuses of the UM System who have made exceptional contributions in advancing the mission of the university. Saul will be formally recognized by UM System President Tim Wolfe during an awards celebration to be held June 25.