Faith Knutsen wins award and celebrates with colleagues, family and friends.

Voinovich School professional Faith Knutsen recognized for community service

Marilyn Icsman
April 18, 2019

Faith KnutsenFaith Knutsen, Ohio University’s Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs director of Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship, received an Outstanding Community Service Award on March 20 at the Women’s Achievement Dinner for her longstanding service in the Athens community.

Knutsen was one of 22 women recognized at the dinner. The annual event is hosted by Sigma Lambda Gamma National Sorority, Inc., Rho Lambda, and the Women’s Center, and funds raised from tickets and sponsorships went to the Survivor Advocacy Program.

Awards spanned categories from Outstanding Female Mentor to Best Hidden Gem. The ceremony is meant to honor work that is often unrecognized and stereotyped as “women’s work.”

“You spend all this time and effort that no one necessarily lauded in the moment, but it’s really nice -- for all of those women who walked across that stage, and there were lots -- it’s really great to be recognized for a little bit of the volunteerism you do,” Knutsen said.

Currently, Knutsen serves as an advisor or board member to ReUse Industries, Stuart’s Opera House, and the School of Celtic Dance and Culture. The bulk of her community service in the last decade – sometimes as much as five to ten hours a week -- has been through her involvement in the Ohio Valley Summer Theatre, she said.

“The Voinovich School’s purpose is symbolized in a quote from Senator George V. Voinovich, 1958 graduate of Ohio University,” Mark Weinberg, Voinovich School Founding Dean, said.  “Senator Voinovich stated that, ‘I believe the government’s highest calling is to empower people and galvanize their energy and resources to help solve our problems, meet our challenges, and seize our opportunities.’”  

“Faith Knutsen’s work and leadership in collaborative partnerships in social enterprise, community development, and sustainability directly improves the quality of life for citizens of our region and state. Her work speaks to this highest calling.  No one is more deserving of the recent Outstanding Community Services Award than Faith,” he added. 

At the Ohio Valley Summer Theatre, she’s held roles from board president to treasurer to secretary in the nine years she’s been a part of the program.

“I’ve done a great deal of operational, organization and strategic work for OVST, but the thing I most enjoy about it is that I’m often asked to write plays for the children’s camp,” Knutsen said. “That’s the part I really love doing.”

The annual youth camp is also an important part of the theatre’s community outreach. The low-cost camp provides a space for children of all backgrounds to have an experience in theatre, guided by professionals, Knutsen said.

“The benefits of the University, if best used, are spread out into the community,” she said. “And that is precisely what’s happening with Ohio Valley Summer Theatre, among many other non-profits in our region.”

Knutsen, who was born and raised in Athens, believes strongly in the principle of giving back to the community. Her parents were active volunteers, and she advocates for everyone to get involved in their local community – whether they work at the University or anywhere else, whether they live here part-time as a student, or have lived here for years.

Dr. Nancy Stevens, who nominated Knutsen for the award, emphasized Knutsen’s commitment to service on campus and in the community.

“Faith consistently makes a difference across the campus and community in so many key ways,” Stevens said. “Generous with her time, she provides valuable insights that shape ideas and bring them to fruition. Her skillful and innovative grant writing and entrepreneurial approach to engagement helps to connect across divides in meaningful ways.”

Part of Knutsen’s outreach includes participating in an ongoing community engagement conversation between the University and many local nonprofits. During a recent panel discussion about the topic, she offered this advice: “The division between the university and community is an artificial one…We are all members of the community. The community is us.”

Community engagement also is part of Knutsen’s role at the Voinovich School. As project manager for the Social Enterprise Ecosystem, Knutsen helps business clients whose main priority is to create social good. The program spans 13 counties in Ohio and West Virginia.

She particularly encourages students to start volunteering now, noting that the community welcomes participation.

“Ask yourself, ‘What’s going to be my passionate way to feed back to my community when I’m a well-employed professional and my kids have flown the nest?’ Well, you can do a little bit of that now – test the waters with one of our many very different volunteer opportunities!”