The McCormack Graduate School of Policy and Global Studies awarded its inaugural John W. McCormack Alumni Impact award to Shawn MacMaster, a local champion who launched a collaborative network of public and nonprofit organizations to provide more culturally sensitive services to Muslim victims of domestic violence.
According to Dean David W. Cash, this honor is given to a McCormack School alum who embodies the college’s commitment to social justice and whose work in the field has made a significant contribution to the local and/or global community. “Though our graduates’ career paths are diverse, many share a focus on equity and positive change. Shawn MacMaster’s involvement in developing important outreach programs to serve local citizens make him richly deserving of the 2016 John W. McCormack Alumni Impact Award.”
MacMaster, Public Affairs ’13, currently serves as the director of community outreach in the Office of the Middlesex District Attorney. His professional position provided a platform from which he has used the insights he gained from his public affairs capstone to provide a blueprint for addressing domestic violence in Muslim communities in the aftermath of 9/11.
Since his graduation, he assisted the Somerville Commission for Women in developing a first responder survey that helped the city understand the perceptions and awareness fire fighters, police, city employees, and EMTs had of their local Muslim population. Survey results were used to implement professional training for multicultural emergency preparedness including how to address domestic violence. Other local police chiefs are also institutionalizing departmental changes as a result of his findings.
MacMaster expanded the value added of his outreach efforts for senior safety by partnering with two of his former classmates who work with local housing authorities. MacMaster had read the report conducted by the Gerontology Institute at UMass Boston indicating the alarming number of falls seniors in Middlesex County experience, five percent above the state average, which may be an indicator of elder abuse. The Newton and Arlington housing authorities, where his former classmates worked, piloted senior safety seminars, and later expanded to Bedford, Burlington, Lexington, and Medford as part of the Middlesex Senior Health and Safety initiative.
Department Chair Christine Thurlow Brenner nominated MacMaster for the award. “Mr. MacMaster exhibits a strong public service motivation and has incorporated skills and professional networks developed during his education at the McCormack Graduate School in making a positive change in local Middlesex communities for immigrants, Muslim victims of domestic violence, and protecting seniors.”
This alumnus has also worked with immigrants as a longtime English tutor and assisted in the development of Victim Rights Training for immigrant tutors. Today, as part of the Eastern Middlesex Opioid Task Force, he is working with community partners to develop a systemic approach to addressing the alarming use of this drug and to seek practical applications for systems change.
This award not only represents the core values of the McCormack Graduate School, it also honors the legacy of our namesake, Boston politician John W. McCormack. During his 42-year career in the U.S. Congress, he left an indelible mark on some of the most progressive social legislation of the last century. His powers of persuasion as Speaker of the House helped to pass groundbreaking bills on civil rights, economic security, education, foreign aid, health care, housing, immigration, and voting rights.
The award was announced at a McCormack Graduate School post-commencement celebration.