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Wofford receives civic engagement grants

Arthur Vining Davis Foundations, TD Charitable Foundation and the Mary Black Foundation make recent gifts to the college.

Arthur Vining Davis Foundations

Wofford has received three grants, totaling more than $83,500, including a $75,000 planning grant from the Arthur Vining Davis Foundations, that will help identify and advance academic civic engagement. The college’s “Growing Greener” program received a $6,000 from the TD Charitable Foundation, and the Mary Black Foundation has provided a $2,500 grant to Wofford’s Arcadia Volunteer Corps to fund the “Nutrition Now” program. 

The Arthur Vining Davis Foundations’ grant funds a planning project called “Strengthening Academic Civic Engagement with Educational Technology,” aimed at identifying and advancing academic civic engagement. The grant involves a tiered approach: 1) identifying academic civic engagement already included in the college’s curriculum; 2) employing an innovative approach to assessing those courses with an identified civic engagement component, using electronic portfolios; 3) evaluating civic engagement using external sources, which includes benchmarking and holding and attending conferences and workshops designed to advance academic civic engagement at Wofford; and 4) creating a “taxonomy of practice,” looking at shared learning outcomes, course assignments and best practices.

“Following Wofford’s strategic vision roadmap, we will leverage our learning from this planning grant to advance the academic quality of teaching for civic engagement,” says Jessalyn Wynn Story, director of the Center for Community-Based Learning at Wofford and co-director of the grant project. She also is director of the Bonner Scholars program at Wofford. “A larger vision is to establish a physical hub that catalyzes civic engagement inquiry and collaboration and continues to collect and analyze data for continuous academic improvement. We believe we have a distinctive opportunity to build sustainable research and practice around academic civic engagement and to share our experiences broadly.”

Dr. John D. Miles, dean of Wofford’s Center for Innovation and Learning, associate professor of English and co-director of the grant project, says the self-study and pilot assessment components of the project “will lead to the development of an inventory of best practices from current participants at Wofford and the national conversation on civic engagement and ePortfolios.”

The overarching purpose of the grant is to strengthen the academic civic engagement that already exists within Wofford’s curriculum, Miles and Story note. “This will provide us with resources for those faculty who want to add more academic civic engagement to their courses, those who want to do more, and it ultimately will give Wofford a voice in the national conversation on civic engagement,” Miles says.

Story adds: “We will focus on three categories of academic civic engagement: civic literacy – the cultivation of knowledge about democracy, its principles, history and constructs; civic inquiry – the exploration of the civic dimensions of areas of study, for example, how mathematics can be used to move society forward; and civic engagement – working with others to improve the quality of people’s lives and the sustainability of our planet.”

The assessment portion of the project will include a pilot study using electronic portfolios (ePortfolio) to capture both faculty and student reflections on academic civic engagement through artifacts from the ePortfolios. “The data will help us understand how courses are developed and implemented at Wofford and to observe the student learning experience more closely,” Miles says. Students involved in the Bonner Scholars program also will participate to “deepen their reflective practice.”

The end of the planning grant will mark the creation of “a taxonomy of practice,” Story adds. “This taxonomy will take shape during the grant, but will lead to the creation of an interactive website and publication. The website will bring together an initial collection of curricular materials assessed for their effectiveness, student work that illustrates the best of what civic engagement can promote, and a space for community partners to seek further partnerships with the campus.

“The project design and intended outcomes resonate at the core of Wofford’s new strategic vision,” Story says, “which seeks to build academic coherence between classroom and out-of-classroom learning and create a seamless learning environment. Wofford aims to carefully examine its own context and then offer something of value to future institutional collaborations and the national conversation.”

The Arthur Vining Davis Foundations, based in Jacksonville, Fla., were organized in 1952 under a living trust established by Arthur Vining Davis. The foundations currently provide philanthropy to private higher education, religious literacy and interfaith understanding, and public educational media. Since inception, the foundations have given more than 2,600 grants totaling more than $300 million to colleges and universities, hospitals, medical schools and divinity schools. The Arthur Vining Davis Foundations have funded visionary leadership in public television for scientific and historical documentaries, children’s programming and distribution of high quality educational media. For more information, go to www.avdf.org.

TD Charitable Foundation

The grant from the TD Charitable Foundation, the giving arm of TD Bank, to “Growing Greener” is part of the foundation’s commitment to giving back to the community.

“Growing Greener” is a partnership of Wofford’s Goodall Environmental Studies Center at Glendale, S.C., and the Boys and Girls Clubs of the Upstate (BGC), providing an after-school science education and leadership program for young students. The program includes projects in the Three Sisters Garden at the Goodall Center, where traditional Native American crops of corn, beans and squash are grown and then used by the students, with any surplus donated to local charities. A guest speaker from the Cherokee Nation also will be featured in the program to help the students better understand the concept of the Three Sisters Garden.

The funds from the TD Charitable Foundation, totaling $6,238, will allow Wofford to enhance this outreach program for the students in grades 3 through 5 at Mary H. Wright Elementary School and the Cleveland Academy of Leadership in Spartanburg. During the year, three six-week sessions are held for students to explore ideas that are part of the BGC core programs, including educational enhancement and encouraging healthy living skills and appreciation of the environment. The program serves approximately 60 students – 20 at each of the three programs.

“The overarching objectives of ‘Growing Greener’ are to teach Spartanburg’s future leaders about the importance of caring for their environment and how to do that,” says John Lane, director of the Goodall Center and an environmental studies professor at Wofford. “We want to increase these students’ knowledge in the sciences and enhance their academic performance while teaching them valuable leadership and teamwork skills. Most of all, we want to inspire the love of the outdoors and active, healthy living. We believe the experience of learning how food is produced, discovering that it is possible to grow food that is healthy and delicious, and recognizing the relationships between agriculture and the environment, may inspire these young people to make healthy food choices and perhaps to grow their own gardens at home as they maintain habits that promote environmental stewardship.”

Dr. Nayef H. Samhat, president of Wofford, says, “The TD Foundation’s thoughtful investment in this program goes beyond the after-school experience and brightens the future of area families and communities.”

The “Growing Greener” program was created as part of Wofford’s “Thinking Like a River” initiative, initially funded by a grant from the Margaret A. Cargill Foundation, that aims to shape the culture of sustainability centered on local waters by offering unique, hands-on experiences with area rivers for students, faculty and area residents.

A staunch commitment to active involvement in the local community is a vital element of the TD Bank philosophy. TD Bank and the TD Charitable Foundation provide support to affordable housing, financial literacy and education, and environmental initiatives, many of which focus on improving the welfare of children and families.

The Mary Black Foundation

The Arcadia Volunteer Corps (AVC) plans to use the Mary Black Foundation grant to purchase four dinners a week for 50 children involved in the ARCH afterschool program. Dinners on Friday evenings have been donated from another source, and ARCH ministries provides paper products and an afterschool snack for the youngsters. Adding funds from other sources, AVC plans to be able to serve the students throughout the 36-week school year. Members of AVC will prepare the meals.

Plans also involve evaluating the eating habits outside of ARCH and engaging the children’s families’ in preparing and consuming healthier foods.

The goals of the program is to increase the availability of healthy food for children and you, to increase the use of evidence-based programs for healthy eating and nutrition, and to increase the number of people knowledgeable about where and how to access healthy foods.

by Laura Hendrix Corbin

Spring 2016