MURRAY, Ky. — Two Murray State University faculty members were recently selected as the first recipients of the Faculty Innovation Initiative grant, which provides initial project support to faculty across campus seeking to incorporate innovative approaches to student community engagement into their courses. Dr. Cindy Clemson of the College of Education and Human Services and Dr. Melony Shemberger of the Arthur J. Bauernfeind College of Business will each implement their awarded funds during the 2017-18 academic year.

This initiative serves as a core pillar of the Giving Back Endowment, which was established by Dr. Bob Long and his wife, Patricia, to advance the understanding, appreciation and application of the principles of altruism, generosity, caring and service to others among Murray State students and faculty and across the Murray-Calloway County community. Long, who previously served as a distinguished visiting professor with the College of Education and Human Services, assembled a selection committee led by Dr. Robin Esau, a lecturer with the nonprofit leadership studies program. This committee was responsible for developing a request for proposals, promoting the initial grant process and choosing recipients whose project proposals most closely aligned with the objectives of the Faculty Innovation Initiative.

“It is a very exciting opportunity to promote student philanthropy across the Murray State campus,” expressed Long.

Clemson and Shemberger were awarded $1,000 to fulfill project goals through their respective courses, including Clemson’s SED 409: Instructional Procedures for Students with Moderate to Severe Disabilities course and Shemberger’s JMC 397: Reporting for Print Media course.

Clemson shared that her project “will help to provide an inclusive college experience for students who have intellectual disabilities and wish to attend Murray State. Likewise, Murray State special education majors will gain a valuable experiential learning opportunity by working one-on-one with these students in a real-world setting.”

Shemberger explained, “Students in my JMC 397 course will apply news planning, writing and design talents to produce a website, poster display and e-book that will tell the stories of public education. They will record community oral histories as part of an intensive focus on education reporting in fall 2017.”

Both of this year’s recipients shared their gratitude for the opportunity to further engage students in significant learning experiences while interacting with and impacting the community at large.

“I am thankful to be one of the recipients chosen for this inaugural award and excited for my journalism students, who will engage in a meaningful and rich reporting project involving working closely with community members,” said Shemberger.

Clemson added, “I am very appreciative of Dr. Bob Long’s commitment to ‘giving back’ to our community.”

All proposals were evaluated by the committee based on specified criteria, including the project’s level of innovation in engagement and philanthropy, level of importance to the academic discipline and quality of potential impact on student learning, among other factors.

Esau reflected on the process, stating, “The inaugural Faculty Innovation Initiative was a success due to the hard work of a wonderful committee and a pool of Murray State faculty applicants who displayed a strong desire to engage their students in a variety of community philanthropy efforts.”

“We believe that many faculty across campus are either already providing meaningful philanthropy experiences for their students or are interested in learning how to do so,” Esau continued. “We look forward to connecting with them so that they can apply for funding to support their efforts in future years.”

“The Giving Back Endowment creates a unique opportunity for our University’s inventive faculty to pursue innovation at its highest levels,” commented Dr. David Whaley, dean of the College of Education and Human Services.

Murray State faculty members can visit to read more about this opportunity. Community members interested in learning more about the Giving Back Endowment and how to make a gift are welcome to contact Melanie Brooks with the Murray State Office of Development at or 270-809-3026.

Murray State University faculty members Dr. Cindy Clemson of the College of Education and Human Services and Dr. Melony Shemberger of the Arthur J. Bauernfeind College of Business were recently selected as the first recipients of the Faculty Innovation Initiative grant. Pictured (left to right) are Clemson, Melanie Brooks of the Office of Development, Dean David Whaley of the College of Education and Human Services and Shemberger.