MURRAY, Ky. — Three Murray State University faculty members were recently selected to receive grant awards as part of the Faculty Innovation Initiative, which provides one-time seed funds to support innovative student-community engagement projects. Dr. Jessica Branch of the College of Education and Human Services and Ms. Feifei Pang and Dr. Ho Ryong Park of the College of Humanities and Fine Arts will each implement their awarded funds through classroom projects during the 2019-20 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 and service to others among Murray State students and faculty and across the Murray-Calloway County community.

This year’s three selected faculty members will each be awarded a $1,000 grant to fulfill project goals through their respective courses, including Branch’s SED 626: Education of Young Children with Disabilities course, Pang’s ART 350: Introduction to Graphic Design I (Digital Art) course and Park’s TSL 620: Computer Assisted Language Learning course.

Graduate students in Branch’s SED 626 course will each identify a young child with disabilities in the surrounding community. They will then interview the child’s family and review his/her Individualized Education Program (IEP) or Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) to prioritize the child’s needs. Once those needs are identified, the students will create a personal social narrative book using child-friendly language and photographs of the specific child.

Social narratives will identify a situation where the child is having difficulty displaying socially appropriate behavior. Using a combination of descriptive and directive sentences, the story will explain the social situation and what is expected of the child in that instance.

“The goal is that this story will help improve the child’s social skills in the area of highest need, while also teaching the Murray State students valuable lessons about implementing and assessing interventions,” Branch said.

The University students will ultimately present the families and schools involved with hardbound social narrative books personalized for each child. Students will read the story to the child and provide both the family and classroom teacher with a plan for continued presentation of the book. The students will then revisit the child and assess the effectiveness of this intervention.

Undergraduate students in Pang’s ART 350 course will work with the Humane Society of Calloway County to develop marketing materials aimed at promoting the facility and increasing awareness of animals in need.

This project will involve a variety of learning goals, including design and marketing research, research methods, design theory and the integration of image and message. Students will work both individually and collaboratively using digital illustration, photography, electronic design and advertising strategies to convey the desired marketing messages. Professional standards of presentation will also be taught and expected.

“This project presents a deep and abiding respect for animals and humans and brings together communities to solve problems collaboratively,” said Pang. “I believe real world application is so important to learning experiences because it is what makes the material being taught actually stick in the students’ minds. I value experiential learning, community-based research and interdisciplinary study as important elements of my teaching.”

Preservice teachers studying English for speakers of other languages (ESOL) in Park’s graduate-level TSL 620 course will plan, design and teach English as a second language (ESL) courses developed for English-language learners (ELLs) in the community. Because the University students will be responsible for designing the online curriculum and teaching the ELLs, they will have hands-on experience in planning and practicing their craft while working with diverse populations.

This project will be beneficial to not only the Murray State students, but to the community as well.

“Due to the limited educational opportunities of learning ESL in Murray, K-12 ELLs and their families need more ESL supports,” said Park. “Through this project, the K-12 ELLs can learn English online on a regular basis in addition to their current English education services at school. This educational opportunity will positively influence the improvement of the ELLs’ English proficiency and empower them in the community.”

All Murray State teaching faculty, regardless of rank or tenure, are eligible to apply for this annual grant. A committee led by Mike Gowen and Robin Esau, faculty members of the University’s nonprofit leadership studies program, closely evaluated this year’s applications 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.

To read more about this initiative, visit Community members interested in learning more about the Giving Back Endowment and how to make a gift may contact Ms. Melanie Brooks with the Murray State Office of Development at or 270-809-3026.

Photo: Murray State faculty members Dr. Jessica Branch, Ms. Feifei Pang and Dr. Ho Ryong Park were recently selected to receive grant awards as part of the Faculty Innovation Initiative, which provides one-time seed funds to support innovative student-community engagement projects. Pictured from left to right are Branch, Park and Pang.

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