MURRAY, Ky. — Three Murray State University faculty members were selected to receive grants from the Giving Back Endowment’s Faculty Innovation Initiative. The effort encourages faculty to incorporate innovative approaches to student community engagement into their courses.
Dr. Alyx Shultz, chair of agriculture science in the Hutson School of Agriculture; Holly Bloodworth, instructor in the department of early childhood and elementary education and Megan Smetana, instructor/clinical supervisor in the Center for Communication Disorders, both in the College of Education and Human Services have each received $1,000 from the Giving Back Endowment to implement their proposed projects during this academic year.
The Giving Back Endowment 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 Nonprofit Leadership Studies program, is the lead donor for the initiative to grow and develop Murray State’s philanthropic culture.
Robin Esau, instructor with the nonprofit leadership studies program, chairs a selection committee that invites faculty from across campus to apply each spring for grants to be utilized in the next academic year.
The committee includes representatives from across campus and the local nonprofit 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.
Shultz was awarded $1,000 to incorporate community service into three agriculture classes she teaches (AGR 199, AED 380, AGR 436) in order to establish small community garden plots at Murray and Calloway County Elementary schools for approximately 140 elementary students and their families.
Smetana received support for her course, Neuroscience for Communication Disorders (CDI 410) which discusses various neurogenic disorders including dementia and Alzheimer’s and the neuroplasticity of the brain. The planned program would allow students to learn about the effects of music and physical activity on the cognition and communication skills of residents at a local skilled-care facility, while also assisting the facility with needed volunteer help for resident activities.
Bloodworth will work with students in her ELE 406 Teaching Reading class to create Dyslexia Toolkits based on resources from the Kentucky Department of Education for approximately 120 local elementary students. Murray State students will partner with local first grade teachers to provide multisensory strategies for reaching children who are struggling in reading and writing from the beginning. The goal is to provide early intervention to help get them reading at grade level.
All proposed activities are being modified for implementation based on COVID-19 restrictions and requirements for Murray State and the community partners.
Shultz noted that the Faculty Innovation Award was important for her courses because it offered new resources to design a unique, meaningful, and impactful learning opportunity.
“Our project will bring students and faculty together in three university courses and two elementary schools, and can be modified to be 100% virtual,” she said. “We’re very excited to get rolling on this project next semester. The Faculty Innovation Award is one more example of how our Murray State students get more than a degree.”
Esau reflected on the process, stating, “The 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, including the Faculty Innovation grants and the Student Engagement Initiative, are implemented by the Department of Organizational Community and Leadership in the Arthur J. Bauernfeind College of Business.
To learn more about the Giving Back Endowment and how to make a gift, contact Brian Canerdy with the Murray State Office of Development at 270-809-3123.