Strategic Plan grants support 11 on-campus initiatives

Oglethorpe University’s Strategic Initiative Committee has announced the recipients of $100,000 in grant funding for projects supporting the university’s 2022-2027 Strategic Plan.

Eleven initiatives, outlined by Oglethorpe faculty, staff and students, were greenlit by the committee in early summer and will be implemented throughout the next academic year.

The approved proposals support a breadth of initiatives benefitting current and prospective students, faculty, staff and the broader Oglethorpe community.

True to the strategic plan, the initiatives outlined below seek to expand inclusivity and access, foster community, enhance student success, develop unique academic programs and support the well-being of campus community members.

Living the Vision: Creating a Collaborative Community

Oglethorpe’s Human Resources department will utilize an external partner to launch a university-wide initiative bolstering employee communication, networking, and collaboration. Funding will be allocated to a partnership with a leadership coaching program, which includes a library of training modules, a “train-the-trainer” program and a shared app. The initial goal is to involve approximately 25% of employees–both faculty and staff–in the program, which will kick off with a keynote speaker, executive session, and the forming of cohorts to complete the training.

Student e-portfolios: crafting and curating my liberal arts education

A multidisciplinary team of faculty and staff, led by Dr. Stephen H. Mattern, will develop a prototype “e-portfolio” for all OU students by summer 2024. An effective method of tracking the entirety of an individual’s academic journey, the e-portfolio is envisioned to reflect OU’s liberal arts mission and students’ multiple dimensions of learning (academic, experiential, expressive, interpersonal, etc.)  For students, e-portfolios will help capture the liberal arts college education and experience, formulate a vision of their lives at Oglethorpe and help make connections between the different forms of learning. For academic programs, e-portfolios will encourage cross-disciplinary, holistic thinking and learning outside the classroom.

First Generation Student Conference

On November 10, 2023, Oglethorpe University will host a conference focused on first-generation student support. Programming will highlight current best practices in building inclusive policies, practices, and programs for first-generation students; and foster opportunities for participants to develop novel ways to support first-generation students through their college lifecycle. A cross departmental effort led by the DEI Task Force, the conference is intended to engage scholars, teaching and leading practitioners and community partners. Funds from the strategic plan grant will be allocated to securing an expert keynote speaker, providing meals and refreshments and other services throughout the conference as needed. For more information on how to attend, visit the Supporting First Generation Students in Higher Education Conference page.

Summer faculty pedagogy workshop: inclusive syllabi

This grant supports stipends for up to 10 faculty who participated in a summer 2023 workshop about writing inclusive syllabi, led by the Teaching and Learning Institute for Inclusive Innovation. In alignment with the university’s strategic plan, the workshop supported transformative pedagogical practices and diversity, equity and inclusion in the classroom. The workshop included hands-on edits, readings based on emerging and/or evidence-based research, and collaboration with colleagues.

Neurodivergent belonging

A cohort-based program will be launched to assist neurodivergent Oglethorpe students with support and structure during their academic journeys. In partnership with area specialty schools, the program will provide guidance to participating students in campus engagement/socialization, parental programming and involvement, accessibility resources and academics. The initial program will engage a cohort of 15-25 incoming Oglethorpe students. This effort is led by a cross departmental group of staff including Miriam Smith, Gabe Mendez, Ethan Hawkland, Heidi Barringer and Chantel Jones.

Inspiration and belonging through outreach in physics

Students and faculty will work together to further develop a library of reusable physics demonstration materials to be used at community outreach events targeting elementary and middle school students. Oglethorpe University will partner with local schools and again with the Atlanta Science Festival, which recently brought a record number of participants to the university for similar demonstrations. This effort is led by Dr. Mariel Meier, associate professor of Physics, and students Miles Paras and Dexter Benefield.

Principles of Quantitative Skills and Reasoning for Economics

Oglethorpe economics professors will use funding from the grant to develop a new course that will help historically-underrepresented students — women, minorities, and first-generation students, for example — prepare for introductory and higher-level business courses. Development will consist of three phases: data collection and analysis, evaluation of best practices and construction of content and pedagogy. This effort is led by economics professors Dr. Cassandra C. Copeland and Dr. Peter J. Kower.

Sciences Summer Research Scholars Program

Oglethorpe science faculty will pilot a funded, faculty-mentored, professionally relevant summer research program for students. The initial cohort will consist of five students and an ad-hoc committee of four faculty approved by Division III peers who will convene to promote research opportunities to students and develop candidate requirements. This initiative is led by Dr. Lea Alford, Dr. Karen Schmeichel, Dr. Allison Roessler, Dr. Gregory Gabriel and senior Marilyn Jimenez ’23.

Training for student peer instructors

A number of programs throughout the university — like Supplemental Instructors, CORE and First-Year Seminar — utilize student peer mentors to help engage other students in the classroom. In this training initiative, collaborators representing various academic departments will develop and implement a standardized training program for peer mentors. The goal of the project is improve the quality of student learning in the classroom, while also improving retention and sense of belonging. This initiative is led by Dr. Andrew Walden in collaboration with First Year Seminar (FYS) Academic Liaisons, Core Co-Directors, Student Success and TALIII.

Teaching English as a foreign language certificate program

A Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) certification is an integral requirement for an entry-level job teaching abroad. A team of Oglethorpe staff will develop a replicable six-week interdisciplinary summer program delivering a community-partnered, globally-recognized TEFL certificate — providing accreditation to students, alumni and non-Oglethorpe affiliated enrollees. This effort is led by Peter Dye, curriculum designer and instructor; Oglethorpe’s offices of Global Education, Career Development, Student Success, and DEI; and Caitlin Webb, adult education coordinator of the Latin American Association ESL Program.

Universal design at Oglethorpe

A team of Oglethorpe staff and faculty will expand knowledge and awareness of Universal Design (UD) and Universal Design Learning (UDL). The team plans to develop a UD and UDL toolkit, create an online course for employees, develop workshops for faculty and support training. This initiative is led by Maria Magdalena Carrasco Reyes, visiting assistant professor of biology, and Derek Harootune Otis, instructional technology librarian,  as part of the Diversity Strategic Planning subcommittee.

For more information about the 2022-2027 Oglethorpe University Strategic Plan: Distinctive & Distinguished, visit the strategic plan website.