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W&L’s Community Based Learning Program Receives Grant to Expand Community Relations

“This grant will allow W&L to deepen community-based learning and put in place institutional practices to build capacity for the university and community partners.”

The Office of Community Based Learning (CBL) and the Shepherd Program at Washington and Lee University have received a grant from the Jessie Ball duPont Fund to expand W&L’s community-based learning practices.

The $50,000 grant will help train faculty and community partners side by side to implement new academic-community partnerships and courses, as well as teach guidance and uniform standards that will serve as a model for community-based learning at W&L.

“Our efforts in community-based learning put students into direct partnership with our local community, with communities across the nation, and even with international communities,” said Provost Marc Conner. “It’s learning and teaching side by side with the lived world, helping our students learn commitment and trust in that world. These programs are among our most laudable efforts, and I see this work only increasing in the future.”

The grant allows for the creation of CBL Fellows, drawn from W&L faculty and partner agencies in the community. The fellows include Jon Erickson, associate professor of physics and engineering; Rebecca Harris, associate professor of politics; Ellen Mayock, Ernest Williams II Professor of Spanish; Karla Murdock, David G. Elmes professor of psychology; Bobbie Wolfe,  branch executive director of the Rockbridge Area YMCA; Rebecca Wilder, SNAP-Ed agent for Virginia Cooperative Extension; Marty Gilchrist,  teacher of ESL Services for Rockbridge County Schools; and Crista Cabe, director of public relations and development for Rockbridge Area Community Services.

“Thanks to the generosity of the Jessie Ball duPont Fund, this grant will allow W&L to deepen community-based learning and put in place institutional practices to build capacity for the university and community partners,” said Tammi Hellwig, director of Community-Based Learning “The CBL fellows and administrative team will participate in workshops and conferences led by national experts over the course of 12 months and serve as ambassadors for community-based learning. Our work will culminate in the offering of targeted seed grants for faculty to collaborate with community partners and create a new course or modify an existing course with the newly developed CBL best-practices criteria.”

CBL fellows and CBL administrators Marisa Charley, Linda Cummings, Alessandra Del Conte Dickovick, Tammi Hellwig and Howard Pickett will work as a group on broad issues of pedagogy. They will each pair up with a community member to develop prototype CBL courses that meet rigorous learning standards and provide real community benefit. Fellows will be long-term assets to campus and community, and will improve ties between W&L and its neighbors.

This grant follows support by the duPont Fund in 2015 to study community-based learning at W&L and make recommendations for future growth. That led to the creation of the Office of Community-Based Learning.

“The initial grant offered us the tremendous opportunity to truly take stock of where we are as a campus and as a community in terms of our academic partnerships,” said Marisa Charley, coordinator of student service leadership and research. “In many ways our findings confirmed and articulated what we already knew — that the richness of opportunity for this work is tremendous, and the time is right to begin deepening and expanding our shared work. We are grateful for the time and resources we were given to thoughtfully consider and plan and are excited about all that is to come.”