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Women’s philanthropy circle awards record-breaking funding

Advancement Dec 3, 2020
A grid of people attending a Zoom meeting
A grid of people attending a Zoom meeting

KOKOMO, Ind. —Indiana University Kokomo’s women’s giving circle awarded its largest amount of grant funding in its four-year history, giving more than $33,000 to 12 projects last month.

Women of the Well House funding benefited programs to add trees to campus, provide overdose training to future nurses, equip mentors for students, faculty, and future teachers, host a podcast festival on women’s issues, support women in technology fields, and prepare teachers to use technology, among others.

Cathy Clearwaters, director of development, said since its inception in 2017, the circle has given approximately $82,000 to programs benefiting not only IU Kokomo, but the surrounding community, under the leadership of faculty, staff, and students.

“This year in particular, the need was great, and we are happy to have been able to be part of such high-quality programs that will make our community a better place,” said Clearwaters, who is a founding member. “It’s rewarding to be part of a group that can make such an impact on the people served by these projects. Women of the Well House gives us an opportunity to pool our resources to make a bigger difference than we could on our own.”

Membership is open to women who make a $1,000 per year commitment, and each member has a voice in selecting projects to fund.

One of the founding members, alumna Kathleen Ligocki, asked the Zoom host via private chat if an additional $5,000 would be enough to give every grantee the full amount they requested. And when the answer was it would take only $3,700, Ligocki said to put the rest of it to the student emergency funds. When thanked for the lovely surprise, she added that she had enjoyed the presentation, and the terrific ideas proposed.

For Leah Nellis, dean of the School of Education, and Cheryl Moore-Beyioku, grant funding means they can move forward with a project close to their hearts: Pairing alumni mentors with future and new teachers, to provide support to allow them to launch careers successfully, in an effort to prevent them from leaving the profession.

“It’s a new opportunity for us to connect with our recent graduates, and to facilitate relationships with them and our more veteran alumni,” Nellis said, noting that most programs of this type rely on volunteer service. The grant allows them to pay mentors a small stipend.

The program includes a special focus on teachers from underrepresented populations, as part of an effort to diversify the teaching workforce.

“We need to be sure we are supporting our teachers, so they persist and remain in the profession,” Nellis said.

Additional projects receiving funding include:

  • Learning to Teach STEM with technology tools during a pandemic, Lu Wang, assistant professor of education. The grant will provide funding to prepare highly-qualified female prospective elementary teachers to teach using emerging technologies, both in the classroom and virtually. About 15 to 20 students in Wang’s spring 2021 class will participate, with a six-month subscription to the National Science Teacher Association (NSTA) learning center, along with a one-year membership in the NSTA. The grant also will benefit Kokomo schools, as the students will complete their practicum and then student teaching in the there.
  • Science and Beauty at IU Kokomo Tree Canopy, Leda Casey, director of the Office of Sustainability, and John Sarber, director of physical facilities : Funding will be used to purchase trees and employ a part-time student worker to help manage the campus tree canopy inventory process.
  • Overdose Lifeline Training for Nurses in Training, Leigh Swartzendruber, lecturer in nursing. The grant will allow Swartzendruber to attend training with Overdose Lifeline Inc. so she can then train students in her applied health care ethics class. The online training includes seminars on topics such as brain and disease addiction, opioid public health crisis, removing the shame, and understanding harm reduction. It also will purchase licensing for Overdose Lifeline’s software.
  • Sharing is Caring: Empowering Women and Exploring Women’s Issues Through Podcasting, Paul Cook, associate professor of English. Cook plans to host a podcasting festival in 2021. His goal is to promote women’s stories and experiences as a way to achieve both self-empowerment and a greater awareness on campus of the kinds of issues that affect women. Some of the topics include sexual assault, the #MeToo movement, gender roles in the workplace and home, work/life balance, child care, barriers to entry into various fields and professions, class-based economic issues that circulate around gender, and more.
  • Developing Mentors, Advancing Mentorship Initiatives Through a Development Program and Consultation; Sue Hendricks, dean of the School of Education; Julie Saam, professor of education, director of the Center for Teaching, Learning, and Assessment; and Carolyn Townsend, assistant dean of the pre-licensure Bachelor of Science in Nursing track. The applicants plan to host an expert in the development of mentors and mentorship programs for a half-day virtual training program for the campus community, and also provide additional consultation on development of several projects, including peer mentoring to support holistic admission, and improvement of faculty mentoring practices.
  • Alpha Kappa Delta-Phi of Indiana, Stephanie Medley-Rath, associate professor of sociology. Grant funding is for start-up costs for a chapter of Alpha Kappa Delta, an academic honor society for sociology majors and minors, as well as membership fee assistance for students.
  • Project United, Josephine Dibie, lecturer in business. Funding will be used for past and present at-risk women being supported by the Family Service Association of Howard County Domestic Violence Shelter to attend the 2021 United State of Women leadership conference. Each one will receive a spa day, a new outfit, and a day of motivation and education, while meeting women who can shape their vision for a better tomorrow.
  • Kathleen Ligocki Scholars Program Mentors, Mark Canada, executive vice chancellor for academic affairs, and Jan Halperin, vice chancellor for university advancement.  The grant will provide a stipend for up to five mentors per year, each advising two to three students in the Kathleen Ligocki Scholars Program. The program, which began in fall 2020, provides selected students a scholarship renewable all four years, along with KEY experiences such as travel, social events, academic support, guest lectures, and more.
  • IU Kokomo African-American Read In, Sarah Grubb, assistant professor of education. Funding will facilitate participation in national effort to read works by Black authors sharing their own experiences, a supported by the National Council of Teachers of English. Books will be provided to participating Howard County school districts, with School of Education students facilitating use through virtual programming.
  • IU Kokomo Women in Technology Club, assistant professor of computer science and student Sarah Richeson. The grant will fund club activities for the academic year.
  • Latino Food and Nutrition Development, Kim Mossburg, lecturer in nutritional science, and J.R. Pico, senior lecturer in Spanish. Mossburg and Pico plan programming on development of food, health and culture, serving to integrate the health needs of the Latino population while focusing on specific dietary food preparation methods.

For more information about Women of the Well House, or to join, contact Clearwaters at or 765-455-9410.

Education is KEY at Indiana University Kokomo.

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