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Diversity, STEM education programs share in grant awards

Advancement Campus Life Aug 26, 2021
two women stand in the quad
two women stand in the quad

KOKOMO, Ind. – An Indiana University Kokomo administrator and faculty member received more than $21,000 in grants from the IU Women’s Philanthropy Leadership Council (WPLC). They shared in $165,000 in support given to 14 programs affiliated with seven IU campuses.

Tess Barker, vice chancellor for student affairs and enrollment management, received funding for a social justice speakers series and an equity ambassadors program, as part of the Multicultural Center.

Barker said part of the funding will be used to provide financial support to the 10 students selected as equity ambassadors.

“That would not have been possible but for this grant,” she said. “We understand that many of our students work to support themselves in college. They may have a commitment to this work, and we don’t want finances to mean they can’t participate.”

As equity ambassadors, the students will participate in diversity, equity, and inclusion trainings, to help them determine for themselves what the issues are, and their own feelings about those issues. They can then lead conversations with their peers on the topics they identify.

“Students can benefit from having open and honest conversations with their peers, in a way that feels collaborative and accessible,” Barker said. “Having these students as peer educators will help students feel more willing to engage in difficult conversations, where they aren’t being graded, but they are being challenged.”

The Center also received funding for what is planned to be an annual social justice speaker series, which kicks off at 2:30 p.m. Thursday, October 28, with civil rights attorney Joseph Richardson.

“We’re looking to bring people with perspectives, experiences, and points of view our community wouldn’t naturally have an opportunity to hear from in Kokomo or north central Indiana,” Barker said. “Having this grant funding gives us the chance to show that the campus will respond, and the community will engage in it, to show that this is a need.”

The Multicultural Center received grants both from the WPLC and the Queer Philanthropy Circle.

The Well House Society funded a program proposed by Lu Wang, assistant professor of science education, for a video-based workshop to prepare future elementary school teachers in the areas of science, technology, engineering, and math, by teaching them how to make critical observations in their practicum classrooms, and apply what they learn to their own teaching.

“We know that learning does not happen naturally by just observing,” she said. “You need to do a deeper critical thinking about what you learn, and interpret what you saw. We’re designing a structure to support them in learning how to do that. It’s an important part of their learning to become an expert teacher.”

As part of the program, the grant pays for professional organization memberships for students who complete the program — an incentive that gives them further opportunities to grow and learn, Wang said.

As a second-year faculty member at IU Kokomo, she was honored to have her project selected.

“I’m excited to be able to start a new project in a new place,” she said.

The WPLC reviewed 36 applications for funding this year and invited 14 leaders to present their projects to the council. In partnership with the IU Foundation’s Well House Society, Queer Philanthropy Circle, and Board of Directors Advancement of Philanthropy Committee, all finalists received at least partial funding.

Since the first WPLC grants were awarded in 2012, IU Kokomo has received more than $140,000 in funding in 15 grants.

The IU Women’s Philanthropy Leadership Council was convened by the Indiana University Foundation Board of Directors in 2010. The council’s mission is to lead fundraising and engagement efforts that inspire women to give of their time, talent and resources to Indiana University and to develop female leaders in philanthropy.

Education is KEY at Indiana University Kokomo.

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