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Faculty awarded $173,800 Davis Grant, will engage community partners as co-educators to bolster civic learning

NEWPORT, R.I. (Sept. 27, 2016) – Salve Regina faculty this fall are launching work on a three-year, grant-funded plan to intentionally infuse community engagement and civic learning into the university’s curriculum, a process enriched by community partners as co-educators.
The $173,800 grant from the Davis Educational Foundation supports the formation of Faculty Learning Communities that, over the next three years, will expand efforts to increase faculty investment in community engaged scholarship, deepen student learning across the curriculum, and strengthen academic outcomes by developing interdisciplinary learning with meaningful input from community partners. 
The project is co-managed at Salve Regina by Dr. Laura O’Toole, Senior Faculty Fellow for Community Engagement and Professor of Sociology, and Dr. Scott Zeman, Provost/Vice President for Academic Affairs.
Faculty members on the learning community this fall include Emily Colbert-Cairns, assistant professor of Modern and Classical Languages; Sally Gomaa, associate professor of English and Global Studies; Amanda Minor, assistant professor of Holistic Counseling; Arlene Nicholas, associate professor of Business Studies; Matthew Solomon, assistant professor of Graphic Design; and Susannah Strong, assistant professor of Art and Art History.
“This generous grant funds a faculty development process that will support them as they collaborate more intentionally with each other and, most importantly, with their community partners as co-educators of our students,” said O’Toole, who will facilitate the learning communities. “The process will create projects and outcomes that raise students’ civic awareness as they learn specific subject matter.” 
Beginning in the second year of the grant program, a group of community partners will be invited to form their own learning community to discuss specific ways in which Salve Regina faculty and students can contribute to their justice and social change work. Also, experts, activists and fellow educators will be invited to campus to engage students, faculty and community partners in building an ever more engaged and intentional community focused on justice and positive social change.
“Since our partnership began over a decade ago, we have benefitted from Salve students’ energy and passion for social services and their dedication to internships, volunteer opportunities and work study positions,” stated Marilyn Warren, executive director of the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Center in Newport. “In turn, the students have also benefited from their experiences with our Center. They have gained professional experience in a small, non-profit setting, developed the skills to recognize what the needs in the community are and where they exist. We have witnessed first-hand the result of their work with us and the difference it has made to our clients.”
“The courses developed by faculty in each of the three years of the grant will be built around a significant project developed in conjunction with partners that will fulfill a demonstrated community need and allow students to apply concepts and skills they learn in class,” said O’Toole, who teaches in the new department of Cultural, Environmental, and Global Studies. “Regardless of discipline, students will be engaging with literature, practice, and reflection on justice, fairness, and social change in relation to their subject matter and their community project.” 
This approach to civic learning tackles one of the transformational priorities outlined within the university’s strategic plan of “creating community engagements that empower our partners and ourselves.” The objective has been championed by Zeman, who, since arriving as provost/vice president for academic affairs in 2014, has worked to bring cohesion of faculty efforts with institutional support.
“We know the transformative power of community engagement on student learning,” Zeman said. “It is also one of the most tangible expressions of Salve Regina’s mercy identity – ‘to see, to care, and to act for the good of others.’”
“Dr. Zeman’s strongly articulated support of civic and community engagement has helped move this project from a set of recommendations from interested and engaged faculty to an institutional priority,” O’Toole said. “We are grateful for his leadership on this initiative.”  
The Davis Educational Foundation was established by Stanton and Elisabeth Davis after Mr. Davis’s retirement as chairman of Shaw’s Supermarkets, Inc.