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Campus receives more than $41,000 in WPLC grants

August 1, 2019

KOKOMO, Ind. – Five Indiana University Kokomo faculty members received more than $41,000 in grants from the IU Women’s Philanthropy Leadership Council.

They shared in $200,000 in support given to 20 programs, on seven IU campuses, for proposals for a middle school drug intervention program, faculty training to enhance first-year learning, support for women in technology majors, and a Girl Scout space science workshop.

Niki Weller, assistant director of sociology, received funding for a drug intervention and prevention initiative in partnership with Lifeline Overdose Inc., to be implemented for eighth graders in four north central Indiana middle schools. Her grant was a partnership between the WPLC and the Well House Society, one of the IU Foundations’s donor recognition societies.

“We would not be able to provide this service without this grant,” said Weller, who will collect data to determine its effectiveness, and use that information to apply for additional money to expand to other schools.

Schools were selected on risk of students using drugs, based on socioeconomic factors including percentage of students receiving free and reduced lunch, numbers of children with incarcerated parents, overdose rates in the county, shortage of mental health care services, and others.

“We can intervene with these students while they are in middle school, and prevent them from engaging in experimental behaviors when they in high school,” said Weller. “We can set the foundation for less risky behaviors, as they progress through adolescence.”

The WPLC also funded a program proposed by Chen Zhong, assistant professor of informatics, and Hong Liu, assistant professor of computer science, to retain and support female students in STEM fields, through peer mentoring activities and collaboration.

Zhong noted that the male-to-female ratio in IU Kokomo’s informatics and computer sciences programs is about 10 to 1, which is lower than the national average.  Because of the gender gap, she said, female students face lack of support and understanding, difficulty building learning partnerships, and a confidence gap.

“This award allows us to take the first steps to address those needs,” she said. She and Liu plan a series of seminars about women in technology, peer learning activities in programming courses, and a collaborative project on programming training and organizing robotics programming competition.

“The uniqueness of our idea lies in the peer learning activities and collaborative tasks,” she said. “Many studies have been conducted to address the gender gap in the computer science related majors, however, most of them focus on attracting more female students to the program, but neglect the retention issue. Our project studies the experience and motivation of female students in those majors, and seeks effective methods to increase their confidence and retention.”

Christina Downey, associate vice chancellor for academic affairs and student success, led the grant team that received financing for a professional development for faculty who teach first-year classes, to implement strengths-based education. The plan includes 30 to 40 faculty members, from all five regional campuses. In addition to WPLC money, it also received private support from one of the council members.

Downey said strengths-based education continues the work already started, to re-imagine the first year experience, to make it more likely students will succeed and return to finish a four-year degree.

“It’s well-known more students leave college after the first year than at any other time,” she said. “The WPLC grant provides significant support to the work we are doing to improve student success on the regional campuses.”

While the Girl Scout Space Science badge workshop proposed by Stephanie Medley-Rath, assistant professor of sociology was not selected for a WPLC grant, council members provided backing for it on their own.

The program will allow 120 girls, kindergarten through fifth grade,  to earn one of the Girl Scouts new STEM badges, focused on space science. It also allows the girls to experience a college campus, said Medley-Rath.

“We hope to get them interested in science, and help them explore one potential science-related career field they may not have considered before,” she said. “Because it is at IU Kokomo, it helps them see themselves on a college campus, so they can envision themselves as students at some point.”

The sponsorship allows more girls to attend, because it covers the costs of badges and materials, she said.

Grants are awarded on an annual cycle from the Women's Philanthropy Leadership Council Fund, which is administered by the Indiana University Foundation. Council members, alumni and friends of IU support the fund with annual contributions. Applications for 2020 grants will be available in December 2019. For more information about grant criteria and applications, contact Charla Stonecipher, associate director of Women's Philanthropy at Indiana University, at ckstonec@iu.edu.

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.

Indiana University Kokomo celebrates 75 years as north central Indiana’s choice for higher education.

Last updated: 08/01/2019