Federal, State Groups Grant $380K in Wishes for Mary Baldwin Programs

February 5, 2009

Two recent high-profile grants will help Mary Baldwin University continue one successful program and launch another in fall 2009. The college’s Environment Based Learning program received a three-year, $360,000 grant from the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to continue learning and teaching about the Chesapeake Bay watershed. A $22,500 grant funded by Verizon through the Virginia Foundation for Independent Colleges (VFIC) will support developing a Career Academy, one of seven gateways students can choose to guide their studies beginning in fall 2009.

Getting Their Feet Wet

Master of Arts in Teaching students study Lewis CreekAlthough the grant from NOAA is contingent on the allocation of federal funding, Tamra Willis, assistant professor of education, can’t help but be excited about the next phase of Chesapeake Bay watershed education it will provide. She procured the first three-year NOAA grant for watershed study in Mary Baldwin’s Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) program in 2003, and has earned renewals to carry the program through July 2009, when the new funding will kick in, pending federal approval. For the next three years, Willis and Mary Baldwin teacher-in-residence Betty Gatewood will expand their river, stream, and bay studies to use data provided by the Chesapeake Bay Interpretive Buoy System (CBIBS).

“The main objective is to educate teachers and students about the impacts of land use and practices on the health of the Bay,” Willis said. The areas under study will include the Shenandoah Valley and mountainous regions of Western Virginia.

CBIBS ( www.buoybay.org ) is a series of buoys in the Chesapeake that collect data, about weather, water quality, and wave height, Willis explained. Gatewood will work with students at regional Governor’s Schools in the Shenandoah Valley and Alleghany Highlands to build their own types of buoys — called Fixed Location Observation stations — to record environmental data in their areas of the Chesapeake Bay watershed. When the stations are in place, students will be able to monitor how events in their areas, such as a heavy rain or plowing of fields, impacts the Bay by comparing data from their stations and CBIBS buoys. During each year of the grant, a course entitled The Intersection of Life and Land will be offered to students in the MAT program and to area teachers. Teachers in the course will study CBIBS technology and explore ways to teach critical thinking and problem solving skills using realworld issues. Governor’s School students will present their research findings as part of that course, Willis explained.

Find a Career Here

The VFIC grant — made available through funds allocation to that organization from Verizon — will help pay for two laptop computers, software, and assessment tools by iSkills, and personnel costs to develop the Career Academy. A launching point for students who desire a clear path to the work world, the Career Academy will provide career-related assessments, occupational and vocational exploration, and job, internship, and graduate school assistance.

“We will use the same model for developing career and life goals that we’ve used for years with all students who seek our services,” said Julie Chappell, director of career development services.

Chappell explained that software provided by the VFIC grant will help

Career Academy students develop resumés and an electronic portfolio to record their goals, and direct activities to practice their skills. The funding will also facilitate a partnership between the Career Academy and Grafton Library. The creation of an information technology lab, named Taking the Liberal Arts to Work, is a critical piece of that program.

Mary Baldwin also received a $22,500 grant from VFIC via Verizon funding in spring 2006, which provided updated presentation technology — such as digital wipeboards — for classrooms in Pearce Science Center.