Spencer Center Funding Supports Faculty Initiatives in Community Engagement

August 29, 2017

Three MBU faculty members received funding from the Samuel and Ava Spencer Center for Civic and Global Engagement for projects focusing on student community engagement. The High-Impact Engaged Education Funding distributed approximately $2,800 for 2017–18.

“The Spencer Center is committed to actively supporting innovative faculty initiatives that further community-engaged learning at MBU,” said Christina Harrison, director of the Spencer Center. “This year’s projects represent a range of program models that all creatively link the classroom with pressing public issues, both domestic and international. We are excited to see the outcomes of this innovative work, and hope that they lay the groundwork for ongoing partnerships between MBU and the community.”

Doreen Bechtol headshotDoreen Bechtol, assistant professor of Shakespeare and Performance (S&P), heads up an arts initiative promoting Shakespeare in Staunton elementary and middle schools. Master of fine arts students in the S&P program will bring performance and experiential learning workshops to local elementary and middle schoolers, with the goal of enhancing young people’s experience with MBU, higher education, and Shakespeare.



Amy Tillerson-Brown, associate professor of history, is creating a new history course about hip-hop culture from 1970 to 2010, viewing hip-hop lyrics as social commentary that critiques U.S. history and addresses oppression, power, identity, politics, and violence. Students in the course will travel to New York City and take hip-hop walking tours in the Bronx (the birthplace of hip-hop) and Harlem, do research at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, and attend the Hip-Hop Literacies Conference at John Jay College.


Bruce Dorries headshot

Bruce Dorries, associate professor of communication, is working on Business Communications in Haiti, which aims to build connections between MBU’s College of Business and Professional Studies — specifically the new MBA program — and the Bishop Tharp Business and Technology Institute (BTI) in Les Cayes, Haiti. Dorries’ goal is to create a framework for MBU graduate students and faculty to study and teach at BTI.


The Spencer Center determines grant amounts by considering the nature of the project, potential for significant student impact, and resonance with other academic and co-curricular initiatives on campus. Projects should aim to incorporate civic and global engagement best practices, including service-learning, intergroup dialogue, collective problem-solving, a reciprocal partnership with a community agency or group, the possibility for long-term sustainability of the project and partnership, and opportunities for students to bridge theory and practice.