CENTRAL, S.C. (courtesy swu.edu) — The U.S. Department of Education has awarded Southern Wesleyan University a Title III: Strengthening Institutions grant for $2.25 million payable in $450,000 annual increments over five years. The grant will help instructors better equip and engage students.
Initially it was thought that there was no opportunity for the university to apply for Title III this year, and they would be correct. Last year, Melanie Gillespie, then-associate vice president of student financial services; Dr. Sandra McLendon, dean of the School of Education; and Dr. April White Pugh, provost, spent three weeks preparing a submission for the Title III grant.
In late September, awarded institutions would be notified, and the institution patiently awaited. Unfortunately, late September was not filled with the news that the institution hoped and expected. SWU’s grant application was scored three points shy of receiving all points possible, according to Dr. Todd Voss, university president.
In late January, Southern Wesleyan received notification from the U.S. Department of Education of the availability of additional funds, and because the institution scored high, the department asked the university if they would be interested in being considered for funding. SWU immediately notified the Department of Education that it was interested; however, the rest of the SWU community was not informed about the second chance opportunity. Gillespie, McLendon, and White Pugh were unwilling to subject the institution to another possible letdown if the institution was not awarded the grant, so a season of waiting ensued until September to learn whether the institution would be funded. Then, the university learned that the funding would be awarded.
“His timing, not ours,” exclaimed Gillespie.
“Words cannot express my delight in receiving this powerful grant that will catapult SWU forward over the next five years,” shared President Todd Voss. “I cannot even put into words how proud I am of Dr. White, Dr. McLendon and Ms. Gillespie in their patience, fortitude and commitment in seeing SWU through this arduous process!”
SWU’s Success through Technology with Academic Rigor and Training (START 2.0) grant application focuses on the benefits of a comprehensive student engagement center and programming, faculty development, course development, facility updates and more. The overall objective of START 2.0 is to jump-start the institution on a path that intentionally and systematically takes great measures in examining the whole student: from prospect to career start.
“Before a student enrolls, we must understand where they are and immediately begin developing strategies on how we can best support them from matriculation into their chosen career,” said White Pugh. “Grant funding will support our efforts not only in a personalized educational experience for students, yet also a better focus on equipping our instructors with what they need to connect with students and keep them engaged.”
“This funding over a five-year timeframe provides a unique opportunity for faculty, staff, and students to benefit, especially during a time when there is an emphasis on quality virtual learning,” said McLendon.