$5 million gift gives faculty, students opportunity to create new programs

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Graphic by Jenna Krall, Clarissa Cairns and Madison Crosley

The University of Indianapolis College of Arts and Sciences received a $5 million naming gift from Yvonne Shaheen last year. The gift is being used to fund various projects and programs through the College.

“Mrs. Shaheen has been very generous in allowing the college to decide how to use the funds,” the Dean of the Shaheen College of Arts & Sciences, Jennifer Drake said. “So it was my thought, because of my commitment is to engaging faculty and empowering faculty and working with them to think about how to create more transformative student experiences… to throw it open to the faculty and see what they came up with.”

Each year Drake extends an invitation for the faculty of the SCAS to submit project proposals to her. Through a competitive process with a selection committee of SCAS faculty, a few projects are picked that the committee feels would be beneficial to UIndy and fall under certain guidelines.

Drake worked to come up with a set of guidelines for the faculty to use when thinking of projects. She said she wants them to focus on student engagement and interdepartmental collaboration, as well as keeping in mind Shaheen’s values and priorities.

“We leave it open, but again I do note her [Shaheen’s] particular interests,” Drake said. “They’re in first generation student success, leadership development, multiculturalism and global citizenship, community engagement and the role of the liberal arts and sciences in career readiness.”

Last year the SCAS approved five projects that have been put into place and are running this year.

String Quartet

Assistant Professor of Music Austin Hartman proposed and received a grant for starting a string quartet. The quartet includes Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra concertmaster Zachary Depue playing first violin, Hartman on second violin, Associate Professor of Viola and Chamber music at Oberlin College Michael Strauss who is playing viola and principal cellist for the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra Austin Huntington playing cello. Hartman said the idea to start a string quartet actually came before the proposal requests were sent out.

“Zach [Depue] and I had been friends for a long time,” Hartman said. “2 years ago he asked if I wanted to do a reading of a quartet piece with him. It was the first time we got to experiment playing in a quartet situation.”

Hartman said they both enjoyed the reading so much that they thought about starting their own quartet. Hartman said he knows Strauss through the concerts he has performed in at UIndy and they got in contact with Huntington later and tried a couple of readings as a quartet.

“When we began, there was a positive vibe in the group with wonderful chemistry,” Hartman said. “It was a fun thing to explore and because April went so well we decided we wanted to explore it further.”

They began performing together last April with pop-up performances around campus, according to Hartman, and are going to have their debut concert on Nov. 7, 2016 in Ruth Lilly Performance Hall. Hartman hopes that one day they become known both nationally and internationally.

Shaheen Community Fellows

Another project that has been put into place through this opportunity is the Shaheen Community Fellows program. The Shaheen Community Fellows program is run by Associate Professor of English Kevin McKelvey and Associate Professor of Sociology Amanda Miller. It was modeled after an older program that ran for two years in collaboration with Butler University, Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis, Marion and UIndy, called Indy Food Fellows. Its aim was to get students internships in food-related nonprofit groups around the city.

“It started out with a food focus but we hope to expand it into a lot of other areas where College of Arts and Sciences students will have an interest,” McKelvey said. “So it doesn’t necessarily have to be a nonprofit but we want it to be a place where students can go to get professional experience and build resumes, while at the same time working in the community.”

McKelvey said last year they had three or four students who participated in the program and are hoping to get more this year. He said they want to open it up to students with all different majors and interests within the SCAS, and do not want to limit the program only to food as their goal is to provide students with professional experiences within their area of interest.


Associate Professor of English Jen Camden and Professor of English Kyoko Amano created a new course called Communiversity. It is a one credit hour online course open to current UIndy students, alumni, faculty, staff and community members.

“What we had both experienced kind of in our everyday lives,” Camden said, “is that when we talk to alumni or talk to older friends, our age outside of the university they’re really jealous because we are English Professors because we get to read and talk about books…. We were also struck by the popularity of book clubs, you know especially among our peers and our friends. [They] have book clubs to fill that gap. And we thought it would be really cool if we could bring that enthusiasm for reading with friends into the university.”

Camden and Amano proposed and received a grant for an online book club using the Communiversity model that they created with the help of the Registrar’s Office and the School for Adult Learning. Camden said they decided the course would cover Jane Austen’s “Emma,” because of Austen’s large fan base and this year is the 200th anniversary of the publication of “Emma.” The course involves reading about four chapters a week, posting online and also has an optional L/P component. Camden said the L/P component provided a way to reach out in different ways.

“So we wanted to find a way to bring together that interdisciplinary component where we would have faculty from multiple disciplines approaching the same text from their different disciplines,” Camden said. “Kind of parallel to the online course is a lecture series, which is not required for the course, and is open to the public, where we have faculty from different Shaheen College of Arts and Sciences departments giving their own perspective on Jane Austen’s “Emma.”

The L/P events will be held throughout the semester, starting and ending with lectures from two prominent Jane Austen scholars, according to Camden. She said the course has exceeded her expectations. They originally proposed one section of 30 students and now have three sections of 20 students. Camden said out of the 60 students, about one third is current students, half is alumni and the rest are community members, all dispersed evenly among the groups.

Camden said she and Amano would like to do a course like this again next fall and are beginning to think of ideas. She also said that the Communiversity model exists now, so other faculty can and are planning on using it.

Lunch and Learn

Assistant Professor of Chemistry Brad Neal and Associate Professor of Chemistry Kathy Stickney have created a program to provide a support network and resources for students involved in undergraduate research. They are having Lunch and Learn sessions along with a Research Colloquium class. These were created to work alongside the Research Fellows Program that started in 2014 and is lead by Interim Executive Director of the Honors College Jim Williams.

“Before the Lunch and Learns, before the Research Colloquium, it wasn’t that the students were left to their own devices it was very much on their faculty mentors,” Neal said. “Because each one of these students has a faculty mentor, so it was on the faculty mentors to do everything as well as accomplish some sort of scholarship. And we thought, ‘That kind of stinks…’”

Neal said they want to put an entire year’s worth of learning into a semester so that the students feel prepared while doing their undergraduate research.

“It’s all about getting these young scholars together in the same room and providing them a support network amongst themselves and showing them the opportunities the university has as well,” Neal said.

STEM Research Project

Another project through the SCAS was proposed by Associate Professor of Mathematics and Computer Science Krysi Leganza and Assistant Professor of Chemistry Ann Cutler. They are teaming up with Associate Professor of Mathematics and Computer Science Livia Hummel, Associate Professor of Physics and Earth and Space Sciences Steve Spicklemire, Professor of Biology Sandy Davis and Director of Engineering Jose Sanchez to find out how to best improve education in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics field and recruit and retain underrepresented minorities.

The group of STEM faculty is researching national best practices, what other colleges do and reading material on the subject. Cutler said the group will do research on its own and meet monthly to discuss.

“It’s a fantastic group,” she said. “I think we are centered by a passion for doing the right thing and learning more about how to be effective teachers.”

Once their research is complete the group plans to present it to UIndy so that they can implement or use what they found. Although they have only been working for four weeks, they are already starting to notice patterns.

“I think something we’ve already found in discussions with others and in our readings we have done is mentoring makes a tremendous difference,” Leganza said. “I mean it obviously does for all students but especially the underrepresented minorities. It can be a peer mentor or a faculty mentor, either way, having someone.”

Drake said faculty will continue to be able to propose projects each year.

“The dollar amount that we have available to us changes every year,” Drake said, “but this is a permanent fund. We will have dollars indefinitely. So really it’s a matter of thinking strategically as we’re moving forward as how best to use those dollars. But the dollars won’t go away, which is an incredible privilege.”

Drake said they will continue to fund new projects, and have received about 10-15 proposals each of the last two years it has been open, and they may also look at funding some projects again or add ongoing projects. She said she excited about where they projects have gone and have noticed some similar thread emerging.

“I see one group of projects as being really connected to student professional development, student retention [and] student support.…” Drake said. “Another set of projects that are very much about enhancing the intellectual life of our institution. So really kind of innovative vibrant approaches to creating and performing [for] our campus intellectual life.”

New Projects

According to Drake, there are eight new projects approved for this year. Assistant Professor of Theatre James Leagre & Cutler are partnering to train Chemistry teaching assistants and tutors through chemistry techniques and role-playing activities. Instructor and Lab Director of Biology Mary Gobbet and the Assistant Director for Education, Science and Healthcare from the Professional Edge Center Stephanie Kendall-Deitz are looking to help students in the STEM field become career ready. Professor of Music Kathleen Hacker is starting what she calls New Indy Arts Hour, which is an interdisciplinary approach to the arts.

Associate Professor of Biology and Anthropology Krista Latham and Assistant Professor of Anthropology Alyson O’Daniel are continuing a project Latham has done before where they work on the Texas border exhuming and identifying the bodies of migrants who died while crossing the border. Assistant Professor of English Jessica Bannon, Assistant Professor of Spanish Maribel Campoy and McKelvey are working with the Indiana Undocumented Youth Alliance to create a creative writing curriculum where they will work with undocumented youth in Indiana to write a collection of stories to be published in a book.

Associate Professor of Mathematics and Computer Sciences Travis Miller, Sanchez and Spicklemire are working together to bring together the students in the departments of Martin and Lilly Hall to create a learning community through a series of events. Associate Professor of Biology Roger Sweets is working with students to create a tree walk around UIndy, and will eventually be partnering with the English, History and Art departments to create signs or plaques. Assistant Professor of Art & Design Katherine Fries is starting what she is calling UIndy’s Letterpress Hullabaloo, which is a month-long collection of events and experiences designed to showcase the letterpress as a form of art and will ultimately end in the unveiling of UIndy’s own letterpress.

Drake said she was very impressed by the projects and how well the faculty of different departments are working together.

“That’s part of what I’m loving, the way that our faculty are collaborating together,” Drake said. “All these collaborations are occurring across units, across departments, and these really creative ideas are being brought forward that are so energetic and energizing. They demonstrate the best of what our faculty can do and what our students can do.”


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