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Empowering the Extraordinary

A Mission to Educate, With Support From the Foundation Board

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Helping first-year College of Education students understand the history surrounding access to, and relationships within, K-12 education can better prepare them to be anti-racist educators.

That’s the belief behind the college’s new Mission Makers Program this year, spearheaded by Amanda Beller, the College of Education’s director of advising, and Robin McWilliams, director of the SAY (Students Advocating for Youth) Village, and funded by a grant from the NC State University Foundation.

The Foundation Board awarded the Mission Makers Program $21,500 this summer, as one of 11 grants for projects and initiatives across NC State.

Mission Makers will use those funds for a series of student travel opportunities this academic year, including a trip to Lumberton and Pembroke, North Carolina, another to Wilmington, North Carolina, and two additional trips to Washington, D.C., and to the National Youth Advocacy and Resilience Conference in Savannah, Georgia.

Beller and McWilliams interact with all first-year College of Education students through one of two courses, ED 100 and ED 150. The travel opportunities are offered to all of those students, though all may not choose to participate. Those who do attend will amplify their experience by returning and sharing with their peers.

The program’s launch comes on the heels of the events of the past several years, such as the response to the George Floyd killing and other national events that led the College of Education to recommit itself to being an anti-racist college and to preparing its pre-service teachers to be anti-racist in the field, McWilliams said.

Since ED 100 and ED 150 touch every first-year student, Mission Makers provides the chance to broach the topic on the ground floor as students enter the program, ideally providing them with a foundation as they move on into more advanced courses.

“As they move ahead into courses like ED 204, and their major courses, others can take the ball and run with it from there,” McWilliams said.

Trips such as those to Lumberton/Pembroke and Wilmington are new day-trip experiences offered to students this year. The trips to Washington, D.C., and Savannah are existing opportunities for SAY Village students, McWiliams said, but they will expand to welcome non-SAY Village first-year and transfer students.

In Lumberton and Pembroke, students learn about the experiences of the Lumbee Indian tribe, while in Wilmington, they’ll be introduced to the history of the Wilmington race riots. There, in 1898, “a white mob seized the reins of government in the port city and, in so doing, destroyed the local black-owned newspaper office and terrorized the African American community,” according to information from the NC Department of Natural and Cultural Resources.

These types of experiences extend classroom learning and the benefits are numerous, including connecting students with new rural and underserved K-12 schools, guiding them to embrace anti-racism as a necessity for educators, and helping them understand the importance of identity-affirming practices, according to the proposal Beller and McWilliams submitted to the NC State University Foundation.

“We want students who want to be in education for the right reasons,” Beller said. “It’s important to have a context of cultural humility, and to understand where other people are coming from. “Travel, being in a new space, and these types of immersive experiences they’ll have in these new places help them really see different people have different experiences.”

The opportunity will help these future educators be better equipped to meet students where they are and help them become the best versions of themselves, she continued.

In Washington, D.C.,visiting the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and the National Museum of African American History and Culture provide additional historic context to these future educators, while a visit to the Department of Education provides opportunities for interactive discussion with leaders and teaching fellows.

An added benefit, Beller said, is the opportunity for students who take ED 100 and ED 150 to interact with one another while traveling. The two courses were designed to serve different populations, and the overlap in these trips allows the two groups to engage, creating a greater sense of community.

Those who attend the trips will be asked to come back and present to their peers, McWilliams said.

“We won’t take all students, but if they come back and tell at least one person, then we’ve doubled the number of people impacted,” he said.

2022 NC State University Foundation Grants

The NC State University Foundation solicited grant proposals from colleges and units this year, receiving a total of 21 proposals. Each group submitting a proposal was asked to include a written summary and a short video describing the proposal. This year the foundation funded 11 proposals. The Mission Makers Program was one, and the other 10 include:

Eastern North Carolina faces particularly daunting challenges when it comes to “home growing” new teachers; exposing high-quality teachers; and keeping high-quality teachers in the classroom. Foundation grant funding will go toward SURE! (Summer Undergraduate Research Experience), which is part of a unifying suite of programs and initiatives that will reverse these negative trends facing Eastern NC.

Funds from the foundation will allow CHASS to provide more competitive (as compared to other institutions) recruitment awards to graduate students from underrepresented minority groups. The grant is intended to serve as a seed investment for a broader initiative to not only recruit diverse graduate students, but also to support and enrich these scholars’ experiences at NC State.

Funds will go toward Design Connections, a pre-college summer residential experience hosted by the college’s Design Lab for K-12 Education and Outreach. Pre-college students from underserved schools will have the opportunity to learn the fundamentals of design, be introduced to design careers and the admissions process, and form connections with College of Design alumni and faculty.

The Entrepreneurship Clinic serves students at NC State as well as businesses,nonprofits and other entities by putting interdisciplinary teams to work on creating value for partner organizations through a hospital teaching method. Foundation grant funds will help the clinic expand and scale its offerings to reach the entire university community, and continue to operate as the hub for NC State students and our talent pipeline in downtown Raleigh.

The foundation grant will help fund a seminar to expose undergraduate and graduate students to the work of innovative practicing architects in developing countries. The architects will be asked to develop a digital catalog and podcast series of “new” architectural precedents from the perspective of architecture and culture. The resulting catalog will be a publicly accessible resource for students, educators and professionals across the country.

Funds will allow faculty to curate and distribute evidence-based information to North Carolina leaders and policymakers related to the preparation of K-8 literacy teachers. This will help North Carolina leaders bridge the gap between evidence and action, and will underscore the College of Education’s leadership role in literacy education.

As part of its 75th anniversary, the college will engage in community service projects focused on a series of landscapes across South Raleigh. Funding from the foundation will cover this initial community engagement and design ideation work as students and faculty will work with community partners to define and discuss specific projects or issues to be resolved to enhance each of these landscapes.

The foundation grant provided seed-funding for the purchase of an Iris Photo Booth. This self-service photo booth will allow for students and alumni to have professional headshots made at their own convenience.

The foundation grant will fund positions for two NC State graduate assistants to join the Juntos leadership team. These students will support the effectiveness and sustainability of the program at a state and national level, by assisting with planning and implementation of statewide events that bring Latino middle and high school youth and their families to campus; mentoring and supporting Juntos alumni attending NC State in the fall as well as the 14 additional work study students in the Juntos program; and planning and executing the Juntos Summer Academy.

The foundation grant will fund the commission and residency with Daniel Bernard Roumain, an acclaimed Haitian violinist, composer, educator and social entrepreneur, to mentor students and lead educational programs.