By: Maria Kruger, Director of Stewardship, Southwestern University
About Southwestern University: Southwestern University, under the auspices of the United Methodist Church, is committed to undergraduate liberal education involving both the study of and participation in significant aspects of our cultural heritage, expressed primarily through the arts, the sciences, the Institutions and the professions of society. As a teaching-learning community, Southwestern encourages rigorous inquiry and scholarship, creative teaching and the expression of free human life. The University seeks to involve the student in finding a personal and social direction for life, developing more sensitive methods of communication, cultivating those qualities and skills which make for personal and professional effectiveness, and learning to think clearly and make relevant judgments and discriminations.
Tell us about the relationship between Southwestern University and the Moody Foundation.
The relationship between the Moody family and Southwestern University began in the 1840s, when John Shearn, the grandfather of Mary Moody Northern, graduated from Rutersville College in Fayette County. The first college founded in the Republic of Texas, Rutersville was one of four pioneering Methodist institutions that eventually joined to form Southwestern University. This shared history led to a Moody Foundation gift of $500,000 in 1964 for the construction of the Moody–Shearn Residence Hall for male students. A second gift presented in honor of her grandfather was a $400,000 grant in 1974 endowing the John Shearn Chair in Business Administration. The Moody Foundation also provided a generous $250,000 grant to Southwestern in 1982 to update Moody–Shearn Hall for new generations of students.
Back in 2017, the Foundation gifted funds towards high-impact educational student experiences like internships and study abroad. How many students have participated in these since then?
As part of the Moody Foundation’s 2017-18 grant, we were able to fund 28 students over the course of the 2017-18 academic year. Since the Foundation’s initial generous gift, Southwestern has been able to increase fundraising efforts supporting high impact experiences to provide opportunities to more than 200 students.
Can you tell us more about the Moody Engagement Fellowship program?
The Moody Engagement Fellowship program led the way for Southwestern University to create what has become a vibrant program of high-impact experiences for our students that provide our graduates with the skills, motivation and social knowledge to address local, state, national and global issues and inequities. High-impact experiences, which include internships, study abroad opportunities, student/faculty research or creative works, and community-engaged learning, create the active practices of thinking, creating, connecting and are the hallmark of a Southwestern education. The Moody Engagement Fellowship program awards project funding to students with excellent projects whose high economic need would otherwise prevent them from engaging in key high impact experiences, and provides opportunities for students to learn how to disseminate their findings to broad audiences in presentations and publications, both on and off campus.
For example, with internships, we offer an application process with three different deadlines throughout the year that require students to engage in information sessions on how to prepare a well-structured application. An internal selection committee reviews completed applications and makes awards to students who then participate in a pre- and post-assessment of their experience. At the completion of the students’ internship, each provides a reflection and presentation of their experiences as part of Southwestern University’s Research & Creative Works Symposium held in the spring each year.
Why are these experiences and programs significant for college students?
High-impact experiences are significant because they encourage students to think more critically about their understanding of the world and make connections across subjects, borders, economic systems and varying ways of life. These experiences and programs often challenge students’ existing worldviews and lead to the creative thinking that can bring about lasting change. Enlarged worldviews, realistic assessment of their own abilities and talents, and an expanded skill set are outcomes that will resonate in Moody Fellows for many years to come.
High-impact experiences share common characteristics of growing student independence and autonomy that allow for progressive mastery of new competencies and skills and provide an increased understanding of what a fully realized life will hold. Providing students with experiential learning also has a positive effect on student retention and graduation rates and is particularly impactful amongst historically underserved students.
Continuing the Moody Engagement Fellowships will continue to provide equal access to high-impact experiences for underserved students and empower them with the tools to achieve their dreams.
How are you hoping to expand on additional student programs?
For the current grant award, we are hoping to expand the number of Moody Engagement Fellows to 55 and incorporate a broader range of opportunities that include increased study abroad funding and faculty-student research collaborations, as well as our continued focus on internships, community-engaged learning and the fine arts.