Davidson has a number of initiatives or hot topics that we like to pay particular attention to at any given point in time. Currently these include faculty and staff collaboration, community and civic engagement, and leveraging corporate partnerships. Being academics, we spend a fair bit of time participating in dialog about enhancing our ability to engage in these endeavors. For example, I recently had the opportunity to attend a luncheon with other staff members and faculty that was sponsored by President Quillen, where the topic was increasing faculty and staff collaboration. The discussion was very lively and a number of interesting ideas on how to intentionally increase collaboration were the result.
As valuable as it is to intentionally try and increase collaboration, or achieve any of our other goals, I believe that simply taking advantage of opportunities that present themselves in the course of our daily professional activities is equally likely to yield results. I’ve recently been involved in such a project involving collaboration, community engagement and corporate partnership that evolved serendipitously. The project is Davidson’s current “Lake Norman Project.”
A couple of years ago the Davidson College Archives decided to create a project called “Under Lake Norman.” The project is designed to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Lake Norman by reaching out to the public for stories about what is under the lake, and then creating a website to make it accessible back to the public. The project struck a chord with the community and College Archivist Dr. Jan Blodgett became much in demand for speaking engagements. Fortuitously, a representative of the Duke Energy Foundation attended one of these events. The Foundation was looking for opportunities to celebrate the lake’s anniversary, and reached out to Jan about funding further research about the lake. Jan seized the opportunity, and when it became clear that Duke would like to involve students, reached out to the faculty of the Environmental Studies department.
Environmental Studies, led by Professor Brad Johnson and Professor Dave Martin, chose to collaborate with the Archives on a grant proposal for the foundation, this despite the fact that everyone involved was in the midst of their busy fall semester activities. The final proposal was funded, and involves senior Environmental Studies majors creating original research about the lake as part of their capstone course. The research results are presented to the public in web friendly format on a site supported by the Archives. The first round of student projects have just been completed and are now accessible to the public. In the second year of the grant not only will more projects be carried out, but eventually educational modules for the use of local area educators will be created as well.
From my perspective, this has been a great collaboration between faculty and staff at Davidson, with everyone being willing to take on some extra work for the benefit of the students. A new relationship was forged with a corporate partner, and the fruits of the students’ hard work are being made available to the broader community for their enjoyment and education. We’ve covered community engagement, corporate partnerships and faculty and staff collaboration with one project based on taking advantage of opportunities that presented themselves. Selfishly, it also has given me yet another chance to collaborate with great faculty, staff, student and corporate colleagues. I certainly hope to be able to participate in other endeavors that present themselves in the future.