Three SOE alums receive REAL Challenge Grants

Three VCU School of Education alumni were recently awarded REAL Challenge Grants by the VCU Office of the Provost that will create or enhance experiential learning opportunities for their students. Details on the recipients and their grants are included below.

Headshot of SOE alum Elizabeth Bambacus.

Elizabeth Bambacus: You First Peer Mentoring Engagement for UNIV 391: Advanced Peer Mentoring and Leadership

Elizabeth Bambacus (M.Ed. ‘11, Ph.D. ‘18), the student engagement and summer studies administrator in the VCU Division of Strategic Enrollment Management, will use her funding to sustain and enhance an existing course – UNIV 391: Advanced Peer Mentoring and Leadership – in which upper-level first-generation students mentor first-year first-generation students. Funding will support in-person events bringing together mentors and mentees, as well as a Strengths Quest assessment for the mentors that will help students recognize their strengths and intentionally apply them to both coursework and mentoring.

Headshot of SOE alum Lindsay Freeman.

Lindsay Freeman: Building a Pipeline for Better Environmental Studies Internships and Careers

Lindsay Freeman (M.Ed. ’15), an undergraduate academic advisor with the VCU Center for Environmental Studies (CES), will use her funding to strengthen the CES Careers & Conversations speaker series during the 2020-2021 academic year by bringing in six local speakers and increasing their student audience. Funding will help attract high-quality guest speakers and incentivize student participation in the events, with the goal of building partnerships with professionals who can serve as a pipeline for students.

Headshot of SOE alum Madeline Goldman

Madeline Goldman: Engaging More Students in Experiential Learning by Attending the "Applying Student Development Theory to College Transition Programs" Online Course

To address a gap in sophomore-year retention programming, Madeline Goldman (Ph.D. ‘18), an academic advisor for the Forensic Science program, will attend an online course on students in transition with the goal of creating strategies and developing initiatives to address sophomore attrition. Through learning more about issues affecting sophomores in particular, she hopes to develop programs that will support sophomores as they develop academic plans, use the Major Maps, and plot their pathway to getting “REAL” experiences. She plans to also work with faculty and gain curriculum insight on how to engage in REAL at an earlier level in the Forensic Science major, and to host a webinar with her academic advisor peers to share the key takeaways from the course.

The VCU REAL initiative helps to ensure that every VCU graduate has at least one high-quality, experiential and career-focused learning experience during their time at VCU. The REAL team introduced Challenge Grants in December 2019 to award funding to support the integration of experiential learning into the VCU student experience.

A total of eight grants were awarded by the REAL team, with three of those being awarded to SOE alumni.