News From Terre Haute, Indiana

October 1, 2013

$2 million grant for The Woods

SMWC to prioritize technology upgrades, student services

Sue Loughlin
The Tribune-Star

St. Mary-of-the-Woods. — Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College has received a five-year, nearly $2 million federal grant aimed at improving student success, particularly for first-generation and low-income students.

The college announced the U.S. Department of Education Strengthening Institutions grant during a news conference on Monday.

The grant “is really important because we have things we would like to do better for our students,” Woods President Dottie King said after the announcement.

The grant will fund a range of projects that also improve technology, efficiency, academic quality and fiscal stability.

 “I think this is the first time in a long time that the college has received any kind of federal grant funding,” King said. “It feels like a new chapter for us to know how to write these grants and know how to follow through and then be funded.”

The grant will fund:

• Seven new smart classrooms

• Expansion of the Learning Resource Center, including additional staff to support writing and math centers

• Technology-enhanced renovation of the general chemistry lab and Hayes Auditorium

• A new student information system

• Faculty professional development, especially to support the new Woods Core general studies curriculum and continued excellence in teaching and scholarship

One goal of the grant is to improve student academic support services of particular importance to low-income and first-generation students.

The college also will hire an institutional researcher; collection of data will help the college use its resources in the best, most efficient ways.

Also attending the announcement were Mayor Duke Bennett and Rep. Larry Bucshon, R-8th District.

Bennett said the planned improvements that include technology will help the college stay competitive and recruit students.

“It gets tighter and tighter and more difficult to access these types of federal dollars. But they see what’s happening here,” the mayor said. “They see there is a great opportunity to serve people” who are from Terre Haute and from outside the community.

The grant will help make the college “a destination, a place where people want to be,” Bennett said. “I know you’ll put the money to great use and hopefully that will position you for future grant opportunities.”

Bucshon participated using Skype. He joked that there are “just a few things going on” in Washington, D.C., as Congress grappled with the potential for a partial government shutdown caused by disagreement over the budget and Obamacare.

Bucshon said he had a “small role” in the Woods receiving a grant when he sent a letter of support last year.

He said he recognized the grant “is critical for your institution. … Higher education is key for everyone in our country to be able to advance and improve their lives.”

At a time when many places are experiencing federal budget cuts, King believes the college was successful in obtaining the grant because “we really paid attention to the specifications of the grant and we really did a good job of aligning our goals with their expectations.”

She also noted the college did have support from congressional representatives. “I do think there is that political side,” King said.

She noted that the college already does have a large percentage of low-income and first-generation students, and the grant will help the college serve those populations even better.

To learn more about Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College, visit www.smwc.edu.

Sue Loughlin can be reached at 812-231-4235 or sue.loughlin@tribstar.com.