Action Research Center names 2015 Elizabeth Weir Fellows

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Emily Considine, Staff Writer

 

Illinois Wesleyan University’s Action Research Center (ARC) named five 2015 Elizabeth Weir Fellows. Elizabeth Weir, a 1950 Illinois Wesleyan graduate with a degree in sociology, founded the fellowship.

Each Weir Fellow, recognized for their success in using action research strategies to implement a project that makes a meaningful impact in the community, will be awarded up to $1,500 and can use the award either as income or to assist in their project development.

The Weir Fellows are divided up into two teams. The first team includes Leo Martinez ’15, Nettie Rauch ’15, and Jacquelyn Schirmacher ’18, who is designing workshops and a “Board Boot Camp” based on the data they collect from completing a study of nonprofit organizations across 10 focus areas, including financial management, marketing, board governance and human resources.

“Non-profits in the west side Bloomington serve a large amount of residents. By focusing on improving the internal aspects of these organizations we hope to make them more efficient and in return increase performance to better serve their community members,” said Martinez.

The goal of the workshops and the “Board Boot Camp” is to empower current and future nonprofit board members to be effective leaders for the organizations they serve. “Our project is an efficiency assessment and educational series for nonprofits in Bloomington-Normal. I suppose that makes our approach to helping the community a little more indirect,” said Rauch. “We are helping these nonprofits be more effective and be able to help more people.”

The second team includes Amanda King ’15 and Rachel Shaffer ’17 plan to grow plants that are typically used in peace ceremonies in cultures and religions around the world to help more people enjoy the “peace” aspect of the IWU Peace Garden.

“Amanda and I are both incredibly passionate about the Peace Garden and its future trajectory. The extension of the garden into this outdoor classroom/meditative space gives students more incentive to visit the Garden and hopefully volunteer in the garden,” said Shaffer. “Any questions regarding the project can be directed towards Amanda or myself.  We will be working with Nick Miller and Kevin Gordon – the two Spring Garden Managers – and Professor Jim Simeone in the political science department.”

The team’s project includes an outdoor classroom component for teachers and classes to use, and the herbs they grow will be donated to Evelyn Chapel.

According to its website, the ARC “is dedicated to the relentless pursuit of innovative ideas that transform communities. For ten years, ARC has connected the campus and the community in meaningful ways that create impactful change and address pressing social justice issues.”

“This is the second time I have been named a Weir Fellow during my four years at Wesleyan and the two projects for which I received it are vastly different,” said Rauch. “I think that speaks to the scope of the Action Research Center and the value of a liberal arts education.”

ARC offers internships, provides fellowships, teaches classes, promotes community engagement and volunteerism, runs workshops, supports faculty, coordinates Alternative Fall Break, manages the relationship and strategy with the Westside of Bloomington and conducts community based research.

Elizabeth Weir passed away on February 7, 2015. Weir’s generous support of the ARC, helping fund projects for various students, is remembered by many.

“I had the chance to meet her the first time I received the fellowship and she was a very interesting and wonderful woman,” said Rauch.