Academic Venture Funding

AN "ATMOSPHERE OF SOUND LEARNING" requires the incorporation of new ideas and methods. An academic venture fund will permit the College to nurture and support newer faculty members as they share the ideas they have brought with them and to help them develop creative methods of passing those ideas on to others.

PROFESSORS PAMELA P. FOX AND CLAIRE E. DEAL teamed up to take a group of honors freshmen somewhere they hoped they would never have to go: jail. With the help of a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the pair studied the process of making documentaries and then created their own course, "Social Documentary: Image, Text, and Context."

Professors Claire Deal (left) and Pamela Fox (right) showed students how to make pinhole cameras out of cereal boxes. The students then taught inmates at a local jail. The atmospheric pictures they took went on exhibit here and in Richmond.

The fall semester of this cross-disciplinary course included a traditional lecture/discussion component, but the spring semester had students teach-ing inmates at Farmville's Piedmont Regional Jail how to make pinhole cameras and self-portraits. "The students were putting into practice what they had learned," says Fox, a fine arts professor who specializes in photog-raphy.

Giving Opportunities For
Faculty Enrichment

Academic Venture Funds $100,000
E-mail Lee King, Vice-President of Institutional Advancement for more information.

Deal, a rhetoric professor, adds, "This component of our year-long course provided students with the opportunity to experience the social documentary process for themselves."

Fox and Deal considered different subjects for their documentary-Habitat for Humanity; Madeline's House, a non-profit emergency shelter for victims of domestic violence; and local farmers-before settling on the jail project. The inmates, however, proved to be interesting subjects while also pushing the students to the edge of their comfort zones.

The unique seminar integrated meaningful community service with instruction and reflection. "The students learned the rewards that come from taking an active role in their community; they learned civic responsibility," Deal reports. "They learned a bit more about how the local jail operates. But perhaps most importantly, they learned something about stereotypes and the misperceptions that create and accompany stereotypes."

Fox says the yearlong project was challenging, yet exciting and rewarding: "This was the most profound teaching I've ever done."