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Sculpting vision into reality
The 1804 Fund: 25 years of shaping Ohio University's future

Feb. 18, 2005

By Jennifer Shutt Bowie

Whether molding clay into works of art or shaping how little eyes see the world, Ohio University faculty and students are benefiting from some of the latest technology available in their fields thanks to The Ohio University Foundation's 1804 Fund.

Photo by Rick FaticaThe Ceramics and Early Childhood Education departments may not be the first that come to mind when considering programs competing for internal research and teaching grants, but theirs exemplify the needs The 1804 Fund was designed to meet. Endowed in 1979 during the 1804 Campaign, the fund enhances the quality of university programs and life by supporting faculty research, graduate studies and undergraduate learning.

"The 1804 Fund continues to have a profound impact on learning and research at Ohio University, which is evident in the more than 500 projects and programs it's supported," says Leonard Raley, executive director of The Ohio University Foundation. "I'm not aware of any other major universities in America that have such a fund."

Jack Bantle, vice president for research and sponsored programs, agrees. "It's unique for a foundation to run a research/teaching improvement program such as this," he says. "Internal grants allow us to fund more speculative research and new areas."

In 25 years, the fund has awarded more than $13 million. The university has made it a priority to increase The 1804 Fund endowment from $3.3 million to $10 million. Two of this year's recipients illustrate the fund's impact and how additional support will influence research and learning across campus for years to come.

A $26,000 grant to the Department of Ceramics helped purchase a digitally controlled, gas-powered kiln to enhance the quality of creative works, says Chair Brad Schwieger. Matching funds from the College of Fine Arts covered the remainder of the $56,000 cost of the kiln, which was installed over winter break.

"I guarantee new ideas because of the technology," Schwieger says. "I don't know what they are now. We're artists. We'll get up one day, and who knows what will happen."

Built to the department's specifications, the kiln will accommodate larger works and allow for more accurate firing and glazing. With nine graduate and eight undergraduate students using studio facilities and 60 nonmajors taking ceramics courses each quarter, the kilns are on day and night. Since Schwieger came to the University in 1990, kiln space has increased from 400 cubic feet to more than 7,000. "Our students work 24-7 and produce really good work," he says.

The ceramics graduate program is ranked fifth nationally by U.S. News and World Report, and the department works diligently to maintain its strong reputation. It welcomes visiting artists each year and boasts an excellent placement record for MFA graduates.

"If you want to compete, you have to stay in tune with what's new," Schwieger says. "As a research institution that's our job. The kiln is one of the major tools for research for a ceramic artist."

The department's old indoor kiln was purchased more than 20 years ago. Several outdoor kilns that students have built brick by brick will remain in use.

"We've always been extremely resourceful. We've begged and borrowed, gotten seconds from brick companies to build our own kilns - which has been a good teaching experience," Schwieger says. "The knowledge students get from the high-tech kiln will be transferred to a kiln they may want to build by hand later."

What you can do

To make a gift to The 1804 Fund, contact The Ohio University Foundation at 800-592-FUND (3863) or giving@ohio.edu.

Checks may be made payable to The Ohio University Foundation (be sure to write "1804 Fund" in the notes section of your check) and sent to the foundation at P.O. Drawer 869, Athens, Ohio 45701. Gifts can be made online at www.ohio.edu/give/.

Across campus, a $15,000 grant received by the Department of Early Childhood Education and the Child Development Center will provide for high-tech observation equipment. The $60,890 project also received state and regional-campus funding.

The grant is providing cameras and microphones in the center's playground areas, common spaces and the infant, toddler and preschool classrooms. The grant also is providing for observation stations: two in the center, two or three in Grover Center and remote access at the regional campuses. These stations allow up to four areas of the center to be observed simultaneously in real time and also made available for recording. Faculty plan to introduce the technology to students this fall.

"Studies show that field experience is one of the most important aspects of our students' education: watching others in action, seeing things (that are) talked about in class," says Angela Baum, assistant professor of early childhood education. "It also allows for more self-reflection. It's one thing to have an instructor point things out to them; it's another thing entirely to watch themselves do it on tape."

Early Childhood Education has more than 700 majors on the Athens campus and 650 on the regional campuses. All are required to complete field experience, which can be a logistical challenge. Currently, there are too many students to require that observation be completed at the center, where about 500 students observe and interact with children annually. The new equipment will allow up to 300 additional students to observe center classrooms each quarter, and they'll get to do so earlier in their college education.

"It's beneficial to the students to watch and take notes, and we've not had a place for them to do that in the past," Baum says. "Students sometimes have practiced their observation skills by going to parks and grocery stores ... anyplace they could observe children."

When the center moved to The Ridges in January 2001, it was equipped with wall mounts and wiring for observation stations, but funding was not available to complete the project.

"One of our main purposes at the center is teacher training. This will help make us a state-of-the-art facility," says Terry Swank, the center's assistant administrator. "But our system will be better than standard observation rooms because you can record what's going on as well as watch in real time. When students can observe themselves, it adds to their teaching."

The new equipment also will enhance partnerships on campus and in the community as well as build research opportunities through enhanced data collection via videotape.

"It's important to have internal funding opportunities," Baum says. "There are funds for external research projects, but it's hard to find money for program improvement. Without The 1804 Fund, we wouldn't be doing the project."

Created to enhance research and learning at Ohio University, The 1804 Fund has lived up to its charge. Additional support from alumni and friends will sustain the fund as a vital University resource.

"(The 1804 Fund) is an amazing resource," Schwieger says. "I just want people to know this is a diverse fund that supports all kinds of work. For 10 years I've been wondering, 'How will we ever replace this kiln?'"

The 1804 Fund was the answer.

Jennifer Shutt Bowie, BSJ '94 and MS '99, is director of development communication for Ohio University.

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