Valerie Schrader, associate professor of communication arts and sciences, recognized an opportunity in the making when Courtney Glass the former director of development at Penn State Schuylkill contacted her last spring and said “ I think this would be great for the Honors Program.” Schrader agreed. The opportunity presented was a Barnes and Noble grant, a University-wide grant program administered through The Penn State Bookstore. This grant provides funding for small, targeted investments at Penn State campuses that focus on teaching and learning experiences outside of the classroom.
“It was my first grant writing experience,” remarked Schrader. “I’m a rhetorician, so typically the cost of my research, is the price of a theater ticket to a musical that I will be analyzing. I don’t really write research grants.” However, she understood how important this money would be to the burgeoning honors program. Her efforts paid off handsomely and her first grant-writing opportunity was a huge success when it was announced in late Summer 2018 that the Penn State Schuylkill Honors Program would be receiving a $25,000 grant from the Barnes and Noble foundation. The Schuylkill Honors Program was one of only two of the 35 Penn State applications submitted to receive the largest awarded grant of $25,000, and one of only two of the Commonwealth campuses to receive any funding at all.
From the start, she knew what some of the money would be earmarked for: housing scholarships for honors students who want to live in Nittany I, the apartment-style dorm that exclusively houses honors students. According to Schrader, the honors’ dorm and its lounge, kitchen and study room provide an excellent opportunity for honors students to connect with others who share the same commitment to academic excellence. She felt it was important to assist those students who might need some financial help to meet the cost of campus housing as well as encourage commuter students to give campus living a try.
How the housing scholarship will be disbursed is still being considered, but she is hopeful that a plan will be in place for the spring 2019 semester.
In addition to housing scholarships, some of the grant money will be used to help lower the cost of the annual spring break trip. New York City is on the agenda for spring 2019 and will feature a variety of art and cultural events, as have trips in the past. These kinds of activities complement the rigorous academic portion of the Honors Program, providing honors students with a well-rounded education. Subsidizing the cost of the trip will allow students to attend who might not otherwise be able to meet the expense of this kind of extracurricular activity.
The final major portion of the grant will be allocated for the Honors Program’s first international spring break trip to Scotland in 2020 to enable students to study public memory of the Jacobite Rebellion of 1745. This trip is an extension of one of Schrader’s current research projects, which is a rhetorical analysis of the popular television series Outlander and how the show creates public memory of the 18th century Scottish clan system and the Jacobite Rebellion of 1745. The project has resulted in two conference presentations – one at the Eastern Communication Association in Pittsburgh in April 2018 and the other to be presented at the National Communication Association in Salt Lake City in November 2018. She is currently working with a book publisher to turn the project into a monograph, which is a primary focus on her sabbatical this semester.
While the Scotland trip is still in its planning stages, Schrader outlines an experience that will connect students to history through the study of place and public memory and how they combine to co-create history. The trip will be part of an honors course that Schrader will teach in Spring 2020. By visiting important landmarks, like Culloden Battlefield, students will gain a depth of understanding of history and how popular texts and stories can shape our understanding of it.
The Barnes and Noble grant is a big win as Schrader with her co-coordinators Lee Silverberg and Michael Gallis continue to grow the Honors Program into a robust and rewarding experience for Penn State Schuylkill students. However, despite the many advantages and opportunities that the Honors Program offers, part of Schrader’s time is spent recruiting new members. After losing approximately half of program members to graduation and transfer to University Park, or other Penn State campuses, Schrader sees this as a rebuilding year.
Schrader’s dedication to the program is clear. “It’s kind of my baby,” she admits.
If you would like to learn more about the Honors Program and what it can do for you, please visit the program homepage for more information.