By Dr. David Che
In September last year, IWU’s new engineering building, the Don Wood Foundation Hall, was completed and dedicated. The Don Wood Foundation provided a $1.5 million grant to equip IWU’s engineering labs. This investment is being used to purchase state-of-the-art engineering equipment for nine hands-on labs that will educate Indiana Wesleyan University students in their pursuit of engineering excellence. It also benefits the local community when the facility is open for continuing education programs or hosting STEM-related summer camps for local high schoolers. This summer, 10 local high school students participated in IWU’s robotics camp. The students learned robot programming using the five collaborative robots purchased through the grant. They had so much fun programming the robots – one of their projects was to program the robot to dance to their favorite music.
The grant also helped IWU attract students to the engineering program. When prospective students see the brand-new building and its state-of-the-art equipment, they recognize the credibility of the program and the tremendous learning opportunities ahead of them. Currently, we have 43 students enrolled in the program: 5 juniors, 15 sophomores, and 23 first-year students. As Laura Macknick, Executive Director of the Don Wood Foundation, eloquently said, “The IWU engineering program will not only be unique in its design-thinking approach but will also fill the need voiced by local and regional employers to hire homegrown engineering graduates who have a connection to Indiana.” Indiana students represent the vast majority of the incoming engineering first-year class (17 out of 23, or 74%). Our program also attracted a sizeable group of female students (8 out of 43, which is 18.6%).
The grant also enabled curriculum renewal for IWU’s engineering program. EGR 105 (Rapid Prototyping – 3D Printing) was first offered in the spring of 2023 and was welcomed by the IWU student body with great enthusiasm. This was the first time this course was taught at IWU, in the newly equipped Rapid Prototyping Lab. This course introduced students to the fundamentals of rapid prototyping via 3D printing. Students learned how to generate 3D solid models in CAD and then 3D print them. Each had the opportunity to spend five weeks working in teams, assembling and testing the brand-new 3D printers. The hands-on experience has been combined with classroom instruction and culminated in several group projects. One student commented in his end-of-course survey that this was one of the best classes he had ever taken in his four years of study at IWU. This fall, with the support of these 3D printers, we were able to offer the entire Introduction to Engineering class (27 students) the opportunity to learn 3D modeling software (Fusion 360) in the first few weeks of their college career.
With the foundation grant, we were also able to fully equip our machine shop with state-of-the-art metal working machinery. Students take shop classes each semester, learning the fundamental manufacturing skills that will give them success once they enter the job market. One of our engineering majors, Ethan Stewart, did a summer internship with a local manufacturing firm in Wabash, Indiana. He did such an excellent job that the company's owner commented to the engineering faculty that they didn’t know what to do when Ethan returned to school this fall. It is a testimony to the quality of our students and the hands-on learning the Don Wood Foundation has afforded these students at IWU.
Dr. David Che is a professor and the engineering program director at Indiana Wesleyan University in Marion, Indiana.
Education with Impact Changes Everything
By Kristi Mitchell
Several years ago, I offered to teach a class on How to Start a Small Business. My students were women rescued from sex trafficking or recovering from drug addiction. Not my typical students that I teach as an instructor of entrepreneurship at Butler University. These students were overcoming years of trauma and obstacles, trying to create a new path forward. I didn’t know what to expect. Would they even be interested in what I was teaching?
The class started slow, most of them had massive self-doubt, but toward the end I was awestruck by the change. The entrepreneurial mindset started to resonate, they found themselves thinking maybe this was for them. They had tools, knowledge and hope for a new path, maybe a business of their own, something they could care about and grow. There’s power in that—power to transform years of control and abuse to one of hope and empowerment. They inspired me.
But for me, the easy part was the class. They have got all the fundamentals. They were wonderful, eager students. The challenge became moving from business concept to business launching. These women, overcoming immense challenges, had little access to resources or business support.
This is where being an instructor at Butler came into play. What if I could recruit students, gifted with an amazing college business education, to help these marginalized women on their journey? Nervously, I tossed the idea to one of my Butler classes and had a dozen students sign up. Could the college students handle this emotionally and academically? I was apprehensive but embraced the challenge and lit a spark. That spark has now roared to an entirely new education model with immense transformative power for both the college student and the community.
Today, college students working in the Launch Hope model have an entirely different educational experience. Social Impact Experiential Education holds the potential to revolutionize the way we educate and shape future generations. These young college students, already generationally inclined to embrace social issues with a desire to make a difference, can lean into that energy, that spark.
Our Launch Hope college students take skills they learn in their college courses and pour them into Launch Hope and our marginalized communities. They teach our members business skills and roll up their sleeves to launch and grow their businesses. What better way to master a knowledge or skill set, than to learn it, apply it in real life, and teach it to someone else?
They know what they are doing is changing someone’s life, and potentially changing their family for generations to come. That’s what keeps these students returning to Launch Hope semester after semester. The students work alongside previously incarcerated, previously addicted, trafficking and abuse survivors, immigrants, disabled, and financially challenged. No matter their race, ethnicity, or anything with their backgrounds, the college students embrace them, they want to make a difference. I know this type of education is changing them intellectually and emotionally. When one of our members shares their story with the students and I see them tearing up or saying they have goosebumps, I know they have changed, they are a different kind of future leader. One that is empathetic, responsible, socially conscious citizens, confident, and driven to make a difference in the world. They all make me proud!
Kristi Mitchell is Launch Hope Foundation's founder and is an entrepreneurship & innovation instructor at Butler University in Indianapolis, Indiana.
It’s no secret that I’m the youngest Don Wood Foundation staff member. I have the unique opportunity to work with fantastic individuals with years of knowledge. I’m constantly reminding myself that I’ve got a lot to learn. Luckily, the Don Wood Foundation supports personal and professional learning opportunities. Reflecting on how much I have grown in my job and how much lifelong learning has changed in the past few years, I am reminded of my board service at my local library. The ways we learn have changed significantly, which is similar to how libraries are changing to offer compelling services for their patrons. The staff at DWF is like a community of learners centered around the community impact we have. Similarly, an effective library can be a community hub supporting an effective local learner’s community.
As a board member of the Peabody Public Library, I can see the shift that learning has taken over the years. A library is no longer just books on a shelf but provides access to online resources, knowledgeable people, and things. Most libraries include a Library of Things. This is a special section of the library where you can check out physical things like baking sheets, pressure cookers, hedge trimmers, crafting supplies, and workshop tools. Other items like movies, toys, music, games, etc., are also parts of a modern library where the library will share access and patrons can borrow items across multiple library systems. Many library branches have a collection of these and other items available to borrow that you can listen to, watch, use, learn new skills, or play with at home.
Want to learn a skill, and online videos aren’t cutting it? Libraries have free or low-cost clubs and classes that are open to the public to learn and gather. Are you stuck at home with a sick child? Use the endless online catalog with access to new movies, shows, music, eBooks, audiobooks, and games. The library provides access to it all! This is the natural evolution of learning or a natural extension of what has occurred in the past.
I am learning from personal experiences, learning from outside resources, and learning from my team. Their skills and talents pour into my curiosity. I’m not so quietly listening and googling, checking out audiobooks for my commute time. I understand and celebrate that learning takes many forms and constantly changes. It doesn’t look like it did even a decade ago, nor can we expect it to stay like it is now. So, whatever engages you the most, speaks to your learning style, and sticks with you, that is how you should learn. And if you don’t already have one, please, please, please, get a library card!
Carmen Bross is the Project Associate for the Don Wood Foundation and proudly serves on the board of the Peabody Library in Columbia City, Indiana.
As the year approaches an end, it is the perfect time to embark on a journey of personal and professional growth through year-end reflection and goal setting. This practice involves thinking about the past year, celebrating achievements, and learning from setbacks while setting the stage for a brighter, more purpose-filled future.
We start each of our all-staff meetings by taking a few minutes to cherish gains, large or small, together as a group. Celebrating wins is an integral part of the culture at the Don Wood Foundation. Our Board of Trustees also receives updates to our strategic plan and Mission Moment stories about our successful grant investments. Celebrating wins together reminds everyone of the purpose behind what we strive to accomplish and gives us a voice to bring forward team victories of which we can be proud.
In addition to taking time to stop and remind ourselves about the milestones we have reached together as a team, year-end is a perfect time for self-reflection. This effort can be a profound exercise that allows one to gain insights into life, and to make more informed and potentially transformative decisions for the future. While I am no expert in practicing self-reflection, my five steps include:
Also, make sure that goals are realistic and attainable. I have found from personal experience that setting overly ambitious goals can lead to frustration and burnout. Instead, select goals that challenge you but are still within reach. I also like to set a time limit around goals because this establishes a sense of urgency and helps me stay accountable. Another tip that works for me with successful goal setting is to break larger ones down into smaller, manageable steps. For those who know me well, it is no surprise that I love nothing more than to cross something off a list; it provides me with such a sense of accomplishment. Bringing your larger goals down to a more tactical level offers a road map for getting there. Finally, reviewing your goals and adjusting regularly is vital. Life is dynamic, and your goals must be agile enough to evolve with changing circumstances.
Year-end reflection and goal setting can be powerful tools for personal and professional growth and transformation. If you embark on a journey of this practice, be patient and kind to yourself. Life is a marathon, not a sprint. Embrace the opportunity for growth and self-discovery each year, so you are on a path to a more fulfilling and purposeful life.
"You miss 100% of the shots you don't take." – Wayne Gretzky
Laura M. Macknick. MA CFRE
President & CEO
My father was one of the driving forces that fueled my passion for the trades. He was a woodworker, a finish carpenter, and my hero. I loved working by his side in the woodshop, even at a young age. I was too small for safety glasses, so I wore pool goggles to keep the dust out of my eyes. In my first year of high school, I signed up for building trades classes to follow in his footsteps. My school counselor called me to the office and said, "Those are boys' classes." As we discussed elective options, I settled on my second choice, agriculture. It was a pivotal moment in my life, changing my future forever.
I found a deep passion for agriculture and the National FFA Organization, so much so that I made it my career choice. I majored in Agricultural Education at Purdue and started my teaching career at Jay County High School in 2008. While teaching, I became active in service organizations such as the Indiana Association for Career and Technical Education. I met amazing people through these organizations who were passionate about serving their schools, students, and communities.
While attending a workshop, I crossed paths with Ronna Kawsky, retired Warsaw Area Career Center Director. I shared my goals and passion for Career and Technical Education, and she suggested I get my CTE director license. I shared that it wasn't in the budget, and she immediately said, "I have a friend I want you to meet." I graciously accepted help from a stranger (now friend), with a passion for CTE, whom I had just met that morning. It was another important moment in my life that again changed my future forever.
With a glowing recommendation from Ronna, I was accepted into the CTE Program at Purdue University with the support of a scholarship from Dr. James Greenan. Upon graduation, I was given the opportunity to serve as the Area 18 CTE Director, where I now provide support to nine school corporations and over 9,000 CTE students. I help students explore career opportunities that interest them no matter their background! CTE at the middle school, high school, and post-secondary levels provides a practical approach to engaging students by providing hands-on experience for students, which provides critical thinking opportunities that test students' problem-solving skills. When students take pride in their accomplishments, they become more confident in their abilities and skills. As students develop and grow, so does their self-image, which triggers decision-making skills that help develop my students into productive citizens in our community before and after graduation.
To those looking to forge a similar path, I offer the following advice:
Share your goals: Whether personal or career goals, genuine passion fuels perseverance and innovation, and talk about it.
Be Adaptable: Embrace change and be open to new opportunities. The journey may not always be what you had planned, but each experience contributes to your growth.
Build Relationships: Find a mentor; reach out to someone in the career path you are interested in and ask them about it! A strong network provides support, guidance, and diverse perspectives, which is essential for personal and professional growth.
Remember that sharing your goals is not just about personal progress; it's about creating a community that thrives on collaboration and mutual empowerment. Your dreams have the power to resonate with others and spark conversations that lead to incredible outcomes. So, don't hesitate to voice your aspirations! There's a world of possibilities waiting just around the corner!
Director, Area 18 CTE
Nearly 500 local students are starting the fall semester with one less thing to worry about - their college bill. Questa Education Foundation provides students up to $5,000 a year to close the gap between college costs, available aid, and their remaining expenses. Questa awards make it possible for more local students to afford college while reducing their debt at graduation. Questa Scholars receive loan funding that is 50-100% forgiven when they graduate and return to Northeast Indiana to live and work. Funding makes college more accessible and debt forgiveness encourages graduates to join our workforce, meeting regional talent needs.
With support from funding partners like the Don Wood Foundation, Questa is expanding each year to serve more students and is planning a 33% increase in scholar awards in the 2023-2024 academic year. Questa provides funding for traditional students and adult learners pursuing all levels of postsecondary education – from certificates to graduate degrees. Another 100 or more students will join Questa programs this year through the Contemporary or Career Scholar programs, which accept applications year-round.
In addition to their forgivable loan program, Questa provides a database of local scholarship opportunities to help students find additional aid for educational expenses.
The Don Wood Foundation believes that entrepreneurship is for everyone and should be made accessible to everyone. The video below, delivered in Spanish, really makes this point.
For English-translated captions, be sure to:
1. Turn on captions in the bottom right corner of the video.
2. Click on the settings gear and select subtitles.
3. Click auto-translate and choose the language you want to read in.