Rising stars at Furman

music-students-smallMusicians Emilio Alverson and Madison Allen, who will join Furman’s freshman class in the fall, have successfully auditioned for the International Picolo Spoleto Rising Stars competition. Allen plans to double major in Music Performance and Psychology, while Alverson will major in Violin Performance and Business.  Both are graduates of Spartanburg High School and the South Carolina Governor’s School for the Arts and Humanities.  Read more in the Spartanburg Herald-Journal.

Furman Singers alumni return home in August

The Furman Singers alumni will perform Aug. 9 at the 10:30 a.m. worship service of First Baptist Church Greenville.

The Furman Singers alumni will perform Aug. 9 at the 10:30 a.m. worship service of First Baptist Church Greenville.

More than 150 alumni of the Furman University Singers will gather on campus Aug. 7-9 to celebrate their 19th biennial reunion, which will conclude with a performance Sunday, Aug. 9 during the 10:30 a.m. worship service at First Baptist Church of Greenville.

The program will be conducted by Hugh Floyd and Bingham Vick, Jr.  Floyd is the current director of the Furman Singers, while Vick directed the group from 1970 through 2010.

The public is invited to attend the Sunday worship service.

Several noted Singers alumni will serve as accompanists during the service, including Robert Blocker ’68, Dean of the School of Music at Yale University; Robert Haigler ’74, a retired teacher and performer in Chicago; and Paul Thomas ’11, organist at The Cathedral of St. Luke and St. Paul in Charleston.

“It’s amazing what happens when we all get together,” Floyd said.  “The singing is outstanding, the fellowship is genuine and full of fun, and we all go away with a great booster-shot of joy and satisfaction.”

The Singers reunions began in 1979 under Vick and the late DuPre Rhame, director and founder of the Furman Singers.

“It’s not unusual for college choirs to hold occasional reunions,” said Vick, who is also the longtime conductor and artistic director for the Greenville Chorale. “With the strong bonds formed through rehearsals and performances throughout the college years, life-long friendships and even marriages are forged. We’ve continued these biennial weekends all these years because the alumni are so enthusiastic about coming back and re-living their Singers experience. It is always a joyous, fun-filled, emotional and spiritual time for us all.”

The worship service at First Baptist Church will include “Ye shall have a song” from The Peaceable Kingdom by Randall Thompson; “Beati quorum via” by Charles V. Stanford; “Stand you on the mountain” by Daniel Gawthrop; Caritas” by Furman professor Mark Kilstofte; “Battle Hymn of the Republic” by Ringwald; “How lovely are thy dwellings” from A German Requiem by Johannes Brahms; “Spaseniye” by Pavel Chesnokov; “Hark I hear the harps eternal” arranged by Alice Parker and Robert Shaw; “Sanctus” from Dan Forrest’s Requiem for the Living; “Come thou fount of every blessing” by Mack Wilberg; and “Father, give thy benediction” by David Schwoebel.

For more information, contact Dr. Bingham Vick at (864) 246-5763.

Riley Institute lays groundwork for New Tech schools in South Carolina

2013-08-22 11.09.11

South Carolina’s educational system needs a push if the state is to continue to compete well in a global economy. The Riley Institute at Furman and its partners are working toward that transformation.

The innovative New Tech Network design focuses on project-based learning across multiple disciplines and a one-to-one computer ratio. It is based on a culture of trust, responsibility, and respect. This Network currently has 160 schools in 27 states and three continents.

The design was first implemented in South Carolina in 2013-2014 with two schools located in the area known as “the Corridor of Shame” and has since expanded to an additional seven schools, including three in Greenville County.

“It’s exciting. I know it has an impact, especially in these rural counties,” said Dr. Don Gordon, executive director of the Riley Institute. “It’s teaching 21st century learning skills.”

Richard Riley, former governor of South Carolina and secretary of education in the Clinton administration, agrees.

“It’s an amazing experiment” for South Carolina, he said, although the concept has been underway throughout the nation for 18 years. “It is innovation.”

Dr. Melissa Crosby, dean of Cougar New Tech in Colleton County, said her school became interested in the New Tech Network when the school superintendent learned about the program from the Riley Institute.

Riley Institute officials approached the superintendent after a careful statewide selection process for its federal Investing in Innovation grant proposal with KnowledgeWorks. The Institute was looking for two rural, high-poverty, historically low-performing schools to partner with. Colleton County High school, a large school, and Scott’s branch High School, a small school that underwent a whole-school conversion, were selected.

Colleton County was interested in a “school within a school” concept as the county has only one comprehensive high school.

“We felt like we wouldn’t be offering our children choice if we went ‘whole school,’” said Cosby.

According to Courtenay L. Nantz, project coordinator with the Riley Institute, early data in the first two schools is showing an improvement in English and math, with particular improvement in math among minority students. The schools have also seen a decline in suspensions and absenteeism.

Prior to implementation of the new concept, a Riley Institute-sponsored study of public education in South Carolina began in 2005, the largest study of its kind in the state. A $600,000 grant from the Hewlett Foundation allowed researchers to study what the educational stakeholders—school boards, administrators, teachers, parents, students and business people—really want education to be. More than 100 separate meetings were held in every school district and county in the state with groups of eight to 10 people talking about what was good with education, what was not good, and how should it be fixed. Besides the discussions, participants answered a 160-question survey.

“We were looking for what those groups see as essential to education in South Carolina,” Gordon said. Among those essentials were early childhood programs for 3 and 4-year-olds, the recruiting and retention of highly qualified teachers, and the need to improve students’ critical thinking skills.

A follow-up grant of $400,000 supported a study of how to take those expectations and make them work, he said.

The result was a partnership between the Riley Institute and KnowledgeWorks to gain a grant of $2.9 million to initiate a New Tech network in the state. Two high schools, both with a high-poverty, low-performing student body, were selected as models. Colleton County High School created Cougar New Tech, a school within a school, and Scott’s Branch High School in Clarendon County underwent a whole-school conversion. The New Tech program began with ninth graders in 2013, with an additional grade added each year.

The New Tech programs for those schools will become self-sustaining in the fifth year of operation.

Selecting the New Tech design required a lot of research. During his tenure as U.S. secretary of education in the 1990s, Riley discovered the program in California.

“He walked into the classroom and found what seemed to be chaos,” said Nantz. But as he hung around, he found the kids were completely engaged with each other and in their work. Students form small teams to work on projects and teachers act as facilitators. The teacher designs quality projects and students refine them.

“They learn by doing,” said Riley.

Initially, a New Tech school has to create a culture of respect, responsibility, and trust. That comes first.

Don Gordon, executive director of the Riley Institute, and Richard Riley, former governor of South Carolina and secretary of education in the Clinton Administration

Don Gordon (L), executive director of the Riley Institute, and Richard Riley (R), former governor of South Carolina and secretary of education in the Clinton Administration

“I think we’re building leaders . . . students’ buy-in of project-based learning has to improve the graduation rate. They don’t just know what they do in class. They know what they want to do in the future,” said Crosby.

Students have the ability to “fire” a team mate who is not performing the necessary work. That fired student is kicked off the team and must start and complete the project alone.

Another difference is that multiple teachers are involved in the projects. For example, a project might be based on the construction of an amusement park in an earthquake-ravaged area of Japan plus writing and selling of a book about the park. That could include math, physics, English, and geography.

“The other neat thing is that projects are authentic,” Crosby said. “They’re tied to something that is real.”

The outcome is they understand why they’re learning what they’re learning. In addition, the students present their findings to peer groups, teachers, and business people.

And implementing the program is not easy.

Teachers have to be trained to become a facilitator rather than a lecturer, receiving 600 hours of professional development during the implementation process. They visit other New Tech schools and attend an annual conference as well as regional opportunities for collaboration. Also, a coach from the New Tech Network is assigned to each New Tech school, visiting about once a month and available virtually any time to assist with problems and work out any kinks.

Crosby, who said Cougar New Tech is “high in terms of success,” began planning and selecting faculty for the school well before the concept was implemented. When she was hiring the initial Cougar New Tech teachers, she used several strategies to find teachers who would fit—she gave them information to review, asked them to write up a project-based scenario, and then interviewed the applicants. She also divided the teachers into two groups and had them work through planning a project-based unit.

“We were looking for teachers who were creative and open to suggestion from others but able to stand up for their ideas. Teachers in New Tech must share the air, but must be able to support their own ideas,” she said.

Once a month during the year prior to implementation, the faculty held staff development days, including working on developing specific skills such as writing. They also visited other New Tech schools and attended workshops and conferences.

Students must apply, with a one-hour mandatory parental meeting. The first class was made up of 80 students, and the program is working. Freshman results were strong. A student must pass six courses including math and science to be promoted, and only two of 80 students were held back after the first year while the average in this school would be 12.

The school has a waiting list with 80 additional freshmen added in the second year and 110 expected to enroll in Cougar New Tech next year.

And when talking with Cougar students, you would not believe you’re talking to 9th or 10th graders.

Teachers in the traditional program visited Cougar, and “were blown away,” said Crosby. “They couldn’t believe they were talking to 9th or 10th graders. One said, ‘It sounds like I’m talking to seniors.’”

Crosby expects a move toward one-to-one computer access and project-based learning will become more prevalent in the entire high school and elsewhere.

“The kids—their brains function a little differently with stimulation and touch. They are inundated with technology. It takes a lot more to retain their attention” than it did in the past, she said. “The kids can think deeper. They’ve been conditioned to question things. They move so much faster.”

Costs for implementing the New Tech design varies based on size of the school, geography, and other factors. The costs are highest during the four to five-year implementation of the design, but continuation costs are very affordable. The equipment also costs money, but often businesses step in to provide that type of support.

The Riley Institute helps schools connect with the New Tech Network, and with the support of the South Carolina Department of Education, the Institute has partnered with the education departments at Furman, Winthrop, Claflin University, and the College of Charleston to develop a three-course endorsement to help teachers and prospective teachers learn to design, deliver, and assess quality project-based learning. The coursework, syllabi, and resources will be open source, available to any college of education.


Learn more about the Riley Institute at Furman.

“Crime and Punishment: Thinking Outside the Cell”

prison-cell-smallThe massive growth in American prisons over the last four decades has burdened taxpayers, overcrowded prisons and devastated vulnerable communities. Is the criminal justice system due for an overhaul?

The Riley Institute and Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) at Furman will address that issue this summer during a four-part series, “Crime and Punishment: Thinking Outside the Cell.”

The annual series, now in its fifth year, begins Tuesday, July 21 with a program titled “Does the Punishment Fit the Crime?” and runs on consecutive Tuesdays through Aug. 11. All sessions will be moderated by Mark Quinn., former host of SCETV’s “Big Picture.”

The sessions take place from 6:30-8:30 p.m. in Shaw Hall of Younts Conference Center. Cost is $45 for the entire series and $15 for single events.  Cost for OLLI members is $35. To register and pay online, click here.

The series, which focuses on the South Carolina criminal justice system, will examine the data around crime, incarceration and the impact of the existing system of justice on communities, discuss the state’s law enforcement and prison system practices in light of historical and contemporary contexts, and highlight innovative programs that are being implemented in the state.

Speakers for the series include the Honorable Bruce Howe Hendricks, U.S. District Judge for the District of South Carolina; Charleston Police Chief Greg Mullen; S.C. Representative Tommy Pope; S.C. Senator Gerald Malloy; U.S. District Attorney Bill Nettles; and Heather Thompson, Ph.D., a noted University of Michigan historian who has spoken and written extensively about mass incarceration.

Thompson will open the series on Tuesday, July 21 with a talk about “Why the Broken System Matters,” where she will provide historical context and data on the trends in incarceration, describe who is in jail and why, and talk about what is wrong with America’s current system of incarceration.  Thompson has written for The New York Times and The Atlantic magazine, and is the author of the forthcoming Blood in the Water: The Attica Prison Rebellion of 1971 and its Legacy.

Session Two of the July 21 program will be “A View From the Statehouse: It’s Time for Bipartisan Reform,” where Mark Quinn will host a conversation with South Carolina legislators Sen. Gerald Malloy and Rep. Tommy Pope about what they are doing to improve justice in the state.

Here are the other sessions that will take place in the series:

July 28: “Police, Prisons, and Public Safety”

Session One: Law Enforcement: Protecting and Serving in Challenging Times

Session Two: Doing Time in South Carolina: A Look Inside and Beyond the Prison Cell

August 4: “Creative Justice in the Courts”

Session One: Rehabilitative Justice and the New War on Drugs

Session Two: Roundtable Discussion on Problem Solving Courts in South Carolina

August 11: “Building Communities of Justice”

Session One: Changing Lives Through Intervention

Session Two: Second Chances: Breaking Down Barriers to Reentry

A detailed schedule of events with speaker bios is available at the Riley Institute website.  For more information about the series, contact OLLI at 864-294-2998.

Furman hosts faculty workshop on public engagement


Should liberal arts colleges engage the public? If so, how and when and on what questions? What does public engagement mean for college professors and to what extent should it be promoted?

Seventeen professors from eight liberal arts colleges nationwide gathered at Furman University from June 14-17 to share ideas and attempt to answer some challenging questions about the proper place of public engagement.

For the past two years, Communication Studies Professor Sean O’Rourke and Political Science Professor and Incoming Department Chair Elizabeth Smith have led faculty seminars on public engagement through the Cothran Center for Vocational Reflection. But they wanted to take the conversation further, to go beyond Furman’s campus and reach out to other higher education faculty.

With the help of a nearly $20,000 grant from the Alliance to Advance Liberal Arts Colleges, O’Rourke and Smith were able to bring professors from seven other universities for a four-day stay on Furman’s campus.aalaclogo

The faculty workshop program, themed “Professors and Their Publics: Liberal Arts Colleges, Public Engagement and the Way Forward,” included professors from Carleton College, Dennison University, Furman University, Pennsylvania State University, Middlebury College, Rhodes College, Smith College, and Wesleyan University.

Education Professor Karen Graves of Dennison University described today as a “critical time” for liberal arts colleges.

As a scholar with a personal interest in public intellectualism, Graves said “it’s important to engage people to go out to do their work in a thoughtful, informed way, but we also want to engage in that work ourselves.”

Professors discussed potential public engagement activities, such as media interviews, public lectures, newspaper and magazine articles, service learning, art installations and blog posts, and how such activities could potentially be defined and included on each college campus.

Penn State Associate Professor of Communication Arts and Sciences and English Rosa Eberly gave the keynote address, “Public Violence and the Responsibilities of the Liberal Arts,” also a featured summer event in Furman’s Cultural Life Program.

In preparation for the workshop, Furman student Melissa Temple ’17 of Johnson City, Tenn., spent several weeks reading as much as she could from available literature on public engagement. Being able to listen in on round-table discussions during the workshop gave her a whole new perspective.

“It was so enlightening,” said Temple, a political science and communication studies major. “Not only was I able to hear about the theoretical concepts behind public engagement and academic freedom, but I was also able to learn about the struggles, challenges, and rewards of public engagement and see the ways public engagement presents itself.”

She will be writing a paper on public engagement with Smith as part of her 10-week internship under the Furman Advantage program.

Workshop participants are also planning to co-author a book on public engagement to include arguments for public engagement and discussions and examples of public engagement by disciplines.

“In the best tradition of liberal arts colleges, we weren’t all in agreement all the time, but we certainly were able to form a community of like-minded scholars,” said O’Rourke.

“It was inspirational, motivational,” said Smith. “It made you remember why you went into this profession.”








Two Riley Institute programs expand

jacki-martinThanks to a $100,000 grant from Duke Energy, two leadership programs of the Riley Institute at Furman will soon be expanded. The grant was prompted by the tragic church shootings in Charleston, which led to discussions across the state with stakeholders by Duke’s leaders about how the company could best make an impact. The grant will support an expansion of the Institute’s Diversity Leaders Initiative and pilot the Emerging Diversity Leaders program, a nine-month, diversity-focused service leadership experience for rising high school seniors. Read more in the Greenville Journal.

Teddy Dozier ’12: Startup launches at TechCrunch competition

Image via Teddy Dozier

Image via Teddy Dozier

For those not in the technology industry, Teddy Dozier’s accomplishments this May might not quite resonate. But when it comes to his involvement with TechCrunch, an online publisher of tech and industry news reaching 37 million page views per month, it is safe to say Dozier is doing well.

This May, the technology startup he works for as a designer/developer (Selequity) was selected to launch at TechCrunch Startup Battlefield – Disrupt NY. After initially applying, Selequity was one of 24 selected out of 1000 applicants. According to TechCrunch, “Startup Battlefield is the world’s preeminent startup competition featuring 15-30 early stage startups pitching top judges in front of a vast live audience…the winner takes away the Disrupt Cup and a check for $50,000.” Dozier’s startup launched live and on stage.

They did not take home the top prize but debuting on this platform is notoriety enough. Selequity is a platform focused on crowdfunding real estate investments.

Read more of TechCrunch‘s coverage on the Selequity launch.

A Way Forward for South Carolina

post-courier-logoOn the evening of June 17, 2015, a hate crime took place at a Wednesday prayer meeting at Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston. The horrid nature of the crime, the cold-blooded assassination of innocent people solely because they were black—all under the ideology of white supremacy—shocked the nation. In an op-ed for the Post and Courier in Charleston and The Greenville News, Richard Riley and Don Gordon write that now is the time to work deliberately to effect systemic change and build a more inclusive South Carolina. Riley, a 1954 Furman graduate, has served as Governor of South Carolina and U.S. Secretary of Education. Gordon is director of the Riley Institute at Furman and a Professor of Political Science.

Discussing the Confederate flag issue

confederate-flag1-smallFurman political science professor Danielle Vinson was quoted in a July 7 New York Times article about the legislative battle to remove the Confederate flag from the grounds of the South Carolina State House. “This is not going to be a pleasant vote for a lot of people,” Vinson said. “They’re catching heck from their constituents. But I also think there’s enough sentiment, not just in the House and Senate but across the states, to get this done.” The Times story was reprinted in The Boston Globe and other newspapers across the country.

Duke Energy awards Riley Institute $100,000 grant

News release by Duke Energy

In the days immediately following the tragic shootings in Charleston, many individuals and organizations asked the question: “What can we do to help?”

More than 4,000 Duke Energy employees and thousands of retirees in South Carolina asked the same of themselves, and their company.

The Diversity Leaders Initiative focuses on the state's top leadership.

The Diversity Leaders Initiative focuses on the state’s top leadership.

In response, Duke’s leaders engaged in deliberate, meaningful conversations with stakeholders across the state to identify where the company could make the biggest difference and most positive impact. These discussions returned to the same theme: the best way Duke Energy can help is to promote diversity and civic participation in South Carolina.

The Riley Institute at Furman is unique in that mission and the perfect partner for Duke Energy in these efforts.

With the help of $100,000 from Duke Energy and a matching grant program for Duke employees, the Riley Institute will build on two of its long-term successful leadership programs — one aimed toward community leaders and one toward youth.

“The outpouring of support from around the state and the nation is awe-inspiring,” said Clark Gillespy, Duke Energy’s president in South Carolina. “In the face of this tragedy, it is important to come together to help our fellow citizens persevere and move forward. I believe these programs will be an important step forward in doing just that.”

Diversity Leaders Initiative

The Riley Institute will pilot an expansion of its existing Diversity Leaders Initiative (DLI), a program that focuses on the state’s top leadership across many sectors.

The expansion pilot will bring together educators and law enforcement personnel who are responsible for building culture at the ground level in their organizations. It will give them the knowledge and insight to help them develop, communicate and implement an adaptive and collaborative on-the-ground culture that supports diverse communities.

Education and law enforcement professionals will work together on diversity-focused service projects in their communities.

Emerging Diversity Leaders

The Riley Institute will also pilot the Emerging Diversity Leaders (EDL) program, based on its Emerging Public Leaders program.


Former South Carolina Governor and U.S. Secretary of Education Richard Riley meets with the EPL students when they come to campus each summer.

EDL will be a nine-month diversity-focused service leadership experience for rising high school seniors. The program will be offered free of charge to participants and will begin with an intensive, week-long summer program convening on the Furman campus.

The EDL curriculum will teach participants how to lead in diverse settings, engage in the community, analyze critical issues, lead ethically, communicate and present effectively, and plan for the implementation of a diversity-focused community service project.

With input from the Riley Institute DLI team, curriculum will be developed to bring a special focus to an appreciation of the value of South Carolina’s diverse population.

Riley Institute staff will provide project support to students throughout the year, and alumni of the Riley Institute’s Diversity Leaders Initiative in their area will connect to offer additional support to students.

Participants for both programs will come from across the state.

“There is much to learn in the grace and forgiveness shown by the families of the victims and the Mother Emanuel community,” said Don Gordon, executive director of Furman’s Riley Institute. “Their generosity of spirit is a literal ‘saving grace’ that has had the incredible effect of pulling our state together rather than driving us apart. We cannot teach that. But we can continue to grow our long-term, statewide capacity to drive an enduring, systemic understanding and appreciation of the inherent value of our diverse population.”

Duke Energy

Headquartered in Charlotte, N.C., Duke Energy is a Fortune 250 company traded on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol DUK. More information about the company is available at duke-energy.com.

Follow Duke Energy on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook.

Riley Institute at Furman

The Riley Institute at Furman works to remove barriers to economic and social progress and empower individuals and communities to seek sustainable solutions to South Carolina’s critical challenges. More information is available at riley.furman.edu.

Follow the Riley Institute on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.