By Jennifer Zeisler, ECMC Foundation
This article first appeared in the Zenith Education Blog.
For the 24 Zenith campuses across the U.S., the Campaign for Innovation (CFI) represents an opportunity for hope, change and transformation that can provide benefits for students, faculty and staff for years to come. Now in its third year, CFI provides grants to Altierus and WyoTech campuses based on faculty and staff recommendations of innovative ideas that promote student success.
CFI is funded by ECMC Foundation, which has awarded a total of $4.5 million through the campaign since 2015. In addition to CFI, the Foundation has an ongoing partnership with Zenith, and has earmarked $250 million to support the ongoing transformation of the Zenith campuses.
The program has evolved since its inception three years ago when more than 200 project ideas were submitted. As program director for the Foundation participating in those initial site visits to the campuses to learn about the proposed projects, it became apparent that the Foundation and the campuses shared the organization's overall mission of promoting student success.
This year, more than $1 million was awarded to Zenith schools through CFI. After a robust review and a month of site visits to nearly all of the campuses, the team made the decision to fund 20 projects ranging from virtual reality paint equipment that combines game design and interactive technology to teach students how to apply automotive paint for the WyoTech campus in Blairsville, to funding a licensed social worker who will provide one-on-one and group counseling sessions as well as connect students to social services resources for the Chesapeake Altierus campus.
Having been part of CFI for the past three years, it is the site visits that I value the most. From my first visit to the Detroit campus back in 2015 to my most recent visit to the WyoTech campus in Blairsville, I am always inspired by the commitment displayed by the faculty and staff, and energized by their new and interesting ideas. I am grateful for the time each potential grantee has provided to me and my colleagues, answering questions about their proposal, articulating the needs and resources on the campus, providing a tour of the campus and explaining more about each program offered, and sharing about their students, campus and community.
During my visits I have been fascinated by the high-fidelity manikins; learned words like "chassis" and "multiplexing"; lived out a lifelong dream to sit in the cab of a semi and the sidecar of a motorcycle; heard ideas to tackle the difficult challenges of transportation and childcare; and visited rooms full of clothes and food, showing the variety of methods each campus employs to provide the types of nonacademic, wraparound supports the students need.
With all of this, I see firsthand how the CFI has succeeded in providing hope, change and transformation for the campuses, and I look forward to continued partnership in the years ahead.
Jennifer Zeisler a program director at ECMC Foundation. She oversees the Foundation's Career Readiness focus area, which maintains a close relationship with and provides significant funding to Zenith Education Group. Learn more about Ms. Zeisler.