George Fox University's efforts to make education available to more people got a substantial boost from a longtime benefactor in July.
The M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust — as part of a spring giving program that delivered $17.7 million to nonprofits throughout the Northwest, $6.8 million in Oregon alone — gifted the university $1.5 million.
The grant will allow the university to bolster an effort called George Fox Digital, "which emerged primarily from the pandemic's call to continue to serve GFU students with our Be Known promise" online, said Shawn Daley, the school's chief strategy officer.
"We were worried that we would have to fall back to really impersonal modes of online learning, but have been able to sustain, through varied technologies, a strong connection to our student population," he said. "This grant will help us to build that model."
In addition, Daley said, the school hopes to work with K-12 Christian schools to provide advanced digital classes in nursing, engineering, technology and other subjects, as well as improve programming for adults who have not completed their degrees.
"We are actually going to be offering … 'pathway' programs for adults in several areas — project management, health care administration, management and organizational leadership," he said. "And we are trying to help small businesses in the area with digital learning and development offerings."
The school also will use the Murdock grant to work with other colleges to hold lectures and podcasts featuring regional experts in health care, business, theology and engineering in a program called "George Fox Talks."
"One of the key elements that helps create a thriving ecosystem among higher education institutions is a diverse collection of colleges and universities that constantly seek to find innovative ways to support and engage students," said Steve Moore, a Murdock Charitable Trust spokesman. "We have been proud to support innovative and creative efforts like this at George Fox University through the years that reimagine higher education for the future and help make it accessible for all individuals and families. We are excited to see how this latest project helps serve students from a variety of backgrounds."
President Robin Baker commented that George Fox Digital goes beyond improving access to technology: "We're not just putting our classroom content online. We're rethinking and re-creating classes that are grounded in the digital experience. We are leveraging and evolving all of the best digital tools, technology and experiences to serve students."
And the pandemic can be thanked, in part, for the changes. "More people are working in a technology-driven environment," Baker said. "We asked ourselves, 'how can we make more changes in our curriculum, our teaching methods, and our learning environment to support those monumental shifts at all levels?'"
Trust an old friend to university
The Murdock Trust was created in 1975 from the $85 million estate of Jack Murdock, one of the founders of Tektronix. He began funding projects at George Fox many decades ago and his name came to grace the school's library, the M.J. Murdock Learning Resource Center, after he funded a major renovation of the facility in the 1980s.
The trust has provided more than $1.2 billion in grants to organizations in Oregon, Alaska, Idaho, Montana and Washington that "seek to strengthen the region's educational, spiritual and cultural base in creative and sustainable ways," according to the trust's website.
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