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Foster K05-04-2015

Dr. Kirk Foster is proud to serve as the first Faculty Director for the new Graduate Civic Scholars Program (GCSP) at UofSC. The CoSW is well-represented in this new program. In addition to Dr. Foster serving as Faculty Director, two CoSW students were selected for the first cohort: Natalie Milom and Mary Ann Priester.

As CoSW faculty, Dr. Foster regularly teaches a course in community engagement, and his involvement with the GCSP is in many ways an extension of that. The overall purpose of the highly competitive program is to “develop the capacity of graduate students for public engagement and civic scholarship,” says Dr. Foster. He claims that the GCSP definitely fills a need, because UofSC “didn’t have a formal mechanism” for putting students in conversation with their communities, and the overwhelming number of applications proves that graduate students at UofSC are hungry for community engagement opportunities.

The program hopes to show graduate students how they can turn their research into a public good that can have a real, discernible impact. The program emphasizes the three areas of any well-rounded scholar: teaching, research, and service. Dr. Foster notes that in addition to helping students take their work into the public sphere, the program also offers opportunities to explore various career paths and build interdisciplinary relationships.

The GCSP is modeled on the Graduate Institute on Engagement and the Academy located within the Obermann Center for Advanced Studies at the University of Iowa. The Graduate School here has put their stamp on the program by providing more opportunities for in-person learning and collaboration. Following a two-week intensive in May, the scholars will take the summer to think through and develop their projects. Starting in August, they will meet together for monthly seminars led by Dr. Foster. He hopes that these seminars spark ongoing conversations and lead to the development of interdisciplinary teams.

Dr. Foster explains that the program “was a natural fit” for him. Dr. Jessica Elfenbein, Senior Associate Dean of the Graduate School, agrees: “With his rich experience and interest in community based research, Dr. Kirk Foster is a natural choice to serve as the first faculty director of the GCSP.”

Dr. Foster’s civic-mindedness is deeply ingrained. Dr. Foster’s father was a volunteer firefighter, and his mother was an invaluable community asset, participating in church activities and the band boosters while also running the community bank. Dr. Foster says he was taught that “we have an obligation to play a role” in our community, and he has taken that message to heart in both his teaching and research. It is Dr. Foster’s hope that the GCSP starts a tradition of creating more civically engaged scholars and practitioners at UofSC and beyond.

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