Grant funds new course


Grant funds development of new experiential-learning course at Bluffton

A $25,000 grant will help Bluffton University implement a new, high-impact learning experience for sophomore students. The NetVUE Vocation Across the Academy Grant will allow Bluffton to pilot and implement a 5-credit-hour course called Learning in Community. All sophomore-level students will take the course starting in the 2020-21 academic year. The course will be part of Bluffton’s Enduring Values Program, a new general education curriculum geared toward preparing students for both life and vocation.

“We are excited to build on the community partnerships we have already developed and for students to have the opportunity to learn in a new, rich way,” said Dr. Lamar Nisly, interim vice president and dean of academic affairs. “Students will be deeply engaged in their education through this experience as they look at different community issues and questions through multiple disciplines. These experiences will enrich and enable deep vocational discernment for students.”

The NetVUE grant activities will support the first year of a three-year project to plan, pilot and fully integrate the Learning in Community class. In the second year, Bluffton must secure a $25,000 match to continue this work and in the third year NetVUE will provide a final $10,000.  

The course is part of Bluffton’s mission core of four classes which are based on Bluffton’s four enduring values of discovery, community, respect and service. Each value aligns with a different course. During their first year on campus, students take Becoming a Scholar (discovery), which introduces them to college-level learning. The new sophomore course will correspond to the enduring value of community, with students learning through their interactions with nearby Lima, Ohio, a community of approximately 37,000 residents. Juniors at Bluffton participate in a cross-cultural experience (respect), where they immerse themselves in a completely new culture—domestic or abroad—for a period of three weeks up to a semester. Finally, seniors complete a capstone course, Christian Values in a Global Community (service), where students apply the knowledge and skills from the previous mission core courses to address a social need in the region.

“As presently envisioned, the sophomore course will draw together research and teaching from such disciplines as history, data analytics and social science,” said Nisly. “Students will engage Lima’s complex history and current realities through interdisciplinary coursework on campus and through visits to the city. Classroom analyses will come to life for students through experiential learning connections.”

Instructors will include faculty from a wide range of disciplines and will feature community stakeholders and leaders from sectors including government, community and economic development organizations, business, public education, public health and the criminal justice system.  A central focus of the 2018-19 year is to develop community partnerships.

The course will allow students to:

  • Make direct connections between academic study and community engagement
  • See the benefit of interdisciplinary perspectives on common issues and questions
  • Learn from a variety of organizations and professionals across a range of sectors to broaden their understanding of diverse pathways to vocation
  • Understand that career development is intertwined with active engagement in the life of a community


Grant activities are supported by the Council of Independent Colleges and Lilly Endowment, Inc.