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Make a Grant Project teaches students to make a difference

1/10/2013 —

Students in Penn State Greater Allegheny’s Psychology 479 (Psychology of Gender) course recently learned how they can help address a global problem related to gender. The class, taught by associate professor Elizabeth Mazur, first wrote persuasive papers about important social problems related to gender. In the papers, they each identified a gender-related problem such as women’s illiteracy in developing countries, fistulas in African women, international sexual trafficking or gay rights in the United States. They presented arguments for its importance, discussed solutions and argued for a charitable organization as most effective in addressing the problem. Students also researched the organization for financial accountability and transparency.

Students gave three-minute presentations on their chosen topics. They each donated at least $5 to a class-grant fund, which Mazur matched. The class then voted for the organization that they felt had the most convincing action plan for helping its particular issue. The funds, totaling $160, were donated to Camfed (Campaign for Female Education), a non-profit organization that educates girls and supports young women to help tackle poverty in rural sub-Saharan communities. Kimberly Owens, a senior majoring in psychology, said, “Camfed assists girls from their primary schooling years through adulthood with becoming productive members of society. This means they give back to the next generation and thereby create a positive cycle of success.”

The class also voted to submit the donation in honor of Margaret Signorella, director of Academic Affairs and professor of psychology and women's studies, for her contribution to their education on campus, especially in terms of going above and beyond for her students and advisees.

“I chose Dr. Signorella for two reasons; one is her research that focuses on gender stereotyping and single sex education,” Owens said. “The second, my personal reason, is that she has been so encouraging and helpful to me during my time here at Penn State Greater Allegheny. She had confidence in me when I did not. She has been a wonderful influence and the best academic adviser anyone could possibly have. I have no doubt that she has had similar influence on other students and she should she should be recognized for her dedication.”

Mazur said, “The students’ reactions to the grant assignment, especially to the oral presentation competition, were very positive. Students were excited that the class would actually help address a problem related to women or gender.” Many students commented that the assignment opened their eyes to areas of the world and types of oppression of which they had previously been unaware.

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