To Joan ’64 and Macon Brock, Longwood has always been special for its citizen leadership mission and the deep bonds among faculty, students and staff.
The Brocks, acclaimed philanthropic and business leaders and dedicated Longwood supporters, have been particularly impressed by the “Longwood at Yellowstone National Park” program, where each spring a few dozen students spend several weeks with faculty and staff in an immersive, interdisciplinary learning experience that participants often call life-changing.
The Brocks wondered: What if such experiences spread to more disciplines and departments across the university, eventually becoming an unforgettable part of a Longwood education for most students?
Now, with the largest gift in Longwood’s history, Joan and Macon Brock are setting that dream in motion. The $5.9 million Brock Endowment for Transformational Learning, announced Thursday, will create new life-changing experiences for students by supporting faculty to develop a broad range of “place-based” courses throughout the United States that accent the duties and complexities of citizenship.
Macon and I firmly believe that in the years and decades to come, students will be drawn to Longwood by the opportunity to have the types of experiences this program will create, and those experiences will have a profound impact on them.Joan Brock
“This is an extraordinarily far-sighted, creative and generous gift that is unique to Longwood and its mission, and indeed I believe unique in American higher education,” said President W. Taylor Reveley, IV. “The Brock Endowment will tap the imaginations and energy of our faculty, and allow us to multiply the number of students who enjoy these transformational learning experiences. I could not imagine a more powerful investment in a new generation of citizen leaders.”
“I have always felt so deeply proud of Longwood for taking on the serious work of preparing students for lives of citizen leadership,” said Joan Brock. “This is truly what sets Longwood apart, and it is what the world needs. In talking with President Reveley in recent months about how we could make a real difference, this idea took shape. Macon and I firmly believe that in the years and decades to come, students will be drawn to Longwood by the opportunity to have the types of experiences this program will create, and those experiences will have a profound impact on them.”
The endowment will provide funding, course-release time and logistical support for two-year fellowships allowing distinguished Longwood faculty to work with colleagues from across the university to develop new programs, which will then become place-based courses available to students.
Faculty from any department can apply to develop such interdisciplinary courses, and they will be encouraged to partner with colleagues in other areas of the university such as Student Affairs – a collaboration that has proved highly successful with Longwood’s Yellowstone program and a newer, similar one in Alaska.
“Our Yellowstone and Alaska programs have provided a tremendous proof of concept for this kind of learning,” Reveley said. “These programs will thrive into the far future, while providing inspiration and guidance for new programs, which will now have a chance to emerge from any one of Longwood’s academic departments.”
Future courses could include more programs with environmental themes at other national parks, but could also take place at sites of historical or, for example, sociological importance. The ideas will come from faculty, who will be asked to imagine new courses that could change students’ lives through immersion experiences that cross boundaries, cultures, and disciplines, and which prepare students to tackle complex challenges in their communities and the nation as a whole.
“This is the type of learning that really teaches students the profound work of citizen leadership, and this program will prove a powerful complement to our new citizenship-focused core curriculum,” said Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Joan Neff.
For students, the endowment will produce a steadily expanding range of place-based course options that will take them to sites throughout America and challenge them to work in teams on complex societal challenges.
Meanwhile, for faculty, “this unique opportunity will help Longwood attract the best and brightest new professors, while inspiring and energizing those who are already here,” Neff said. “As we look ahead, we are all deeply grateful to Dr. Alix Fink and our other dedicated colleagues who have pioneered this place-based style of learning with Longwood’s Yellowstone and Alaska programs.”
The first fellows will be chosen in the spring of 2017.
“I had a wonderful experience as a student at Longwood, and it has been so exciting to watch the university thrive,” said Joan Brock, whose gifts with her husband Macon to the university include the naming gift for the Brock Commons corridor through central campus, where Longwood’s new student success building set for completion in 2017 will carry the name Brock Hall in their honor. “We have seen what happens to students on Longwood’s Yellowstone National Park and Alaska programs, and it is exciting to think of so many more in the years ahead who will have new experiences along those lines. We are eager to see what wonderful ideas emerge from the faculty and come to fruition.”