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The Daily Tell

Good news in trying times.

November, 2009 Archive

Thanks to new grants from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, video games may soon be just what the doctor ordered.

RWJF has announced $1.85 million in research grants, through the Health Games Research national program, to fund nine research teams investigating how digital games can improve patients’ health behaviors and outcomes.

Among the nine research projects, which were chosen from 185 proposals, is a study that will investigate how the dance video game Dance Dance Revolution could help Parkinson’s patients reduce the risk of falling, one that will investigate the use of mobile phone games with breath interference to help smokers quit or reduce their tobacco use, one that investigates facial recognition games for use with helping autism patients identify emotions, and one that uses the Wii Active video game platform to help reduce obesity rates in high school students.

Each project will receive $100,000 to $300,000 to fund one- to two-year studies, focusing on diverse population groups.

"Digital games are interactive and experiential, and so they can engage people in powerful ways to enhance learning and health behavior change, especially when they are designed on the basis of well-researched strategies," said Lieberman. "The studies funded by Health Games Research will provide cutting-edge, evidence-based strategies that designers will be able to use in the future to make their health games more effective."

Health Games Research is funded by an $8.25 million grant from RWJF’s Pioneer Portfolio, and is headquartered at the University of California, Santa Barbara. The most recent grant marks the second round of funding, to support the program’s mission of finding breakthrough improvements in the future of health and healthcare.ADNFCR-2191-ID-19462578-ADNFCR

The United Negro College Fund will be turning more than 400 colleges green, thanks to a grant from The Kresge Foundation.

The $1.8 million grant will support the Building Green at Minority-Serving Institutions (MSIs) Initiative, the inaugural project of the Facilities and Infrastructure Enhancement Program (FIEP) of the UNCF Institute for Capacity Building (ICB). The program will focus on greening up UNCF member colleges and other minority-serving institutions.

Much of the project will highlight the importance of building green as well as how under-resourced schools can benefit from green building initiatives and adopting energy-efficient and environmentally sustainable practices.

"Environmental sustainability and green building are two of the nation’s most important 21st century imperatives, and minority-serving institutions want and need to become as green as possible as fast as possible," said Michael L. Lomax, PhD, UNCF president and CEO. "[W]e are grateful to The Kresge Foundation for making it possible."

The Building Green at MSIs Initiative will spread the message and educate educators through a series of Building Green Learning Institutes and Technical Assistance Workshops. Additionally, $20,000 grants will be awarded to help MSIs incorporate sustainable design and energy efficiency into their building projects and to overcome barriers they often face when trying to go green, including small endowments and lack of in-house expertise in green building practices.

UNCF will partner on the initiative with several groups to help promote the initiative on a wider scale.

Second Nature, an organization with expertise in advancing sustainability and green building with leaders in higher education along with the American Indian Higher Education Consortium, the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities, and the Thurgood Marshall College Fund have agreed to participate in and promote the initiative.

Gates Foundation grant will help clean third world countries

Posted by Kate Griwert On November - 15 - 2009

The World Health Organization estimates that 2.2 million children under the age of five die from sanitation-related intestinal diseases each year – accounting for 17 percent of child mortality. While these diseases are leading killers of children and thought to be preventable, they still receive significantly less funding than other diseases according to reports by PATH and WaterAid America.

But now, much needed help is on the way.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has awarded researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, a five-year, $10.9 million grant to evaluate several interventions to combat diarrheal disease in developing countries.

The project will both provide immediate relief and assess how sanitation interventions, delivered alone or as part of combined intervention packages, impact child health and well-being. The intervention packages will include drinking water improvements and hand washing solutions.

Dr. Jack Colford, professor of epidemiology at UC Berkeley’s School of Public Health, will coordinate the project. He believes the strategic evaluations are critical to securing future funding for sanitation-related intestinal disease relief.

"Increasingly, foundations, governments, the World Bank and development agencies such as Millennium Challenge Corporation are demanding evidence of effectiveness when awarding development funds," said Colford. "The results will hopefully influence how up to billions of dollars will be directed towards long-term improvements in health and economic outcomes for millions of children each year."

Colbert will work directly with the International Centre for Diarrheal Disease Research, Bangladesh and Innovations for Poverty Action. Together, they will be joined by a team of experts from various fields, including public health, economics, behavioral change, nutrition, cognitive development and tropical enteropathy.

This grant – funding the first ever first large-scale impact evaluation of diarrheal disease relief – demonstrates the Gates Foundation’s commitment to "giving [people of third world countries] the chance to lift themselves out of hunger and extreme poverty."

The Gates Foundation has donated over $21 billion since its inception and provided $2.8 billion in grants in 2008.

Nonagenarian leaves bulk of fortune to singers and songbirds

Posted by Byron Butler On November - 13 - 2009

Mona Webster, one of the New York Metropolitan Opera’s most passionate fans and a devoted birdwatcher, died this summer at the age of 96. Like most of the Met’s fans, Sunday night was, for her, a sacred time to listen to radio broadcasts of the renowned opera company. But unlike most of the Met’s fans, she bequeathed $7.5 million to it in her will.

The company’s general manager, Peter Gelb, told the New York Times that Webster was last at the Met for opening night of the 2000 season. "She said it was the most wonderful night of her life," according to Gelb. The Met had known for some time that Webster had planned to make a generous dispensation on the institution upon her death, but had been unaware of the exact amount.

In addition to a love of the opera, Webster was a committed birdwatcher, and made a second $7.5 million donation in her will, this one to the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust in Great Britain. The New York Times says that she discovered her love for birds as a girl in Orkney, Scotland. She worked in the UK’s Inland Revenue for years and built her wealth through wise investment, according to the Associated Press. Webster traveled the world after her husband’s death in 1981, cataloguing over 5,500 bird species.

Gail Chesler, the Met’s director of planned and special gifts, was a regular correspondent of Webster’s and had visited her just four days before her death, while on vacation in the summer. Chesler told the New York Times that "she had been telling me all along that the Met would be taken care of after she passed. She said that in every conversation." Webster’s gift could pay for half of all administrative expenses at the met, according to Charity Navigator.ADNFCR-2191-ID-19460495-ADNFCR

In the Washington, D.C. area, approximately 33,000 young people with high school diplomas or GED certificates are not working or in college, according to statistics from Venture Philanthropy Partners.

To address this gap, VPP announced this week its single largest investment to date – a $4.5 million grant to the National Capital Region chapter of Year Up.

Year Up, which provides career training to low-income young adults and helps them get internships at some of the country’s top companies, will use the four-year grant to expand its reach in the region and pursue workforce development reform.

"There is an urgent need for a radical rethinking of how to harness this unrealized talent and energy," said Carol Thompson Cole, president and CEO of Venture Philanthropy Partners. "Year Up has enormous potential to reshape workforce development policy and practice in our region and beyond."

Year Up’s intensive one-year program is a combination of professional and technical skills, college credits, educational stipends and corporate internships, a mix that has thus far proved successful – to date, 87 percent of graduates have secured positions within four months of graduation, and earn an average of $35,000 annually.

Not only will this program help change the lives and futures of young adults in the Washington, D.C. region, but it may also help with economic recovery, said Tynesia Boyea-Robinson, executive director of the National Capital Region chapter of Year Up.

"Both VPP and Year Up have a special focus on assisting young adults in transition to realize their potential, which helps our nation compete more effectively as an economy," she said.

Nationally, Year Up serves more than 1,500 students each year in its Atlanta, Boston, Providence, New York City, San Francisco and Washington, D.C. chapters.ADNFCR-2191-ID-19459178-ADNFCR

Georgia Tech College of Management challenged to raise more funds

Posted by Byron Butler On November - 12 - 2009

The Georgia Institute of Technology announced last week that its College of Management had received a pledge of $25 million from an anonymous donor, to go toward doubling the college’s endowment over the course of the next five years. University president G.P. "Bud" Peterson expressed his high hopes for the grant, saying that it represented an opportunity to raise Georgia Tech’s MBA program "to the very top tier" of equivalent institutions around the country.

The majority of the grant – $20 million of the $25 million given – is pledged as a challenge grant to help inspire further charitable giving to the college. The college hopes that the growth of its endowment will enable it, in turn, to endow faculty chairs and professorships, graduate student fellowships, and undergraduate student scholarships. The challenge funds will be granted on a one-to-one basis, raising a combined total of $40 million.

"We are in direct competition with the nation’s best business schools. In order to compete effectively, we must have the resources to attract and retain the finest faculty at all career stages because world-class faculty members are what drive the college’s national and international reputation. The same holds true with our students," said the dean of the college, Steve Salbu. Salbu will also have discretionary control over the $5 million of the grant not earmarked for use in the challenge program.

U.S. News and World Report ranks Georgia Tech number 22 in the nation for best MBA programs, and number 7 for public universities. Additionally, BusinessWeek ranks the Georgia Tech MBA program as one of the most innovative in the country, as well as one of the most improved, ranking it at number 7 and number 3, respectively.ADNFCR-2191-ID-19458160-ADNFCR

Amherst College receives big donations from unnamed donors

Posted by Byron Butler On November - 12 - 2009

The endowment for Amherst College posted a record-setting beginning to the month of November as two alumni donations of $100 million and $25 million were bequeathed to the college by donors who preferred to remain anonymous. The president of the college, Anthony W. Marx, said that the donors wished the focus to remain on the college rather than on themselves.

Marx said that "they are grateful for the opportunities that an Amherst College education has provided them, and remain inspired by the values the college holds dear." Both gifts are to be doled out over a five-year span, and will provide what the college called "unrestricted operating support." Marx said that he was "humbled" by the trust that the anonymous donors had shown in the management of Amherst College, in that the money could go to anything from financial aid or hiring faculty to upgrading the college’s physical facilities by refurbishing old buildings or constructing new ones.

Both anonymous donors gave statements, saying that they were thankful for the education that they received at Amherst and expressing their admiration for the institution and their hope that their support would go towards helping other alumni contribute to their alma mater. The $25-million donor quoted the college’s recent "lives of consequence" campaign in his or her statement to the press.

Amherst said that the $100 million grant is possibly the largest unrestricted cash gift ever given to a liberal arts college in the nation’s history. The college hopes to maintain its status as one of the most selective, high-quality educational institutions in the nation with the largesse granted to it by the anonymous donors.ADNFCR-2191-ID-19458159-ADNFCR

UC Davis receives $2 million grant to support entrepreneurship

Posted by Jenna Weiner On November - 12 - 2009

One of Sacramento’s most prolific tech startup founders, Charles J. Soderquist, made sure that entrepreneurship would thrive in California long after his death with an estate gift of $2 million to the UC Davis Graduate School of Management.

The UC Davis alumnus, who died in 2004, founded and led several dozen high-tech startups in the greater Sacramento area, served as chair of the UC Davis Foundation, and was passionate about entrepreneurship.

As a result, half of the $2 million gift will fund an endowment to the UC Davis Graduate School of Management’s Center for Entrepreneurship, while the other half will fund the creation of the Charles J. Soderquist Endowed Chair in Entrepreneurship.

The entrepreneurship center was conceived in 2004 after Soderquist, Graduate School of Management professor Andrew Hargadon, and venture capitalist Scott Lenet taught a course that combined students from the graduate life sciences and engineering program with students in the management school, showing how science and business can work together.

"The idea was to create a program that would not just teach entrepreneurship but create entrepreneurs," said Hargadon, who is also the entrepreneurship center’s director and the new Soderquist Endowed Chair. "We felt that UC Davis, with all of its science and engineering talent, could blossom if entrepreneurs helped bring those ideas out of the laboratories and into the broader world."

Since its inception, the entrepreneurship center has enrolled more than 300 national and international participants as well as 40 doctoral candidates.

UC Davis also made philanthropic headlines earlier this year with the announcement that, even in the midst of a recession and consequent decline in philanthropic giving, charitable support to UC Davis surpassed the $100 million mark for the third consecutive year.ADNFCR-2191-ID-19456920-ADNFCR

Kelloggs gives kids a smart start

Posted by Kate Griwert On November - 11 - 2009

Kelloggs may be known for giving kids a good start to their days with hearty bowls of cereal, but now the Kellogg Foundation is proving its dedication to giving children a jump start in life.

The W.K. Kellogg Foundation has awarded the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation with a $16.7 million grant to establish a new statewide teaching fellowship program in Michigan for education masters candidates interested in teaching science and math.

As a result of the grant, 240 future teachers will be given $30,000 stipends to attend exemplary intensive master’s programs in education. Participating Michigan universities will match a $500,000 grant from the foundation to overhaul their existing education programs and implement new programs for all students based on the fellowship model.

Fellows will be placed in hard-to-staff schools as early as the first year of their training. They will also be required to commit to teach for at least three years in high-need middle schools and high schools where help is particularly needed; the National Assessment of Educational Progress mathematics results show that just 34 percent of eighth grade students are scoring at or above the proficient level.

Many of the fellows will be placed in the same schools as part of a mentoring program to encourage them to continue their careers as educators. This is a particularly important aspect of the fellowship as the Consortium for Policy Research in Education reports that new math and science teacher staffing problems are largely a result of pre-retirement turnover, driven by job dissatisfaction.

Over the next five years, almost 20,000 public school students in Michigan should receive high-quality instructors as a result of the fellowship. Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm expressed her gratitude saying, "This grant is an investment in Michigan’s future, in the future of our workforce, and in the future of our children."

The W.K Kellogg Foundation – committed to "raising the volume on voices that speak on behalf of youth" – has made over $8 billion donations to youth organizations to date.ADNFCR-2191-ID-19455744-ADNFCR

Bandages for Rosie eases the pain of hospital stays for small children

Posted by Kate Griwert On November - 10 - 2009

In February of 2008, 3-year-old Rosalee "Rosie" Hooker was diagnosed with cancer. She spent much of the remainder of her short life at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital in Grand Rapids. The Hooker family remembers that one of the few things Rosie took pleasure in during her hospital stays were the sparkly bandages nurses would give her (and sometimes her dolls).

But the Hookers learned that kid-themed bandages are in limited supply at most hospitals. Eventually, they took it upon themselves to bring in fun band aids for Rosie and other children at DeVos. "We had to buy a lot of Dora Band-Aids," Rosie’s mother, Michele, told the Grand Haven Tribune.

The bandages Rosie and her friends at DeVos enjoyed seem to be silver linings for lots of children in hospitals, with parents devoting dozens of blog entries to the rare smiles colorful bandages bring to their hospitalized children.

Following the death of their beloved Rosie, the Hookers wanted to do something to commemorate the inspirational optimism she maintained through her short life. It started with raising 3,000 bandages for DeVos – a goal they quickly exceeded. Now, the organization has spread its reach to kids worldwide.

Bandages for Rosie encourages donations of character bandages for children in hospitals around the world. This grassroots campaign addresses an issue often overlooked; according to the Agency for Healthcare and Research Quality, children account for 18 percent of hospital stays each year, yet less than 9 percent of hospital resources are targeted specifically to kids.

Donors can participate by entering their credit card information to give cash online, or by sending boxes of bandages directly to the organization.

Rosie’s family told to Grand Haven Tribune she would be happy to know her family provides help for children like her. They "can see [Rosie] pulling [her] wagon around the hospital and handing out Band-Aids to people."

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