MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – The Fulcrum Project, a collaborative and asset-based framework for community development at West Virginia University, will continue improving student learning experiences outside the classroom while serving communities across the state.
The Fulcrum Project began at the Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design in 2020 with a series of 20 projects around the state. It has again been awarded $151,150 in funding from the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation to have students and faculty partner with communities to improve their local economies.
“This additional year of funding from the Benedum Foundation allows us to make an even bigger impact in West Virginia communities and continue to provide transformational experiences for our students,” Peter Butler, director of the Davis College School of Design and Community Development and landscape architecture Extension specialist, said.
This grant will provide the funds necessary for upcoming projects such as a therapeutic landscape design in Martinsburg, a miners’ memorial design in Matewan and a fairground design in Durbin.
WVU faculty and students are matched with projects in the communities that best fit their areas of expertise and interest. Projects include downtown revitalization, beautification, building redevelopment, trail development, wayfinding and agricultural projects like farmers markets.
“A lot of times, communities have an idea, but they don’t have the skills or professionals to visualize that idea,” Butler said. “The visualization from students really helps to gain funding for those projects.”
Outreach projects that were completed prior to the Fulcrum Project have resulted in proven success. In Cowen, landscape architecture and environmental and community planning students designed access to a B&O Railroad reservoir with a dock for launching boats through a project supported by the West Virginia Community Development Hub. The community used student design work to apply for funding that led to the improvement of access. In addition, a project in Marlinton led to funding to create a downtown park, Discovery Junction, with a stage and market structure along with recreation elements and forest ecosystem interpretation. The planning efforts for this project were supported by a WVU Community Engagement grant.
Some projects are small and can be completed with the mini-grant from the Fulcrum Project and student work. Others, however, are much larger; the Fulcrum Project may help obtain large-scale funding with the initial concepts developed by students and faculty.
For instance, in Kingwood at the McGrew House, the mini-grant supported the construction of interpretive signage for their West Virginia champion trees. In Kimball, students designed a lodging and camping area with access to the Hatfield McCoy Trail System. In Wyoming County, student work led to the establishment of a park space at Stonecoal Junction, the headwaters of the Guyandotte River, which was partially funded by the mini-grant.
“The Fulcrum Project is important to our communities due to the support it provides them to further their economic development,” Butler said. “We’ve seen most of these projects trending toward improving local quality of life, increasing tourism to their communities and boosting their local economies.”
Success in terms of students is indicated through measured student skill development through authentic community engagement. Current and future students will have more opportunities to diversify their portfolios and distinguish themselves from their peers while improving a community space.
Current students, faculty, numerous communities and the people that comprise them are impacted by the Fulcrum Project and its funding. Continued funding is part of a long-term goal to make the Fulcrum Project a permanent component of the Davis College to enhance student experiential learning, faculty research and partnerships for positive change in communities.
“Our hope is always to move the needle in a positive direction,” Butler added. “We think about a fulcrum, tipping communities in a positive direction. Being able to contribute to that as part of our land-grant mission is significant for the School of Design and Community Development and the Davis College.”
The grant from the Benedum Foundation was made through the WVU Foundation, the nonprofit organization that receives and administers private donations on behalf of the University and its affiliated entities.
To learn more about the Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design, visit davis.wvu.edu. Keep up with the latest updates and news on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram by following @WVUDavis.
CONTACT: Leah Smith
Public Relations Specialist
Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design
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