News

Sewanee's MacArthur "Genius" Partner: The FrameWorks Institute

This past week, Moira O’Neil, a senior researcher and associate director of interpretation at the FrameWorks Institute, visited the Sewanee campus and engaged in conversations with a number of faculty, staff, community partners, and students. Her arrival coincided with the MacArthur Foundation announcement of FrameWorks as a recipient of the foundation’s 2015 MacArthur Award for Creative and Effective Institutions.

The announcement generated excitement on campus because over the past two years, the  university’s Office of Community Engagement and the Collaborative for Southern Appalachian and Place-based Studies have developed a relationship with the FrameWorks Institute, a Washington, D.C., nonprofit research organization that specializes in communications research designed to improve how we understand and talk about complex social issues. 

This academic year, the university is working with FrameWorks to develop a multi-level curriculum for Sewanee faculty and students to learn the science of framing. Thirty-three faculty, staff, and residents involved in campus-community programs, as well as seven students, are studying this curriculum. At the end of the semester, with ongoing support from FrameWorks researchers, the university expects to offer course modules and research collaboration between faculty, students, staff, and community partners on campus and community framing of social issues. The immediate goal will be to discover ways to improve campus and community understanding of policy changes and proposals designed for the campus or community good. The larger goal is to implement a pilot program that will be a national model for other undergraduate institutions.

For more on FrameWorks’ founder Susan Nall Bales’ response to the award and her excitement about working with Sewanee, see her interview in Nonprofit Quarterly.

The work on the projects is supported by grants from the Mellon Foundation and the Associated Colleges of the South.

For more information about this initiative, please contact Jim Peterman, director of the Office of Community Engagement, or Karen Yu, co-facilitator of the Collaborative for Southern Appalachian and Place-based Studies.