Islanders Ready to Invigorate Local Community with Help from Impact Multiplier Grants

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – As part of its commitment to the local community, the Office of Community Outreach at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi continually works to bolster the outreach endeavors of Island University faculty and staff. One such effort is the recently implemented Impact Multiplier Grant (IMG) program, which fosters and facilitates community engagement through encouraging the talent, knowledge and resources at the University. The first IMG grant winners were recognized during an awards ceremony on Feb. 27.

“One of the elements we looked for in a successful proposal is that the project would impact someone’s life by improving their conditions or outlook,” said Joe Miller, director of Community Outreach. “Another element we looked at was that the project reflected the values of the institution.”

Thanks to the generous support of the Division of Research, Commercialization and Outreach, two award winners were selected rather than one and each recipient received $2,500 to expand their outreach projects in the community. Out of 31 applications, Dr. Michelle Hollenbaugh, associate professor in the Department of Counseling and Educational Psychology, and Sheri Emerick, Director of Development for the Art Museum of South Texas (AMST), were selected as the first grant recipients.

Hollenbaugh, who submitted the project titled “Outreach in Corpus Christi via Impactful Mental Health Interventions” plans to provide free counseling services to the local community through psychoeducational groups in collaboration with Dr. Yvonne Castillo, director of the Counseling and Training Clinic. During the counseling services, participants will learn to manage difficult emotions, including anger, stress, depression and anxiety. While coping skills groups are already in place, funds from the IMG grant will help with the implementation of the new anger management groups and the possibility of providing services in Spanish.

“We hope that by people being able to manage their anger, not only is their personal wellness affected, but the dynamic in their home is affected,” said Hollenbaugh. “There is even research that people who can regulate their emotions are more successful in their jobs and the community, which could have a broader impact.”

Emerick plans to partner with the Corpus Christi Parks and Recreation Senior Community Services Program on the project titled, “Ageless Art! Senior Outreach Program.” This new program will seek to connect individuals ages 55 and above with hands-on art instruction. Rather than simply ‘crafting,’ classes will emphasize creativity, self-expression and basic art design elements. In partaking in the creative process, participants will have improved cognition through hands-on art practice, as well as lessened depression and anxiety and a greater sense of self-control, self-esteem and socialization.

“We will be touching the lives of individuals who don’t have the opportunity to come to the Art Museum of South Texas because of mobility or health issues,” said Emerick. “So, we will be able to bring art education to them thanks to this funding!”

The two winning projects were selected by a campus committee chaired by Miller and including Jaime Nodarse Barrera, assistant vice president of Development; Ann Degaish, associate vice president of Student Engagement and Success and dean of students; Kellie Smith, professional assistant professor of communication and interim coordinator for the Center for Faculty Excellence and Trent Thigpen, program manager for the Pollution Prevention Partnership in the Office of Community Outreach. Applicants were evaluated on how well the project would impact the Coastal Bend community, how much the additional funds would impact the project and the potential for the project to have a broad impact on the community. The selection committee was particularly impressed by the broad participation among applicants across campus, as well as the high quality and creativity of the proposals.

The Office of Community Outreach plans to award one lucky faculty or staff member IMG funds each fall and spring semester to facilitate the immediate and long-term ripple effects of community engagement projects at the Island University.

“A dynamic and strong synergy between the University and the community at large is critical for a healthy and vivid region,” said Dr. Ahmed Mahdy, interim vice president for RCO. “We are poised as a University to make a difference and this program will help us all make an Islander Impact.”