Florida foundation to fund unique river initiative
LaGrange College will launch a unique waterway exploration program thanks to a
$200,000 grant from the Arthur Vining Davis Foundations.
The Chattahoochee River Research Program will bring together a selection of students
from different fields of study, including chemistry, biology, digital creative
media and film, psychological science, sociology, political science and history.
Using kayaks, they will travel down the Chattahoochee River along points from North
Georgia to Florida while conducting research, filming a documentary and gathering
Located in Jacksonville, Florida, the foundations were established in 1952 by
philanthropist Arthur Vining Davis. Since then, they have given over 3,800 grants
totaling more than $300 million to colleges and universities, hospitals, medical
schools, divinity schools and public television.
“We are incredibly grateful to the Arthur Vining Davis Foundations for choosing
to fund this ambitious program,” said LaGrange College President Dan McAlexander.
“This was an extremely competitive grant, and receiving it speaks to the reputation
of our institution and the innovation and vision shown by our outstanding faculty
members who collaborated on creating this program.”
The foundations are best known for their more than 50 years’ support of public
television with a focus on national broadcasts for children’s educational programs.
These include “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood,” “Cyberchase,” “Reading Rainbow” and
“Between the Lions.” Grants from the foundations also have supported documentaries
by renowned filmmaker Ken Burns, including “The Civil War,” “Baseball,” “The National
Parks” and “The Vietnam War.”
Other higher education institutions that have received grants by the foundations
include Dartmouth College, Emory University, Georgetown University, Princeton University,
Spelman College, Stanford University School of Medicine and Yale University Divinity
“Receiving this grant from the Arthur Vining Davis Foundations is a prestigious
honor, and the resulting program will provide our students wonderful hands-on learning
opportunities to study issues directly impacting our area,” McAlexander said. “Much
like the Wilkinson Family Servant Scholars Program, this initiative combines academic
rigor with real-world experience that will address issues affecting our community
and beyond—in this case, the health of our waterway.”
The grant will help pay for the tools necessary to undertake the venture, including
recording equipment for the documentary and research-related interviews as well
as instruments to collect samples of water, soil, vegetation and microscopic organisms.
Funds also will cover related resources for the college’s ecology lab, part of
the new Ida Callaway Hudson Lab Sciences Building, allowing students to conduct
experiments on these samples. One of the expected additions for the lab is a specialized
furnace that will allow students to break down river soil samples to examine the
components, natural and man-made, that mix with the river.
The documentary of the inaugural trip is planned to debut at the campus Mountainfilm
Festival and be entered into the international Mountainfilm exhibition in Colorado.
Student participants also will have opportunities to present their findings locally
and at regional conferences, as well as collaborate with area agencies that have
a shared interest in the waterway.
The program is “a strikingly bold idea,” said Dr. Karen Aubrey, the college’s
Vice President for Academic Affairs. It was developed by a group of faculty members
from different academic fields who are dedicated to the health of the Chattahoochee.
“The research program will offer students the opportunity to engage creatively
with multiple disciplinary perspectives and with nonprofit organizations whose
work ties into the river,” Aubrey said. “We are excited that the generosity of
Arthur Vining Davis will allow us to provide such a unique and impactful program
at LaGrange College.”