UNF Foundation funds campus initiatives

Foundation Initiative


The history of The Power of Transformation campaign will undoubtedly be written with stories about major donors and significant gifts. However, the UNF Foundation Board is playing a sometimes overlooked role in transforming students and the community. For several years, the Foundation has funded a series of board initiatives designed to support faculty in smaller projects and to help students experience a transformation in some element of their education.       


The most recent initiatives cover such varied projects as aiding diabetics to be better managers of their disease, improving literacy among struggling first graders and fostering a campus beautification program with student-created sculpture.

Diabetes Nutrition Project

With Type 2 diabetes reaching epidemic proportions in the United States, low-income Jacksonville residents are particularly affected because they may not have regular access to health care. At the Beaches Community Health Care Clinic operated by the Sulzbacher Center, an estimated 60 percent of its clients have Type 2 diabetes.


Dr. Lauri Wright in the Brooks College of Health Department of Nutrition and Dietetics came up with a proposal to offer an education program at the clinic, which does not offer any nutrition services.         

“Often clients are making choices between food, housing or paying for their medication,” Wright said. “Nutrition education is an effective way of managing their diabetes and perhaps eliminating or reducing the need for medication.”      


The program consists of an initial individual evaluation, three weekly group education classes followed by two weekly support groups and a follow-up individual evaluation.   


UNF graduate nutrition student Rachael McCandless implemented the program. She used a “social entrepreneurial” model in which the project was considered its own business. She developed marketing materials; spread the word to Beaches area pharmacies, grocery stores, retirement communities, restaurants and social service agencies; and recruited program participants.          

Each week, while Wright handles the educational part of the program, McCandless prepares a diabetic healthy meal. While participants are eating, she sits down with them and answers questions about menu selection, food ingredients and meal preparation. The Foundation provided $8,000 for the program.


“This has been an important experience for me because it allows me to practice what I’ve learned in the classroom. It allows me to use all my skills from designing a health program and marketing it to delivering it to a low-income community in a holistic way. It’s allowed me to make the connections between my various classes,” she said.   


McCandless, who hopes to graduate in December with a master’s in nutrition, would like to work in similar programs in schools or at clinics. “I’ve really enjoyed building this program from scratch and helping people in the process.” 

Literacy Project

            The literacy program is the brainchild of two faculty members in the College of Education and Human Services. Drs. Susan Syverud and Katerina Hall have investigated the impact their UNF students have on struggling first-grade readers at Woodland Acres Elementary, an Urban Professional Development Schools with Duval County. Results indicated that only one hour of intensive one-on-one or small group instruction a week made a significant difference in reading for the children.    


Beginning this fall, Syverud said the program goes beyond the classroom. The UNF Foundation project will also allow literacy training to be extended to parents, teachers and business partners in the community. This will provide opportunities for about 20 UNF students to assume leadership roles as they assist in the trainings.    


The $8,000 project is expected to result in about 150 more parents, teachers, business partners and community volunteers becoming more knowledgeable and skilled in providing individual instruction to young struggling readers and to engage in research-based reading aloud practices with any child in our community schools.   


“Our UNF students have provided a safety net for these early readers at Woodland Acres Elementary and will now have an opportunity to expand their skills by training others to help young struggling readers in our community. The need is very great,” she said.

Sculpture Project       

With attractive new buildings and an emphasis on enhanced landscaping, the UNF campus has become more aesthetically pleasing in recent years. That emphasis will continue with a campus sculpture project.  


Jenny Hager, an instructor in the Department of Art & Design, is coordinating a competition among her students this fall to produce two sculptures to be located in high visibility areas on campus.


The Foundation approved $9,000 for this project. The money has allowed site preparation and the purchase of equipment that students will use in the sculpture project. The sculptures will then be installed for two years. Hager hopes the project will be continued so eventually the campus would support a series of new sculptures which would be replaced every two years. “In this model, the UNF campus could become a citywide destination, as local community members would visit the campus for walking tours of the student work. We could provide walking tour maps at the Student Union as well as other prime locations throughout the community,” she said.    


One of the students who will be competing is Scott Mihalik, a junior from Jacksonville who has participated in other public art projects on campus. “I’m very interested in getting the experience and going through the process of having my work reviewed and getting feedback. It will be a very important learning experience for me especially if I’m interested in competing in other competitions for art in public places.”