The Furman Advantage will foster thriving communities—communities on campus that actively engage our students, faculty, and staff, as well as communities in South Carolina and beyond.
Our concept of community starts at home. Our intimate campus and commitment to the success of every member of the Furman community means we support one another to give our best, every day. We believe that an inclusive community that celebrates and engages difference creates the space we need to learn and develop new ideas. And then we expand that concept far beyond the boundaries of campus, advancing the well-being of the diverse communities in Greenville and around the world.
The Furman Advantage is redefining community engagement, creating an innovative model of community-centered learning. Furman students will join forces with faculty, staff, alumni, and community members to explore and address real-world problems, responding directly to community needs while discovering what works.
The Furman Advantage will create an innovative model of community-centered learning with five key components:
I. A campus environment that models for students what it means to actively learn from and contribute to diverse civic, professional, and personal communities
Students come to Furman from a wide range of backgrounds and experiences: rural, urban, global, with unique identities and from differing socioeconomic circumstances. They benefit from an international faculty and staff whose breadth of expertise and perspective represents an opportunity for tremendous learning and growth. When our students graduate, they enter communities and workplaces that are in nearly every instance more diverse than the places they came from. At Furman students will participate in a multitude of communities while learning how to engage in environments beyond their comfort zone.
II. Community partners in Greenville and beyond who will identify challenges and opportunities that can especially benefit from The Furman Advantage
The Furman Advantage will build upon the classroom experience by facilitating collaborative projects that incorporate research and programs to drive community impact. Projects will be derived in partnership with civic leaders and community organizations, matching Furman’s strengths with community needs. These efforts will foster sustained partnerships and build trust among community leaders, organizations, and those who benefit from the work. Although not the only outlet for our contributions, Greenville will be an important area of focus. Because of the city’s size, proximity to our campus, and its enthusiasm for civic partnerships, the opportunities will be plentiful and the barriers low. Organizations like Greenville Forward, Ten at the Top, Live Well Greenville, and the Greenville Chamber of Commerce will provide important connectivity, advocacy, and support for ambitious ideas and projects.
III. Furman faculty, whose scholarly expertise and dedication make them ideally suited to lead off-campus projects locally, regionally, and globally that are focused on community needs
Furman faculty members conduct research that contributes knowledge and solutions for community issues ranging from hunger and homelessness to public safety and community health. Members of the faculty also bring together experts in particular fields and foster community discussion and learning through lectures, opinion essays, and conferences. They organize community-based projects and support students directly as they undertake research, work in internships, and volunteer service in the community.
IV. Furman students, whose problem-solving skills and career opportunities will be transformed by their involvement in community-centered projects and networks
This model of community-centered learning will create deeper and more meaningful experiences for students, enabling them to do work that is needed and has impact, and to develop enduring relationships in the community. The skills developed at Furman can be applied to community engagement anywhere and will travel with students for a lifetime. While at Furman, students will connect to a vital network of campus, community, and alumni experts and mentors that help them to prepare for and contribute to the world beyond Furman and open up a wider array of career opportunities. These new and expanded linkages between community organizations and Furman faculty and students will expand the knowledge of all participants. As students are learning, the faculty and community partners also will grow their understanding through exposure to new perspectives, research, and project outcomes.
V. Improved structures to support new programs and partnerships among Furman and external communities
Furman’s public-facing institutes and community-centered infrastructure will foster long-term relationships between Furman and our many existing and potential partners. They will leverage and coordinate the many efforts already underway, and will provide critical support for a more ambitious set of programs and partnerships. The creation of these enhanced structures also will bring attention to Furman’s efforts and will serve as an important signal about the university’s priorities and commitment to our surrounding communities.
The Furman Advantage will create and fund appropriate organizational structures to catalyze and organize Furman's outward-facing work by:
I. Expanding the network of relationships and resources that we can integrate into the student experience
Creating community-centered organizational structures will allow us to leverage and support the important work already underway in existing programs that engage with and benefit the community, all of which provide greater opportunities for student internships and future employment. These programs extend Furman’s educational programs and knowledge to the broader community, and they allow community members to contribute directly to the success of Furman programs and particularly to the learning experiences of our students. Many of these efforts—in particular arts and music programming and Furman Athletics—also attract visitors to Greenville and are part of a thriving cultural scene that creates economic benefit for the broader region.
II. Strengthening the university’s connectivity and engagement with Greenville, the broader region, and the world
Furman’s future is yoked to the well-being of Greenville and South Carolina, and both the city and the state represent a tremendous opportunity for our students and faculty—and Furman itself—to have both immediate and lasting impact, economically, culturally, politically, and socially. Greenville and South Carolina have strong business and civic leadership and willing partners who will be essential to addressing these issues. Furman has been one of these partners, providing hundreds of community programs, research projects, partnerships, and service activities in Greenville, across South Carolina and beyond. We believe we could be an even stronger engine powering Greenville and South Carolina, helping the state to make measurable progress in areas such as education, community health, and sustainability.
III. Growing Furman’s external partnerships and creating economies of scale
Furman’s enhanced community-centered infrastructure will create a central hub for Furman’s community engagement work, serving as the connective tissue between Furman and the community. Staff will develop and nurture relationships with community stakeholders, identify community needs and opportunities for partnerships, and enable community leaders and external partners to connect with the intellectual capital of the university. Furman students and faculty will be deeply engaged in the range of community-centered programming, enabling a range of experiences and community mentoring relationships for students.
By partnering across campus and community entities, Furman’s new community-centered infrastructure may serve as a(n):
- Catalyst—sparking innovative new programs and partnerships;
- Convener—gathering participants from diverse sectors to examine thematic challenges and work toward solutions;
- Manager—organizing projects that match Furman’s expertise, assembling partners, and identifying and coordinating resources;
- Consultant—connecting the expertise of Furman faculty and students with outside organizations that can benefit from their knowledge;
- Analyst—keeping an inventory of efforts, tracking and reporting progress, and surfacing trends and themes;
- Promoter—broadly disseminating discoveries and successes to inspire future progress; and
- Incubator—leveraging the synergies and enrichment of Furman’s various centers, institutes, and programs.
These roles become even more critical as a complement to new and expanded public-facing institutes and expanded community-centered learning opportunities for all of our students.
The Furman Advantage will launch an ambitious set of interconnected, public-facing institutes to focus our community engagement efforts and impact through:
I. Conducting projects that have direct relevance and payoff for Greenville and other communities in South Carolina and around the world
The institutes will build upon the classroom experience by facilitating research, internships, fellowships, experts-in-residence, high-powered guest speakers, and collaborative projects that incorporate research and innovative programs to drive community impact. They will integrate community partners, faculty research, and student engagement around a few key topics, ensuring the work is sustained and has lasting impact. Once the topics have been identified, the institutes will build teams to work in a more directed way to identify solutions, put those solutions into practice, and study the results so we have confidence that the efforts are working as planned.
II. Creating tools, methods, models, and approaches that are scalable
The projects Furman undertakes will allow faculty to build models and approaches that can be applied in other settings, because we have confidence in them. And efforts and discoveries in South Carolina and around the world can be brought back to Greenville. A new joint Sustainability Sciences and Asian Studies program being offered to students of both Furman and Yunnan Minzu University in China is an example of scaling our strengths to communities beyond our immediate vicinity and bringing value back to campus. These permeable gateways can be a superhighway for community engagement and innovation everywhere, underscoring the world-embracing foundations of a Furman education.
III. Focusing the Richard W. Riley Institute, David E. Shi Center, and newly formed Institute for the Advancement of Community Health on increased student and faculty engagement with communities
The institutes will benefit from and seek out external partnerships with relevant organizations as well as interdisciplinary work with faculty and academic departments across the university. They will competitively fund grants for research projects that support collaborations among faculty, students, and community partners. The institutes will establish relationships and make an impact not only locally in Greenville, but also across the state of South Carolina, the United States, and around the world. Through this work, the institutes will provide Furman students with unique access to networks and connections opening doors and creating career opportunities.
IV. Identifying additional areas where community need and Furman expertise overlap, and launching new institutes over time to address these opportunities
New institutes will be created in areas where Furman has historically been strong and where there is faculty expertise and interest, significant community need, and productive partnership opportunities. Additional institutes will be defined and focused with input from faculty, students, community leaders, alumni, and philanthropic partners. Institutes will interact across multiple academic departments, commit to opportunities for student learning, pursue promising areas of scholarship and research, connect to areas of community need, and have natural community partners. They will provide both curricular support and co-curricular programs. Their work will contribute to expert knowledge and ideally will create linkages across the institutes and produce programs and approaches that are scalable.
Elements of The Furman Advantage
The Furman Advantage guarantees every student an unparalleled education that combines classroom learning with real-world experiences and self-discovery. This integrated four-year pathway prepares students for lives of purpose and accelerated career and community impact—demonstrating in concrete terms the value of a Furman education.