It’s a time-honored tradition—a graduating class of students, grateful for the education and the experience they obtained, give back to their campus community.
But, as education gets pushed into the 21st century, some of the students that universities get are attending classes online and graduating—even at Arkansas State University. So, just like physical students, online students obtain an experience and, in the case of the graduating summer class of 2018, want to give back to their alma mater.
Remember the story about the 10-year anniversary of A-State changing its nickname to the Red Wolves—an animal native to North America that is one of the world’s most endangered dog-like species?
Well, A-State’s Online and Academic Partnership program, which manages A-State Online, thought of the perfect gift that would make an impression for generations to come.
The Endangered Wolf Center in St. Louis received a $2,500 gift from Arkansas State University’s online programs. In return, 5 students who graduated with a Master’s degree online in the summer of 2018 will be the adoptive parents of a pack of red wolves.
“I’m thrilled to see a return of this age-old tradition of a class gift coming from our online program," said Jonesboro campus Chancellor Dr. Kelly Damphousse at the Monday press conference. "I’ve also been talking with our on-campus students about creating a similar gift or project as well.”
Vice President of Academic Partnerships Elizabeth Rogers said the gift is a way for online graduates to make an impact on campus.
“We are really excited to make a donation to the Endangered Wolf Center on behalf of a couple of graduates in the 2018 online class," said Rogers. "We’re always looking for ways to support the online students and tie them to campus. So, this is a way that we can help support some of the academic initiatives that you’re taking here, and bring our online students into that same family.”
Arkansas State University and the Endangered Wolf Center have been working together in recent years to help with conservation efforts of the red wolf, which once inhabited much of the Southern U.S. including Crowley’s Ridge.
Regina Mosotti accepted the donation on behalf of the Endangered Wolf Center.
“I can’t tell you what this means to the Endangered Wolf Center," said Mosotti, "being about 4 hours away from the university, and having this amazing partnership where we are literally helping to save the critically endangered American Red Wolf—how exciting this has been. Just seeing this university take ownership of this species and help save it is something that is unprecedented and I’m so proud of Arkansas State University.”
Dr. Tom Risch spearheads the Arkansas Biosciences Institute at ASU which houses the national repository of red wolf DNA. Dr. Risch said the donation gave a new meaning to A-State’s motto of “Every Red Wolf Counts”:
“Dr. Damphousse has a motto that ‘every red wolf counts’—that we talk about our students in that way," said Risch. "So, with only 250 red wolves in captivity and 30 in the wild, we think that ‘every red wolf counts’ has 2 meanings: one for our students, and one for this most endangered canid in the world.”
A-State also has a student-organization who advocates for the red wolf and helps the Endangered Wolf Center with conservation efforts. They are called “Red Wolves for Red Wolves.” Shane Goodling is the student president of the organization. Goodling said A-State’s work with the center has been very beneficial for them, so the donation has a really special meaning for them.
“For us, this means a lot, because the Endangered Wolf Center gives us a lot of opportunities—not only as students," Goodling said. "It gives us the opportunity when we go up there and help them out with some of their events, not only do we get to see live red wolves—which is not something everyone gets to do—but we get to meet people that are within our career field, and we get to network and it helps us out as students.”
I caught up with Mosotti at the end of the press conference to learn what the center plans to do with the $2,500 donation.
“Not only will it help us take care of the animals that we have at our center," Mosotti said, "but, we’re also doing a lot of in-the-field work as well; working with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Arkansas State University, and other partners as well. So, having a gift like this makes a major difference in the future of the red wolves.”
Meanwhile, the five lucky graduates will get periodic updates as to how the pack is doing at the center.