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Andrews Receives Live United Award

Date: February 16, 2011

At the United Way Annual Meeting and Recognition Luncheon held on Thursday, Jan. 13, at Lake Michigan College in Benton Harbor, Mich., representatives from Andrews University were surprised to learn they were accepting a Live United Award for the University’s work in a funded partner evaluation project. The award was accepted by Dave Faehner, vice president for University Advancement, and Curtis VanderWaal, chair of the Department of Social Work and director of the Center for Community Impact Research, a branch of the Institute for Prevention of Addictions (IPA).
The United Way of Southwest Michigan offers annual funding to 42 local agencies in addition to providing funding to multiple other projects and programs throughout Berrien County. Programs are focused on improving lives in four areas: education, basic needs, health and income generation. This is accomplished through agency partnerships and programs, for example the After School Program through the Boys & Girls Club or Supper Sacks through Senior Nutrition Services.

Since January 2010, Andrews University has been working to help the United Way track their program outcomes and create a community report card. VanderWaal says he and Duane McBride, director of the IPA and chair of the Department of Behavioral Sciences, were asked “to determine the extent to which the United Way funded partners were meeting their impact goals for the community.”
According to the United Way, the community report card will offer donors a better way to know just what their donated dollars are doing in the community. The evaluation is being led by VanderWaal, who is closely collaborating with faculty and graduate students in the Departments of Social Work and Behavioral Sciences to conduct the data collection and evaluation.
“We are essentially helping the United Way to develop an evaluation capacity,” says VanderWaal.
(L–R) Dave Faehner, vice president for University
Advancement; Amanda Cochran, an MSA student, holding
the Live United Award; and Curt VanderWaal, chair of the
Department of Social Work and director of the Center for
Community Impact Research, a branch of the Institute for
Prevention of Addictions (IPA).

Graduate student support for the project evaluation is critical. Working in teams, students visit the United Way funded programs and work with the program’s leaders to identify goals and desired outcomes. Students then identify an evaluation tool, sometimes custom-designing a tool tailored to the program’s needs. After collecting and analyzing the information, a report is presented to both the agency and United Way. The project will continue and expand in 2011.
According to Anna Murphy, president of the United Way of Southwest Michigan, ensuring a better sense of understanding of United Way’s work and impact on the community helps with fund-raising.
“The Live United Award is given to an individual or company that exemplifies Give, Advocate and Volunteer. Curt and his team at Andrews are a vital resource for United Way and our evaluation project, enabling United Way to build a system that will demonstrate long-term impact of its funding decisions,” says Murphy. “Along with his team, his students are also involved with United Way funded partners to help each of them build capacity and strengthen the work they do. In addition, Curt and his team provide many additional hours and resources in-kind.”
Since 1985, the Institute for Prevention of Addictions (IPA) has been working to reduce and prevent alcohol and drug dependence through research and education. In response to a recent trend of projects involving community-based evaluations, VanderWaal helped establish this new branch of the IPA: the Center for Community Impact Research.

-Written by Keri Suarez, media relations specialist, Office of Integrated Marketing & Communication

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Berrien Springs, Michigan 49104