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Challenge Accepted for Student and Faculty Research

Davidson Research
Students and professors who conduct summer research share their work with the college community early in the fall semester at a poster fair. Pictured here is Bethany Wagner ’14, explaining her Davidson Research Initiative-funded project on “Investigating Mitochondrial Dynamics in Drosophila Spermatogenesis” to Vice President for Academic Affairs Wendy Raymond.

Chip McAllister '61 says Davidson is a large part of his heritage and a place that he admires. His daughters became 5th generation graduates, Kim in 1988 and Leigh in 1990. The institution's quality-in character and in education-inspires him to give back.

When Chip learned about the Davidson Research Initiative (DRI), he decided it was a perfect way to make a difference for students. He offered a $150,000 challenge intended to encourage other donors to get involved. In the end, his challenge was matched by nine other donors, and $300,000 was committed to the program.

"I'm grateful to every person who has the foresight to prepare our youth for the future," said Chip. "I get great pleasure from helping students. We all should realize what we can do for those who are coming behind us. That's exactly what was done for us, and it is our sacred obligation to give to the next generation. I don't know why I've been so fortunate, but it feels good to be able to give to others."

DRI offers a wide range of opportunities for collaborative research and in-depth study between students and faculty during the summer break. Students spend their summers on campus in a collaborative community of researchers across the academic spectrum and focus on their research without the pressures of the regular academic workload.

"Being a doctor, I'm aware of the admission programs around the country, and I'm aware of students' performance in medical school," said Chip. "Davidson continues to produce the best pre-medical program, I think, in the country. We don't have a medical school, but we have the liberal arts education that prepares students for it. DRI projects are a part of this preparation."

During the summer of 2013, DRI projects were completed by 27 students and partner faculty members. They covered topics ranging from adolescent behavioral health in South Korea to therapy drugs for cancer treatment to landslides as a suitable beaver habitat to theatre.

Allen Rigby '14 worked with three other students to create a new theatre piece through the process of devising, a contemporary theatre trend in which the traditional hierarchies of theatre are broken down into a more collaborative process. The students wrote a new play and produced it in late September at the Warehouse Performing Arts Center in Cornelius.

"The DRI provided me with the opportunity to branch out from my traditional education and apply what I've learned in Davidson classes to real-world situations," said Rigby. "My peers and I were able to model how theatre companies are created, a process we could easily replicate later in our careers. The experience was invaluable."

"The Davidson Research Initiative is an example of the incredible student faculty relationships that make the Davidson experience distinctive," said Verna Case, DRI program director, associate dean for teaching, learning and research and B. F. Dolan Professor of Biology. "Dr. McAllister's generosity and the generosity of those who joined him in this endeavor ensure the continuation of programs like DRI that deeply enhance the learning experience outside of the classroom."