Foundation gift establishes McDowell Institute

Susan McDowell
Education program to center on early identification of student behavior

For immediate release: Feb. 10, 2012

BLOOMSBURG — Bloomsburg University officials have announced a $2 million commitment to the Bloomsburg University Foundation by philanthropist Susan McDowell of Selinsgrove. The gift, largest in the Foundation history, is given in support of the College of Education to establish the McDowell Institute for Teacher Excellence in Positive Behavior Support.

“Students dealing with social, emotional and behavioral issues often create difficult challenges for classroom teachers,” said BU President David Soltz. “The new McDowell Institute for Teacher Excellence is a 21st century approach to teacher education. It will build on Bloomsburg University’s strong history by training education majors to identify these students so all children may learn.”

The McDowell Institute is designed to equip educators with strategies, practices and experiences to effectively support the academic, social and emotional growth of all students. Instruction in the methods of positive behavior support will be incorporated into the curriculum, beginning with freshman-year introductory courses and carrying through to student teaching.

“Often, teachers thoroughly understand the subject matter, but are not prepared to deal with the needs of children in the classroom,” said Elizabeth Mauch, interim dean of BU’s College of Education. “The institute will help to identify triggers and give future teachers the tools and strategies to teach effectively, while serving as a resource for current teachers and parents.”

Susan McDowell, a member of the BU Foundation Board of Directors, called Bloomsburg University “a receptive ear with willing people who are very excited about the institute.”

The daughter of teachers in western Pennsylvania, McDowell saw firsthand her mother’s efforts to help needy students. Later as a Girl Scout leader and professional, she noticed the children in every troop who were withdrawn, antisocial or unlikeable and wanted to comfort them.

Today, she believes, the need is greater than ever. “This has been my concern all of my life: what teachers are being taught about the nature of children in the classroom,” she said. “For some children, the only relationship that is safe and understanding is with the public school teachers. My hope is that, through the institute, caring, wise and compassionate people will understand the situations in the classroom and be effective teachers.”

The McDowell gift is the second multimillion dollar gift received by the BU Foundation. Last year, alumni Terry and JoAnn Zeigler contributed $1.67 million to establish the Zeigler Institute for Professional Development within the College of Business. Both institutes provide additional resources for BU faculty to provide students with the advanced skills necessary to excel in their chosen career.