Classroom Assignment Previews Leaderboard

AU sociology professor, Lisa Weaver-Swartz, Ph.D, inquired about funding for a student’s final project and SEARCH was glad to support an assignment that encouraged students to translate sociological concepts into an item to share. Weaver-Swartz described the project as constructing “cultural artifacts that are intended to convey one of the sociological theories that [the students] have studied throughout their coursework to a lay audience.” One of her students had an idea that required some support. To apply for seed funding from SEARCH, the student submitted a brief abstract of her project, including the expected output and who it was to be shared with. This experience offered her low-stakes grant writing experience. Approval was granted with the request of a few marketable deliverables in return, like a quote and photos of the project.  

SEARCH is proud to invest in encouraging student ingenuity, excellence and creativity in Asbury’s academic life broadly. Translating ideas for a lay audience, like Weaver-Swartz required for her un-essay assignment, is an approach to the academic endeavor that SEARCH highly values: public scholarship. A new program will emerge to support student research with the opening of the SEARCH Studio in AU’s Walt and Rowena Shaw Collaborative Learning Center. The Leaderboard, to be featured on a large screen in the Studio, is a platform for highlighting student progress through idea development. Students will collect “points” to access seed funding. The point system will walk them through the process of bringing ideas to life by giving points for completing steps along the way, like writing a proposal and drafting a budget. The top seed funding amounts will only be accessible by teaming up with another student, which will encourage collaboration. For example, a sociology student may need a business major to help with writing a business plan, or a media communications major to make a short educational film to hit a lay audience, or an English major to shape and clarify a message. 

Projects like Weaver-Swartz’s un-essay assignment happen often on AU’s campus. This year, Prof. Kristina Erny’s poetry students completed a collaborative art and poetry project showcased in a Hughes Auditorium as a modified Stations of the Cross exhibit. Dr. Elizabeth Parker’s Literature and Culture class created an archival exhibition in the Kinlaw Library titled “Methodism, Posthumanism, and Frankenstein which invited viewers to consider how religion and science merge and diverge in the question about human nature and the quest for human perfection. 

AU’s faculty are constantly using their creativity to modify coursework and these are just a few ways that they are giving their students direct experience with projects that they can share with others on campus. One of Weaver-Swartz’s students said of the assignment, “Since it can sometimes be difficult to explain sociological theories to non-sociologists, I think these tactile projects help convey foundational theories that support our field. It was helpful to have the creative freedom to convey hard theories.” 

SEARCH seeks to continue supporting faculty and students in their academic goals, sharing the best of AU research with the community. The SEARCH Studio Leaderboard is an extension of the SEARCH Good Work Initiatives program. If you would like to donate a gift to support student project development through the Leaderboard program, please email

Good Work Initiatives