Carlow University Receives $173,000 Grant from Benedum Foundation

Carlow University has received a $173,000 grant from the Benedum Foundation for the purpose of establishing career pathways for education majors in out-of-school learning environments.

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Grant Will Be Used to Identify Career Pathways for Education Majors in Out of School Learning Environments

Pittsburgh, Pa. – Carlow University has received a $173,000 grant from the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation that will uncover new career opportunities for education majors in settings outside the formal school structure.

“Out of school learning environments play a critically important role in the lives of children and the communities in which they reside,” said Keely Baronak, EdD, chair of the Education Department at Carlow University.  “Through this grant, we will be able to identify key educator competencies and learning outcomes with community organizations that can play an important role in children learning, but are usually found outside the formal school structure.”

The out-of-school learning environments can be in museums, science centers, local theaters, arts organizations, youth ministry programs, after-school and recreation center programming, and libraries, just to name a few of the non-profit organizations that can benefit. Baronak believes any organization that seeks to engage children and young adults will be able to benefit from the knowledge gained from the research done with this grant.

“The learning specialist positions in these organizations require a deep understanding of student engagement, learning, and cognition,” said Baronak. “In addition, these positions require other specialized skills, but these skills have not been identified along a continuum of competencies.”

Through this grant, Carlow will develop partnerships with key consultants in the community to develop the first undergraduate experiential learning/out-of-school learning undergraduate and graduate major.  One such partner is the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh.

“The Children’s Museum is thrilled to partner on this grant with Carlow University,” said Jane Werner, executive director of the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh.  “We see this as the beginning of a conversation between educators about what works for learners in different environments.”

The Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh is the primary consultant in this project and will work to design the curricular components with the faculty and staff at Carlow.

“There is a burgeoning field of non-formal learning with an emphasis in maker-space and experiential learning for children,” said Baronak.  “Until now, these opportunities have existed without a clear connection to majors in higher education or identified competencies to align with curricular development.”

Carlow will clarify those connections by creating undergraduate and graduate academic programs in conjunction with community partners.  In this program, students will spend the majority of their academic major immersed in authentic and real-world internships and practicums.  Staff and administrators within the community organizations will serve as mentors or coaches, and, as part of the grant, Carlow will develop a guide to support these mentor-student relationships.

“The design for this program is unique to any other known teacher education program in Pennsylvania or West Virginia,” said Baronak.  “The emphasis on learner and educator competencies in non-formal/out-of-school learning focuses attention on innovative teaching practices informed by research, and we are thankful that the Benedum Foundation recognized the uniqueness of this proposal.”

For more information about undergraduate and graduate opportunities in education, please visit or call (412) 578-6059.


About the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation

The Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation has served West Virginia and Southwestern Pennsylvania since it was established in 1944 by Michael and Sarah Benedum. Grants are made to support specific initiatives in the areas of Education, Economic Development, Health and Human Services, and Community Development.

About Carlow University

Carlow is a private, co-educational, Catholic university located in the heart of Pittsburgh’s “Eds, Meds, and Tech” district. Founded by the Sisters of Mercy, Carlow’s graduates, curricula, and partnerships reflect its strong commitment to social justice; ethical, forward-thinking and responsible leadership; and service to the community that has a meaningful impact. Undergraduate and graduate degrees are offered in three colleges: Health and Wellness, Leadership and Social Change, and Learning and Innovation. Carlow graduates are in demand for their professional expertise, in fields ranging from nursing, the sciences, and perfusion technology to counseling, education, and forensic accounting; their entrepreneurial spirit and creative mindset; and their ability to manage change.  Carlow’s 13 athletic teams are known as the Celtics, a reflection of the university’s Irish heritage and roots.

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