ELKINS - Eight Davis & Elkins College students have been selected to embark on a groundbreaking journey as the first group of residents of the new Morrison-Novakovic Center for Faith and Public Policy. Opening with the start of the 2016-2017 academic year, the Center will give students the opportunity to expand learning beyond the classroom by examining issues that affect society as a whole.
The College was able to acquire the three-story house adjacent to the Gatehouse through the generosity of Board of Trustees Chair June Myles. Trustee and alumnus David Morrison, ’79, along with his wife, Phebe Novakovic, are underwriting rehabilitation of the 75-year-old house. Renovations will include a new roof, windows, shutters, paint and landscaping.
The Center will provide an open space where students, faculty, visiting scholars and others can explore issues of faith, and social and public policy. Programming will develop around five broad themes: faith traditions, public policy, ethics, sustainability and service. The students will also engage in local community service projects.
“Words cannot express how grateful Phebe and I are for the opportunity to see this new venture through to whatever heights and dreams can be reached,” said Morrison from their home in McLean, Va.
The first floor will provide a home for the Center’s program – with a living room/lounge, seminar/dining room, library and kitchen. The second floor will provide living space for six upper-class women students, while the space over the garage can accommodate two upper-class men.
The resident students will assist with the leadership of the Center, including conferences and visiting speakers, under the guidance of Dr. Bryan Wagoner, assistant professor of philosophy and religious studies who will serve as director of the center, and Benefield-Vick Chaplain the Rev. Kevin Starcher.
The students represent a diversity of interests and fields of study.
Brittany Bolinger, a double major in environmental science and sustainability studies from Vienna, W.Va., plans to share her academic experiences with the residents. She hopes to teach others how to integrate sustainability practices including recycling, composting and gardening. “I want to show them ways to live in a house without using more resources than you need.” Bolinger is a member of GreenWorks!.
Elise Cardot, an exercise science major from Petersburg, W.Va., says the house will provide a great opportunity for people to come together and talk. “I like the deep conversations, and I’m really excited to bring a different perspective, listen to others and collaborate on ideas.” She is a member of chapel leadership, women’s lacrosse, assists with The Icehouse renovation project and Debris Free D&E, and will serve as Student Assembly vice president beginning this fall.
Sierra Carney, a double major in political science and English from Charleston, W.Va., hopes to bring a humanitarian view to the discussion groups. She sees the Center as an opportunity to expand both her education and perspective on life. “My thesis next year is focused around how religion/faith interacts with how people view major institutions such as politics, marriage, education, etc., and it will be interesting to see what our speakers and guests have to say on this topic.” She is vice president of Polis and secretary of the Calliduz Debate Team.
Emily Coffman is a resident of Elkins with a double major in political science, and religion and philosophy. She is looking forward to discussions on faith and public policy. “We get to be the ones to define the Center, be part of a new direction and what frames this new ideology.” She is a member of the Calliduz Debate Team, president of Polis and secretary of Student Assembly.
Shirley Fox, a psychology and human services major from Elkins, wants to bring a positive presence to house. “I love having conversations with people, getting out of my comfort zone and doing something new and fun.” Her interests center on performing arts and religion. On campus, she is involved in theatre productions. Off campus, she is active in The Alliance Church and serves as a Young Life leader at Elkins High School.
Mackinzie Smith, a biology major from Renick, W.Va., hopes programs at the Center will enhance her learning experience and help her make professional connections. “I like the idea of being part of the beginning of a new era on campus and of being able to talk about the big ideas that are beyond what we learn in class.” She is the worship leader for weekly chapel service, a member of the cross country, track and tennis teams, a pianist, a member of the Davis & Elkins College Concert Choir and performs with other small singing groups.
Thabo Madzimure, a pre-med student with a double major in biology and chemistry, currently lives in Kerens, W.Va., after growing up in Johannesburg, South Africa. He hopes discussions and programs at the Center raise awareness of various social issues. “As a society we stand on each other’s shoulders, so what affects me has an effect on my neighbor.” He is a member of the Senator soccer team and Calliduz Debate Team.
Dakota Peak, a political science major from Berkeley Springs, W.Va., wants to share with the group his background in music and interest in politics. “I like how we can bring together ideas for debate.” He is the guitarist for Appalachian Ensemble and a member of Appalachian Music and Dance Club.
“I am thrilled with your intellect, your diversity of interests, gifts and passions, and I look forward to working with you in the coming year,” Wagoner said in his congratulatory announcement to the students.
Related to the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Davis & Elkins College is located in Elkins, 2 hours east of Charleston, 3 hours south of Pittsburgh and 4 hours west of Washington, D.C. For more information, please visit the College website at www.dewv.edu or call 304-637-1243.
Photo Caption: The first group of residents at the new Morrison-Novakovic Center for Faith and Public Policy at Davis & Elkins College are, from left are, front row, Sierra Carney, Elise Cardot, Brittany Bolinger and Dakota Peak; back row, Dr. Bryan Wagoner, Shirley Fox, Mackinzie Smith and Emily Coffman. Not pictured is Thabo Madzimure.