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Halfacre Named Special Advisor to President for Community Engagement

Furman University President Elizabeth Davis has announced that Dr. Angela Halfacre has been named Special Advisor to the President for Community Engagement, strengthening a renewed emphasis on Furman’s role in Greenville and South Carolina.

Halfacre, a Professor of Political Science and Earth and Environmental Sciences who has also served since 2008 as Director of the University’s David E. Shi Center for Sustainability, will lead the development of a comprehensive new community engagement initiative designed to catalyze community partnerships, provide an inventory of existing community-facing initiatives at Furman, and coordinate existing and new programs that match community needs with the expertise of Furman faculty, staff, students, and alumni. Her work will build on and complement existing community engagement efforts, with a particular focus on academic partnerships including faculty and student research.

She began her new duties Feb. 1 and will continue in the role through the completion of the planning. Planning is expected to take no more than two years.

“Furman has benefited enormously from its close ties to Greenville and its emergence as one of the nation’s best small cities,” President Davis said. “We’ve been a part of the community for more than 150 years, and we take our responsibility as a collaborative partner working to improve Greenville’s economy and quality of life very seriously. Angela already has a terrific record of community engagement as Director of the Shi Center, and I’m confident that she will do an outstanding job in this new role.”

Greenville Mayor Knox White said the new initiative will continue to strengthen the Greenville-Furman bond that dates back to 1850 when the university relocated to the banks of the Reedy River from Winnsboro, S.C.

“Furman has made many contributions to our civic life, and its long history as an anchor institution for Greenville has been a point of pride for the City and the region,” White said.  “We look forward to an even stronger partnership that will support economic development, revitalize our neighborhoods, and enhance the quality of life in our city.”

Minor M. Shaw, Chair of The Duke Endowment board and an active civic leader in Greenville, said, “I’m enthusiastic about the potential for Furman to play a greater role in Greenville as well as in the broader region.”

Shaw, who is also President of the Micco LLC, Chair of the Daniel-Mickel Foundation, and a board member of the Hollingsworth Funds along with her service in many other organizations dedicated to the region, added, “Furman faculty and students can bring fresh ideas and energy into the mix, and help us to convene other innovative thinkers and experts for the benefit of this community. At the same time, Greenville can really help students learn what effective civic leadership looks like.”

“I’m excited and inspired by this unique opportunity,” Dr. Halfacre said. “While a private university, Furman has always stressed a public mission. Its history of intellectual, social, and cultural contributions has been strong, and as Greenville continues to flourish we believe we have a vital role to play in supporting community well-being.”

Dr. Halfacre noted that Furman students benefit from community-based learning opportunities through exposure to community leaders whose knowledge, experience, and achievements are models for “getting things done” in the world.

“This diverse community of experts exposes students to expansive definitions of talent, an appreciation for complexity, and the value of collaborative effort,” she said. “Those are critical skills that complement and deepen the academic preparation we provide.”

In return, Furman will seek to expand the depth and breadth of its contributions to Greenville in areas where it has demonstrated strengths: research, education, innovation, and the expertise of thought leaders to help address persistent challenges.

“To be sure, Furman students and faculty also engage in projects across the state, the nation, and around the world,” Dr. Halfacre said. “Just as Greenville has become an international city, Furman’s efforts in the local community can be applied in other locations, and things we learn elsewhere can be brought back to Greenville for the benefit of this community.”

These projects range from research and internship opportunities around the globe to volunteer service that each week sees hundreds of Furman students volunteering through the Heller Service Corps for an array of social service agencies, including public schools, in the Greenville region. Furman faculty conduct community-based research for issues ranging from hunger and homelessness to public safety and community health, while community-facing centers such as The Riley Institute (which claims nearly 1,500 state leaders as alumni of its acclaimed Diversity Leadership Initiative) and the Shi Center provide robust public programming and partnerships with Greenville organizations such as Greenville Forward, LiveWell Greenville, United Way of Greenville, the Greenville County School District, Greenville Chamber of Commerce, Ten at the Top, and Upstate Forever. The University’s continuing education division enrolls more than 2,000 senior adults in its award-winning Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, while Bridges to a Brighter Future has supported nearly 300 high school students in Greenville County to matriculate to college. And each year, Furman’s visual and performing arts series welcome community members to the campus for a diversity of cultural offerings.

“It will be important to expand our visibility in downtown Greenville and to develop partnerships that are both distinctive and sustainable over time,” President Davis said. “Those are important aspects of what we strive to teach our students, preparing them for lives of meaning and purpose and inspiring their engagement with their communities—while they are students and after they graduate.”

During Halfacre’s tenure as the Shi Center’s first director, Furman has been widely recognized for its commitment to sustainability. The Shi Center, whose mission is to promote interdisciplinary research and teaching in support of sustainability on campus and in the greater community, has emphasized higher education and community partnerships since its inception. Under Halfacre’s leadership the Shi Center has worked with hundreds of partners, primarily in Greenville and across the state and region, on sustainability-related projects. The University recently earned a STARS Gold Rating from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education in recognition of its sustainability achievements, including applied research connecting campus and the local community.

Halfacre, a 1992 Furman graduate from Clemson, is the author of A Delicate Balance: Constructing a Conservation Culture in the South Carolina Lowcountry, which examines the Lowcountry’s powerful conservation culture (including critical community partnerships to improve quality of life in South Carolina) and how it represents a model for the nation.

For more information, contact Furman’s News and Media Relations office at 864-294-3107.

Last updated August 5, 2022
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Clinton Colmenares
News & Media Relations Director