Ohio Wesleyan is awarding more than $54,800 in fall semester OWU Connection grants to support hands-on learning experiences that help students 'Think Big, Do Good, Go Global, and Get Real.' (Photo by Paul Vernon)

Means and Opportunity

Ohio Wesleyan Awards Over $54,800 in OWU Connection Grants to Support Hands-On Learning

By Cole Hatcher

DELAWARE, Ohio – Ohio Wesleyan University is awarding more than $54,800 in OWU Connection grants this fall to help students attend the nation's largest writers' conference, explore the link between mushrooms and selenium, research antibiotic-resistant bacteria in different climates, investigate sustainable farming in Japan, and examine a teaching method born in Italy.

The university awards multiple rounds of Theory-to-Practice Grants (TPGs) each academic year to support its signature student experience, the OWU Connection. Beginning this fall, all students are required to complete at least OWU Connection experience before graduation that requires them to Think Big (complete undergraduate research), Do Good (participate in community-engaged learning, including student leadership), Go Global (complete off-campus study), or Get Real (explore their future careers through meaningful internships and externships).

Those earning fall 2023 grants and their related OWU Connection projects are:

  • "2024 Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP) Conference & Bookfair," submitted by Amy Butcher, MFA, director of Creative Writing and associate professor of English, with co-applicants Aza Pace, Ph.D., visiting assistant professor of English, and Ohio Wesleyan students Savannah Brantley of Fairborn, Ohio; Ellie Harshbarger of Mason, Ohio; Emily McCullough of Johnstown, Ohio; Colleen McMenamin of Chester, New Jersey; Elliot McMillin of Lancaster, Pennsylvania; Jenna Nahhas of Dayton, Ohio; Alexie Otworth of Centerburg, Ohio; Ronan Thompson of Columbus, Ohio; and Joel Zachary of Los Angeles, California. The group will attend the writers' conference – the largest such event in North America – from Feb. 7-10, 2024, in Kansas City, Missouri. Goals include learning from the conference's several hundred panels led by leading writers, editors, and educators in the field; increasing awareness of the vast professional, post-graduate opportunities available to students; and applying the lessons learned to writing workshops, readings, and the publication of OWU's literary journal, The OWL.
  • "The effects of Selenium and various substrate mixtures on the growth and development of Agaricus bisporus," submitted by Ava Klann of Dublin, Ohio. Klann plans to study the effects of selenium on the growth factors of white button mushrooms. "The reason for conducting this experiment is to study the trace element selenium, which is vital to humans," states Klann, who plans to pursue a doctoral degree in analytical chemistry after graduating from Ohio Wesleyan. Outside research has found that "the selenium content in white button mushrooms are considered antioxidants that can reduce ROS (reactive oxygen species)," Klann states. "There have also been studies done on white button mushrooms that have shown beneficial effects on reducing ROS and the effects of this on neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer's." Klann will work with Kayce Tomcho, Ph.D., assistant professor of Chemistry.
  • "Presence of Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria in Community Spaces in Temperate Climate (Ohio) and Dry Climate (Arizona)," submitted by Mindi Klaus of Marion, Ohio. Klaus plans to swab playground equipment in Ohio and Arizona to "assess whether or not playgrounds are a potential source for the transmission of antibiotic resistance, one of the biggest issues in the medical field." Klaus will travel to Phoenix from Jan. 8-15, 2024, to complete the out-of-state work. Klaus plans to pursue a doctorate in clinical microbiology after graduating from Ohio Wesleyan.
  • "Sustainable Farming and Natural Resource Conservation Practices with Cutting-Edge Technologies," submitted by Katsutoshi "Toshi" Mizuta, Ph.D., assistant professor of Environment and Sustainability. He will collaborate with Laurie Anderson, Ph.D., Morris Professor of Natural Sciences, and students Lily Bechina of Chicago, Illinois; Abby Charlton of Newark, Ohio; Ellie Dodds of Denham Springs, Louisiana; Ava Johnson of Delaware, Ohio; and Auzlynd Katterhenrich of Lancaster, Ohio. They will travel to Japan for eight days in June 2024 to conduct research that "aims to combine the fields of Agriculture and Environmental Sustainability to identify, evaluate, and optimize innovative approaches and technologies for sustainable farming and natural resources conservation practices," Mizuta states. The project is part of a spring semester travel-learning course titled "Sustainable Digital Agriculture."
  • "Bishops in the Birthplace of Reggio Emilia: Illuminating Progressive Pedagogy," submitted by Grace Tippens of Brunswick, Ohio, with co-applicants Jennifer Allen of Westerville, Ohio, and Michele Nobel, Ph.D., assistant professor of Education. The group plans to travel to Italy from May 18-26, 2024, to participate in an international study group that explores the Reggio Emilia approach to teaching. "Through this philosophy," the group states, "children are encouraged to develop their own theories by discovery rather than a structured curriculum."

After students complete their OWU Connection experiences, they often prepare reports and give public presentations based on their objectives and experiences. Learn more at owu.edu/connection.


Founded in 1842, Ohio Wesleyan University is one of the nation's premier liberal arts universities. Located in Delaware, Ohio, the private university offers more than 70 undergraduate majors and competes in 24 NCAA Division III varsity sports. Through its signature experience, the OWU Connection, Ohio Wesleyan teaches students to understand issues from multiple academic perspectives, volunteer in service to others, build a diverse and global perspective, and translate classroom knowledge into real-world experience through internships, research, and other hands-on learning. Ohio Wesleyan is featured in the book "Colleges That Change Lives" and included on the U.S. News & World Report and Princeton Review "Best Colleges" lists. Connect with OWU expert interview sources at owu.edu/experts or learn more at owu.edu.