School of Education receives $2.36 million donation

A $2.36 million donation broke new ground for the University of Miami’s School of Education.

This money helps fund the Erwin and Barbara Mautner Chair in Community Well-Being, the school’s first endowed chair. Dean Isaac Prilleltensky will be the first recipient of this gift.

“It’s an honor,” Prilleltensky said. “I think we were the only school at UM who didn’t have a single endowed chair. We’ve been around for eight years. It was about time.”

The donor, Mautner, is an alumna of the school and a former librarian. Prilleltensky said her lawyer mentioned the School of Education when she was looking into giving a philanthropic donation.

Prilleltensky said he met with her a few times to discuss donation ideas and when he brought up the subject of creating history by being the first endowed chair, she jumped on it.

With the money, Prilleltensky said his research would go to promote his Miami SPEC project, which stands for strength, prevention, empowerment and community change.

Scot Evans, an assistant professor at the school, has worked closely with Prilleltensky and the SPEC project.

He said the project concentrates on partnering with community organizations and using action research, which means they not only do academic studies, but they also try to put their research into action and see the change through.

The first objective that Miami SPEC promotes is the strengths of disadvantaged people.

The second is the prevention of psychological and social problems,  “like teenage pregnancy, drug abuse or child abuse or school dropouts,” Prilleltensky said.

The third point is empowerment. “Empowerment of community members who experience discrimination and poverty.”

The fourth thing the project promotes is community change.

“I’m interested in the how the social environment leads people to the promotion of health and wellness or the promotion of illness,” he said.

Evans said they are working closely with five community organizations and they all say they can see change.

“Ultimately, they believe their impact on the community will be more positive as a result of the SPEC project,” he said.

Prilleltensky has had grants before to help promote his research, but nothing like this endowed chair.

“It was the recognition of the good work taking place at the School of Education,” he said.