University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee Campus



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Center for PAInT at USF receives continued funding to promote diversity, equity and inclusion

For the second consecutive year, the University of South Florida Foundation has received $30,000 in separate donations to support educational programming that combines creative learning and classroom instruction with concepts that promote diversity, equity and inclusion through arts-integration.

carol and tom beeler

Carol and Tom Beeler

The contributions will benefit the Beeler Scholars’ IDEIL Program, named for philanthropists Tom and Carol Beeler of Sarasota. USF’s Florida Center for Partnerships in Arts-Integrated Teaching (Center for PAInT), based on the Sarasota-Manatee campus, administers the program.

The donations – comprised of $10,000 from Carol Beeler and $10,000 each from the Gulf Coast Community Foundation and Community Foundation of Sarasota County – will ensure the continuation of IDEIL after a successful rollout in 2020. IDEIL stands for Incorporate Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Life skills.

“We are very grateful to the Community Foundation of Sarasota County, Gulf Coast Community Foundation and to Carol and Tom Beeler for making a difference in the lives of students,” said Marrie Neumer, associate vice president of advancement.

The Center for PAInT oversees the program with cooperation from colleges, schools and arts organizations, including the Circus Arts Conservatory, Florida Studio Theatre, New College of Florida, Ringling College of Art and Design, State College of Florida, the Visible Men Academy charter school, Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe and Booker Promise, a college-readiness initiative at Booker High School in Sarasota.

“The goal of this program is to build a more diverse, equitable and inclusive community on the Suncoast through the arts,” said Denise Davis-Cotton, director of the Center for PAInT. “The Beelers committed themselves to this valuable program and I am thrilled to see this initiative continue to receive ongoing support.”

Denise Davis-Cotton

Denise Davis-Cotton

A “train-the-trainers” program, IDEIL provides an online course for arts organization leaders, teachers, college instructors and others who, after completing the program, are encouraged to share its content with their host organizations. IDEIL’s aim is to connect ideas related to diversity, equity, inclusion and life skills with arts-integrated teaching, an instructional method that combines the arts with academics.

Davis-Cotton developed the instructional program with assistance from Bernadette Bennett, a social studies program specialist at the Sarasota County School District, Michael Shelton, former executive director of the nonprofit Embracing Our Differences, and Carol Beeler. 

“The Beeler program empowers teaching artists and educators to engage in equity work that strengthens social cohesion, promotes shared values and celebrates the heritage, histories and cultural identities of an inclusive community,” Davis-Cotton said. “So far, we are seeing a tremendous response from the program participants.”

After a successful first year, which focused on creating the program’s content, curriculum and evaluation process, the course is now being offered to arts organizations, colleges and schools.

The Beelers, longtime supporters of arts and education, contacted Davis-Cotton about their idea in late 2019 before the passing of Tom Beeler earlier this year.

“Tom and I have long supported the idea that our community and country needs to engage in substantive and courageous dialogue around issues of race, and we believe that this program helps to move that dialogue forward in a meaningful and respectful way while also helping young people to understand more about the world and to embrace others of different races and backgrounds,” Carol Beeler said. “I am pleased to again support the IDEIL program and see it attract continued support from the larger Sarasota-Manatee community.” 

Kirsten Russell, vice president of community impact at the Community Foundation of Sarasota County, said the organization’s continued funding of IDEIL is consistent with its mission and values.

“Through philanthropy, the Beelers are ensuring that their commitment to young people continues to build careers and a more equitable community, now and in the future,” Russell said. “For students across our region, these are timeless gifts to inspire and support the next generation.”

Similarly, Kirstin Fulkerson, senior vice president for philanthropy at the Gulf Coast Community Foundation, said the IDEIL program was representative of GCCF’s goals.

“This is a wonderful collaboration among foundations, philanthropists, higher education and nonprofits that Gulf Coast fully supports,” she said.

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