"Penny a Point" at Concordia College

Allison Beebe

College students will do any number of things to motivate themselves during finals week. Some will listen to inspirational music while they study, others will reward themselves with an evening off after a long day of writing, and some will de-activate their facebook accounts until exams are over, in hopes of eliminating distractions. Religion Professor Elna Solvang of Concordia College (Moorhead, MN) provided a different source of inspiration for her students. Dr. Solvang donated one cent to the ELCA Malaria Campaign for every point her students earned on their final exams!

She calls this "Penny a Point", and she has supported various organizations on past exams. In the fall of 2013, "Penny a Point" went to ELCA World Hunger through ELCA Good Gifts. For the spring 2014 semester, Dr. Solvang chose the ELCA Malaria Campaign. "I have traveled to Tanzania so I know something of the danger of malaria and the challenges of delivering health care and education," she says.

On the study guide for the exam, Dr. Solvang wrote the following:

On this test your knowledge will make a difference for others.  I will sponsor each of you a penny for each point you earn on the final and donate the money to the Malaria Campaign of the ELCA.  Malaria is preventable and treatable but it claims the life of a child every 60 seconds. Nine out of ten of those deaths are on the continent of Africa. The campaign funds country-based efforts to expand treatment, educate for better health care, and support water treatment projects and other preventive interventions.  Do well!

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Then, on the exam she wrote:

Malaria claims the life of a child every 60 seconds. Nine out of ten of those deaths are in Africa. I am sponsoring each of you on your exam for a penny a point and donating the money to the Malaria Campaign of the ELCA.  Thanks for your efforts and the difference it makes for others.

After turning in the grades, Dr. Solvang put this sign on her door, so students could know how their test scores translated to dollars donated:

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Dr. Solvang says, "Doing well (or poorly) on a test does not equate to doing well in the world but it is an opportunity to draw a connection between the topics we cover and the work we do in class, and the needs and opportunities of the world we live in. It is also an opportunity to see how religious institutions can make a positive and collaborative difference in the world."

Thank you, Dr. Solvang for encouraging your students to draw those important connections between their coursework and the world around them. Thanks, also, for supporting the ELCA Malaria Campaign in this creative way. We appreciate the many ways you inform and educate your students!