Manning Immersive Learning Experiences Fund provides students with two spring excursions

May 27, 2022

William Peace University (WPU) students excitedly clamored into buses headed to Chapel Hill. On this night, instead of studying textbooks, these students would learn by going to see a play. 

The buses took students from seven different classes to the play “A Wrinkle in Time” at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill performed by the PlayMakers Repertory Company. This immersive learning experience was able to happen thanks to the Manning Immersive Learning Experiences Fund. 

The Manning Immersive Learning Experiences Fund, established by alumna Sara Jo Manning 58 ’60,  provides students with educational and cultural experiences. Previously known as the Manning Chamber Music Series Fund, the fund now focuses on exposing students to new immersive and cultural learning possibilities.

In Spring 2022, the fund provided two immersive opportunities, including seeing the play “A Wrinkle in Time.”

Assistant Professor of English Eliza Laskowski was thrilled when she heard her Study in Poetry Class could attend the play because of Manning. 

“A lot of our students come from backgrounds where they see live theater as something from an elite culture, which makes theater an uncomfortable place for them,” she said. “But anybody who is involved in theater and the arts and wants their work to be universal and available for all. It’s incredible to just be able to open that door for students who have maybe never had an experience like live theater. The stories in live theater are things that everyone can identify with.”

Laskowski saw the impact the play had on her students in poetry. After the performance, she had them reflect on it in poems. One student, Madi Ayscue ’24 wrote:

“As cliche as it seems,

The power of love redeems

any feelings of hate and spite 

that may take over the bright 

minds of the young, dumb boys

Boys who know too much, trading in toys

for to chance to find their dad, who is out lost 

in the universe, no matter the cost.

The power of love wards off all evil.

The evil brain, “It”, the boy’s own devil

to defeat, but the evil took control of his young mind 

leaving his older sister to bind 

them back together once and for all.

In the end, the power of love redeemed all.”

Along with attending “A Wrinkle in Time” this semester, the Manning Immersive Learning Experiences Fund supported students in another way. 

In February 2022, students attended the performance “The Music of Motown” at the North Carolina Symphony as a part of Associate Professor of Musical Theatre & Theatre Matt Hodge’s Arts in Society class. 

Before the concert, Anthony Kelley, the Composer-In-Residence for the NC Symphony, came during the afternoon class and gave a presentation about the history and importance of the Motown concert and why the Symphony found the theme important. Along with this, NC Symphony President Sandi Macdonald and Manning attended the presentation. 

That evening, the class and Manning attended the performance. Afterward, the students wrote a reflection paper discussing their experience as audience members and their interpretations of why the concert theme is important and educational for the Raleigh community beyond just pure entertainment. 

“I sat behind my students during the concert and joyfully observed them smiling, clapping, singing along, and dancing in their seats. It was extremely rewarding to observe as their professor.” Hodge said. “I am very grateful to the Manning Series for providing this opportunity for my students. For many of them, it was their first time attending a symphony concert.”

To support immersive learning opportunities like the ones made possible by the Manning Immersive Learning Experiences Fund for WPU students, visit

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