2019-2020 Improvement Grants

These grants, ranging from $250 to $2,500, are intended to support projects that help build community and create a more inclusive campus. The funded projects include book clubs, workshops, trainings, art exhibits, events and more.

Making Art Yours

Karen Kurczynski, Art History (Faculty)
With Amanda Herman and Loretta Yarlow, UMCA (Staff), and Sid Ferreira, SACL (Staff)
This project aims to bring small groups of students into the University Museum of Contemporary Art to have a facilitated, personal conversation about art, accessibility, and identity. Groups of ca. 10 students each will share a casual dinner, provide critical commentary on the museum displays in regard to their clarity and inclusivity, and then share a small-group dialogue with myself and my co-facilitator, Sid Ferreira from Student Affairs. Two sessions will take place in the Fall (on Oct. 29 and Nov. 20, respectively), and two more in the Spring. Amanda Herman, Education Curator at the UMCA, is also helping facilitate this project, which is co-sponsored by the History of Art and Architecture Department and the UMCA.

Caring with a Purpose: Raising Awareness of Diversity in Healthcare

Heather Hamilton PhD, RN, Nursing (Faculty)
With Lisa Sommers, Communication Disorders (Faculty) and UMass Nursing Students Kyla Aldred, Lauren Barry, Megan Coughlan, Annie Dolan, Mia Ford,  Dylan Ha, Anna Kemp, Shauna Mahan, Jess McHugh,Erin Murphy,Clarissa Norton,Olivia Olsen,  Daniella Puche, Renee Ribecca,Colin Ryder,Samvit Pisal, Serena Silva and Maddi Terry

UMass Nursing students will work to spread awareness of disparities in healthcare, to make patient care more purposeful and effective for all, regardless of the patient’s background. “Caring with a Purpose,” focuses on educating future healthcare practitioners on the differences among patients, communicating about the drawbacks of subconscious biases, and ultimately the strides needed to diminish unequal medical treatment.

Using Feature Films to Open Up Conversations About Race in America—Past and Present

Benita J. Barnes, College of Education (Faculty)
With Sarah Fefer and Jennifer Randall, College of Education (Faculty)

While movies that deal with issues of race, class, ethnicity, gender, religion, and sexual orientation can serve as tools for creating opportunities for conversations, discussions, and learning, these conversations rarely happen organically. The purpose of this film series is to provide a forum for the College of Education community—faculty, staff, students—to come together to have conversations and achieve a greater understanding of difference. Over the course of the Fall, 2019 Semester, three movies will be viewed and discussed.

SPHHS Faculty Round Table

Nathaniel Whitmal, SPHHS (Faculty)
With Daniel Gerber, SPHHS (Faculty)

This project revives an informal seminar series in SPHHS, in which faculty proposed articles or videos to read/watch and discuss together. We will hold three lunch meetings to review articles and videos addressing topics of diversity and inclusion, including privilege and climate, the influence of stereotypes, and respectful communication.  Discussions will relate the media content to personal experiences in the classroom and workplace.

Sustainable Food Security for Students

Laura Hancock, OEB (Graduate Student)
With Eli Briskin, Student

This project consists of two main parts. First, it creates a “Food Justice Symposium” to provide awareness & education about food insecurity, and informs people about campus resources, especially student led initiatives. Second, it expands the capacity and efforts of the Student Food Pantry (SFP) to include needed fresh, healthy, and/or hot‐meal options. In both parts, the focus is on student to‐student education and student-led resources.

Voices of UMass

Peggy M. Woods and Anne Bello, Writing Center (Staff)
With Anna Floch Arcello and Anna Rita Napoleone, Writing Center (Staff)

We all have stories about our lives and sharing our stories is what connects us to one another. This groundbreaking six-week writing workshop invites UMass students and workers to explore and develop their voices, together, with a goal of sharing back their creative work with the campus community and beyond. Participants will identify a specific event or moment from their lives and develop it into a short piece to share with others. Class meetings will be a mix of writing exercises and activities to generate ideas and will include time for writing, and receiving feedback in a safe, supportive, non-judgmental setting. Participants will have the option of sharing their pieces in multiple ways: a digital recording, a public reading at the Building Bridges Showcase, or a memoir piece to be published in a collection to be distributed to the campus community, etc. Class time will also include the recording or editing of pieces. The final class meeting will be a celebration of our stories!

Picturing the Future of STEM

Nessim Watson CNS (Staff)
With Elizabeth Connor, CNS (Faculty), Tracie Gibson, CNS (Faculty), Erika Dawson-Head, CICS (Staff), and Paula Rees, Engineering (Faculty)

This project will create photo galleries of individuals and small groups of STEM students—from the College of Engineering, the College of Information and Computer Sciences, and the College of Natural Science—who are engaged in research or other experiential learning. These galleries will showcase the work and contributions of First-generation students and students from URM populations, to help create greater feelings of belonging and connection.

Women and Gender Non-binary People’s Leadership: Identity & Radical Self Care

Dee Boyle-Clapp, HFA (Staff), Staff
With Terre Vandale, HFA (Staff) and Hind Mari CWC (Staff)

This collaborative project, created by the Arts Extension Service and Women of Color Leadership Network (WOCLN) and faculty from the Music Department, will host a series of leadership development workshops, open to women and non‐binary folks, cultivating leadership qualities through identity expression and radical self‐care. The workshop series builds on the commonalities between artmaking and leadership, and offers tools to resist the glass ceiling that keeps women from attaining the leadership roles that men hold. The grant helps support to cultivate leadership qualities through a range of artistic or expressive modalities.

Books-to-Movies: Banned Books on Film Series

Ilse Allen, Libraries - Mt Ida (Staff)
With Laurence Mini and , Libraries - Mt Ida (Staff), and Margaret Felis, Residential Life – Mt Ida (Staff)

This series serves to connect students, staff, and faculty on the Mount Ida Campus through collectively reading a number of banned books, followed by discussion sessions about several related films throughout the 2019‐2020 AY. Student participants will join academic staff and faculty in small groups to discuss the major themes and issues around the titles, with in‐depth discussions of the film and books, the “banned” or “objectionable” materials, and how these books figure into discussions related to free speech and social justice themes related to their banned status.

Migration through Film & Facilitation Series

Leyla Keough, Institute of Diversity Sciences (Staff)
With Rebecca Hamlin and Scott Blinder, Migration Studies Working Group (Faculty), Kirsten Helmer, Center for Teaching and Learning (Faculty)

The purpose of this film and facilitation series is to promote better understanding and empathy for migrants, and to build and practice our skill at speaking about contentious issues across multiple perspectives. Facilitations will involve questioning the film’s representation of migration and migrants, compared to participants’ views and scholarship. We will explore how geography, citizenship, class, gender, sexuality, age, ethnicity, race and religion feature in these representations and in our community’s understandings. We see this as an opportunity for our campus community to practice speaking with dignity and respect to issues of inclusion and equity.

Narrative - UMass

Theodore Eagle (Student)
With Sophia Eytel (Student)

With the goal of eventually establishing a Narrative 4 chapter at UMass, select students and faculty will participate in an initial story exchange and will subsequently be trained as facilitators. The trained UMass facilitators will then be equipped with the necessary skills to facilitate story exchanges on campus to establish deep interpersonal connections across difference. There will be a core group of Narrative 4 facilitators who will eventually conduct an exchange every month and have monthly facilitator meetings.

International Graduate Students in STEM Initiative

Jennifer McDermott, Psychology (Faculty)
With Erika Dawson-Head, CICS (Staff), and Paula Rees, Engineering (Faculty)

This project aims to promote cohesion in support for international graduate students in STEM across CNS, COE and CICS and facilitate the ability for students to advocate through a formal and sustainable organization (e.g. a graduate student organization, GSO). This will be accomplished in two ways: first, to pilot a novel peer mentoring structure to connect more organically with international graduate students across CNS, COE and CICS in order to explore the creation of a formal self‐advocacy structure for international graduate students in STEM (i.e. a graduate student organization, GSO). Second, to convene key faculty/administrators across CNS, COE and CISC to develop best practices for supporting international graduate students in STEM.

Creating Judgement-Free Interactions Using Improvisation: Building Flexibility and Acceptance into our Work Day

Nancy Stewart, UMass Innovation Institute (Staff)
With Chris Burnett (Staff) and Martina Nieswandt (Faculty), Research and Engagement

Through improvisation training for staff and faculty from the different departments of Research & Engagement (R&E), the Institute for Applied Life Sciences (IALS), and Business Manager participants will learn how to meet change and challenges at work with greater flexibility and to practice tools that help to reframe changes at work – to handle them as judgment-free events rather than obstacles.

Passion For Justice Conference

Linell Kate Peralta (Student)
With Sonali Chigurupati (Student), and Victoria Ung (Student)  

Named after the 1993 documentary of our center’s namesake, “Yuri Kochiyama: A Passion for Justice,” this conference will bring together students, alumni, faculty and staff for a day long Saturday conference and luncheon in order to work together to build cross campus partnerships and dialogues on issues that are important to fostering a better campus climate. The goal of this conference is to have conversations across intersectional identities and issues. We will outreach to campus agencies and RSOs to host a series of workshops for participants to attend and learn from.

Yuri Kochiyama was an activist who was famed for working across differences and supporting efforts of not only Asian Americans, but also the efforts of African Americans during the Civil Rights Movement. As such, we hope to create an annual conference for the YKCC with the same values of our namesake.

Drummers as Trendsetters and the Legacy of Max Roach

Yvonne Mendez, Fine Arts Center (Staff)
This conversation will focus on drummers making real music, and paying homage to the renowned drummer and former UMass faculty member Max Roach. His life and legacy will be presented in two panels: the first on October 23rd will focus on his musical artistry and will feature Terri Lyne Carrington, Makaya McCraven (protege and UMass alumni), and Sonia Sanchez. The second panel will take place on October 24th and will feature Maxine Roach (musician and daughter of Max Roach), Herb Boyd, Sonia Sanchez, and a concert by Teri Lyne Carrington.

Library to Promote Interdepartmental Experiences

Erin Flanagan, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (Staff)
With Erica Light, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (Staff) and Mariana Brena (Graduate Student)

By making improvements to the elevator lobby space on the 10th floor of LGRT outside the BMB department’s office wing, this project will invite individual reflection and to elicit friendly and meaningful interactions between members of communities that have few intentional spaces and opportunities to interact, and will introduce BMB undergraduates, graduate students, staff, and faculty, and members of neighboring departments in LGRT to each other, to the space, and to the intentions set for the space. This area is being developed into a communal work space, and the grant award will be used to purchase books, including Blindspot and What If I Say The Wrong Thing, for a communal public library. An inaugural event will introduce BMB community members and neighbors to the further developed space and a culminating event to wrap up the readings of the year.