Four 2021 Public Service Endowment Grants Awarded

Four projects proposed by faculty members have been awarded Public Service Endowment Grants from a special campus fund designed to boost outreach, extend the campus resources into the surrounding community and enhance the public service mission of the university.

Administered by the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research and Engagement, the awards support collaborations between community partners and university scholars and professional staff to address complex public issues through community-engaged projects. The program’s mission statement calls on it to “ Enhance the mission of UMass Amherst as a Carnegie classified Engaged Research University.” The one-year awards for 2021 are:

“Documenting Black History in the Connecticut Valley,” with principal investigator Marla Miller, professor of history, and community partner Dennis Picard, president of the Pioneer Valley History Network.  The $10,810 award will support Miller and Picard in developing a local history research project that will provide technical training and research resources in response to queries from local history researchers on how to better understand, document and interpret local histories and legacies of enslavement and freedom. This project addresses a pressing need via partnerships across campus units and the Pioneer Valley History Network (PVHN), a consortium of nearly fifty historical societies and small museums that is a “resource for local history organizations in western Massachusetts—and the public they serve.” It will culminate in a capstone event to share results and catalyze new, collaborative interpretation.


“Indigenous Culture, Foodways, and Climate Action,” led by Kathy Wicks, director of sustainability for UMass Auxiliary Enterprises and community partner Neftali Duran, of Indigenous Collective (I-Collective). The $14,728 award will support Wicks and Duran in working with UMass Dining and UMass Libraries to create a Culinary Residency focused on culinary training, menu development, student engagement and resource development. Staff training and hands-on learning will engage students around Indigenous Foodways and Climate Action and the collaborative creation of an interactive, digital, open access cookbook. I-Collective members will lead trainings, workshops, and share stories and recipes. Embracing campus values of diversity and inclusion, Indigenous voices will be elevated, inspiring reconnection to our sources of food and relationship to the earth. Outcomes include expanding UMass Dining menu to include authentic Indigenous cuisine, increasing knowledge of the UMass student body about the connection between food and global and planetary health, and creation of an open access collection of Indigenous stories, recipes, and climate action opportunities that can be continually updated. As a UMass Dining Residency, this project integrates academics with campus life and shapes climate action through everyday choices and behaviors that transcend any one student's academic career.


“Supporting Parents Raising Bilingual Children,” led by Megan Gross, assistant professor of communication disorders and community partner Nayroby Rosa-Soriano, community engagement director for OneHolyoke Community Development Corporation. The $13,287 award will support a collaborative project, which seeks to support parents in the Flats neighborhood of Holyoke, Mass. who are raising young bilingual children, including those with special education needs. The project includes monthly parent-facilitated discussions about raising bilingual children with quarterly workshops by outside experts addressing parent-requested topics. While parents participate, their young children will be engaged in bilingual language and literacy activities led by UMass students and local youth. The goals are to learn about parent perspectives and priorities and increase parent engagement and self-efficacy in supporting their children’s dual-language learning, to provide bilingual language and emergent literacy opportunities for local children without access to other preschool opportunities, and to promote mentoring relationships between young children and youth in Holyoke and with UMass students. This project addresses the identified needs of parents for neighborhood-based access to resources to advocate for their child’s education and support for the bilingual skills of children, particularly those with disabilities.


“Bridging the Gap to College during Covid-19: A rapid-response intervention,” with principal investigator Sade Bonilla, assistant professor of educational policy, research and administration, and community partner Shannon Marmon, executive director of ReadyCT. This $14,459 award will support a collaborative partnership between the Center for Student Success Research (CSSR) at UMass Amherst, and ReadyCT, a nonprofit in Connecticut that delivers programming to marginalized high school students to ensure they are prepared for college and/or fulfilling careers. For this collaboration, ReadyCT will deliver Student 5.0 - a rapid-response remote intervention designed to meet the needs of vulnerable students during the Covid-19 pandemic. The novel program features intensive peer mentorship to support college access and success through goal-setting, assistance with applications, the enrollment process (e.g., registration, FAFSA completion etc.), and online skills-building coursework. CSSR will conduct a robust evaluation of Student 5.0, and assist in improving program delivery and quality. This project a) addresses the pressing social problem of unequal access to college, b) extends the academic literature on interventions that promote college access and success, and c) supports a new university-community partnership.