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 to address complex public issues through community-informed projects. The program’s vision statement calls on it to emphasize “converting knowledge into readily usable forms for immediate applications.” The one-year awards for 2020 are:
- “UMass College-in-Prison Initiative and Humanities Pilot Course,” with principal investigator Laura Ciolkowski, a senior lecturerin Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies. Community partners include the Franklin County Sheriff’s Department, Hampden County Sheriff’s Department and the Hampshire County Jail and House of Corrections. The $14,735 award will support Ciolkowski in developing a college-in-prisonproject that includes credit-based college courses taught inside prisons and jails and leading toward a B.A. degree. She will begin with a humanities course in Fall 2020 and will focus in the spring semester on researching and writing a journal article that “outlines a solid case for humanities education in prison.” She says over 2 million people now live in prisonsand jails in the United States – more per capita than any other country in the world. Many experts now look to post-secondary education as a key to mitigating the harm of the criminal justice system and reducing recidivism, she adds. “It is in this climate, especially receptive at this moment to work in this area.”
- “CRECE! Creating Robust Environment to Cultivate Educators,” with principal investigator Elizabeth McEneaney, associate professor of Teacher Education and Curriculum, and senior lecturer Bev Bell. Community partners are Holyoke Public Schools (HPC) and Holyoke Community College. This $14,869 award will support McEneaney and Bell in responding to a request from Holyoke Public Schools to partner in developing a “Grow Your Own Teachers” program, to encourage high schoolers to become teachers in their home communities. The two hope it will be a first step toward creating a “Future Teachers Club” co-facilitated by a HPS teacher and a UMass doctoral student that will offer “a rich array of experiences to further student interest in becoming teachers,” dual enrollment in an education course at UMass, joint meetings/events and campus visits to both campuses.
- “Collaboration between University and Municipality to Decrease Economic and Environmental Burden of Sludge Disposal,” with principal investigator Chul Park, professor of Civil and Environmental Engineerin and community partners the Town of Athol and Athol Wastewater Treatment Plant. The $15,000 grant will support a pilotbioprocess “to decrease the sludge production and significantly reducing financial and environmental impacts that current methods create.” The town-campus collaboration will address the fact that most municipal wastewater treatment plants use more than 50% of their operational budget to handle sludge, the byproduct of wastewater treatment, by trucking it away for landfill or incineration. This is only very costly but also heavily regulated with high environmental impact, Park and colleagues point out.
- “Engineering the Gap – Building Bridges for Students from Holyoke/Springfield to UMass STEM,” with principal investigator Assistant Dean Paula Rees, College of Engineering. Community partners include Mass 4H Youth Development Program of Springfield/Holyoke, Holyoke Boys and Girls Club and Holyoke High School. The $10,686 award will support establishing three new outreach programs to expand and deepen support of the K-12 community partners, provide professional development for engineering graduate students, provide “a rich platform for faculty broader impacts work,” and to build a pipeline of diverse students from partner communities to engineering. Rees and colleagues plan to establish a graduate student “Outreach Platoon,” a Sam the Minuteman/Minutewoman Engin-Brigade, and a Young Investigators Program. The programs will align with others such as the NSF Research Traineeship program, faculty research grants and alumni support.