$500K Awarded to Faculty Research and New Program Development

Denise Mattson
April 06, 2017

Engaging urban communities in citizen science, challenging stereotypes through black romance novels and recreating old-time radio dramas to enhance 21st century podcasts are among the projects that received grants from a new DePaul awards program. The program awarded $500,000 this year to underwrite faculty research and innovation.

The inaugural awards, created to support faculty scholarship and new program development, went to 97 projects involving 133 faculty from across the university. Preparation is already underway for next year's award season, which will see another half million dollars invested in faculty initiatives.

The new fund is a joint program between Academic Affairs and Faculty Council that supports DePaul's Vision 2018 strategic priorities to empower faculty to realize their potential as teacher-scholars and develop distinctive, high-quality academic programs.

Among the funded proposals are new program initiatives, including online curricula that reach new markets and collaboration with industry or non-profits in Chicago and beyond, as well as awards to fund equipment needs, travel, professional service and student research assistants for new and ongoing faculty scholarship.   

Over a third of the funded projects are collaborations between faculty at DePaul or between faculty and external partners. For example, a collaborative proposal by Dick Farkas, political science professor, and Doris Rusch, an assistant professor of game development, will engage college students at DePaul and the University of Dubrovnik in Croatia in the creation of a computer game to teach Croatian teens about their government. The proposal addresses a lack of civic education in the current Croatian educational system.  When completed, Farkas and Rusch hope that Croatian Ministry of Education will embrace the game and endorse its use to educate all Croatian teens about democracy.

Julie Moody-Freeman's submission, "Happily Ever After: Black Women, Romance and Racial Uplift," will advance a book project by interviewing early authors of African-American romance novels and analyzing the data from a black feminist perspective.  Moody-Freeman is an associate professor of African and Black Diaspora Studies.

"African-American romance fiction provides writers with a medium to employ didactic and political narratives, which challenge pervasive and damaging stereotypes about Black beauty, Black sexuality, and Black families, and in doing so, transforms Black readers' perceptions of themselves," she noted in her application.

Moody-Freeman plans to hire Sarah Scriven, a graduate assistant pursuing a master's in Women and Gender Studies, and provide valuable research experience that will support her plans to enroll in a Ph.D. program.

More than half of the funded projects involve graduate and undergraduate research assistants and many directly serve the Chicago community.  Jim Montgomery, an associate professor of environment science, engages students in his research, which will provide free soil testing to homeowners in four city neighborhoods to identify differences in total lead content between their yards and the parkway. Previous studies have shown lead concentrations as much as 10 times the concentration established by the Environmental Protection Agency limits for play lots. The student interns will analyze the soil and prepare reports for the property owners, gaining valuable professional experience.  

A literacy and technology project envisioned by Roxanne Farwick Owens, associate professor of teacher education, partners with the Chicago Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired and a local high school to develop a classic radio drama episode. Owens notes in her proposal that podcasting has prompted a renewed interest in audio programming.

"Pairing 20th century broadcasts with 21st century podcast technology marries highly popular media from different eras, resulting in an engaging teaching and learning opportunity," according to Owens. The project will teach high school students to produce a radio drama complete with sound effects and original music. In subsequent phases, Owens hopes students can launch a new radio series in a vintage style to air on the Lighthouse's CRIS Radio station.   

Alan Salzenstein, a professor in The Theatre School and School of Music, will use his grant to explore ways to expand the highly exclusive MFA in Arts Leadership program from Chicago's theatre scene to its music organizations. Currently, the program accepts two students annually for an in-depth course of study and full-time work experience at Chicago Shakespeare Theatre. The expansion will add an immersive experience at a professional music institution, such as a local orchestra or opera company.

Meanwhile, six projects received support to develop a range of new online programs. They include an executive track in the MS in Refugee and Forced Migration Studies that would be available to professionals working directly with refugees around the globe, an entrepreneurship program for professionals later in their careers, and an online version of the professional writing minor that will be accessible and tailored to students in professional education programs across the university.

The criteria for the next round of grants and due dates will be announced in the spring.