2019 Making a Difference in Diverse Communities Grants Announced

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Penn Arts & Sciences has announced the 2019 funded projects for Making a Difference in Diverse Communities, an initiative that encourages faculty to explore innovative ways of applying their expertise. Through a combination of coursework, research, and service, the projects address issues of diversity and inequality at the local, national, and international level.

The awarded researchers come from the humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences and represent the potential for liberal arts faculty to establish local and global partnerships and lead collaborative projects with scholars from diverse fields including nursing, medicine, and design.

Steven J. Fluharty, Dean and Thomas S. Gates, Jr. Professor of Psychology, Pharmacology, and Neuroscience, says, “These projects are evidence of how deeply Arts & Sciences researchers are invested in issues that matter to people every day, from access to clean water to childhood education and the state of democracy. I’m inspired by the work that our students and faculty do and the impact it has on communities here in Philadelphia and around the world.”

The grant recipients are:

  • The Alice Paul Center Transgender, Non-Binary, and Gender Nonconforming Oral History Archive: This project, led by Kathleen Brown, David Boies Professor of History and Director of the Alice Paul Center for Research on Gender, Sexuality, and Women, aims to center the voices of trans people by recording their stories using oral history methods. These histories will provide a valuable resource for scholars, community practitioners, and others within trans and cis communities. In addition to the creation of this unique archive, the project will include undergraduate courses, research assistantships and fellowships, an open-access website, and community outreach. Anne Esacove, Associate Director of the Alice Paul Center, co-directs this project.
  • Cognitive Decline with Aging in Diverse Chilean Communities and in Comparison with Mexico and the U.S.: This project, led by Irma Elo, Professor of Sociology, addresses the paucity of information about aging and cognitive decline in low- and middle-income countries. Researchers will collaborate with Penn students and colleagues in South and Central America to gather data about Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias in Chilean communities with diverse ethic identities and socioeconomic statuses. This data will be compared with what is known about cognitive decline in U.S. and Mexico and allow researchers to adapt and test cognitive assessments for Chilean populations. Jere Behrman, William R. Kenan Jr. Professor of Economics, co-directs the project along with faculty from Penn Nursing and the Perelman School of Medicine.
    Memory and Identity in Afro-Brazilian Archives: Led by Michael Hanchard, Professor of Africana Studies, this project will catalogue two private archives containing over 20,000 documents related to Afro-Brazilian activists and pro-democracy movements from the 1960s to the 1980s. The collection of primary materials is valuable for understanding Brazil’s recent past, in addition to acting as a repository of the transnational networks of students, community organizers, and political leaders that connected Brazil to activism around the world. The materials, currently kept in precarious conditions of private homes and offices, will be preserved and digitized, creating resources for scholars of democracy and Afro-Brazilian history. The project will also involve an undergraduate course and collaboration with Brazilian scholars and organizations.  Melissa Teixeira, Assistant Professor of History, and Roquinaldo Ferreira, Henry Charles Lea Professor of History, are project co-directors.
    Life of Water: Community Resilience through Science and Art Immersion: Led by Byron Sherwood, Senior Fellow in the Department of Biology, this project partners with public schools in West Philadelphia and schools surrounding the Guanacaste Conservation Area in Costa Rica. Penn students will work with teachers and students in Philadelphia and Costa Rica to address local environmental challenges and create immersive educational experiences. The project provides necessary educational resources to underserved communities and allows Penn students to address real-world challenges and practice the fundamentals of research and science communication. Junhyong Kim, Patricia M. Williams Term Professor of Biology, and Howard Neukrug, Professor of Practice in the Department of Earth and Environmental Science and Executive Director of the Water Center at Penn, are co-directors.
    Understanding the Effects of Mexico’s Prospera Program on Reducing Inequalities in Schooling and Academic Achievements in Diverse Communities: Led by Petra Todd, Edmund J. and Louise W. Kahn Term Professor of Economics, this project studies Prospera, a conditional cash transfer program that offers monetary compensation, tied to school attendance, to poor families in an effort to reduce current and future inequality. This project will assemble comprehensive data to estimate long-term impacts on student learning and achievement, as well as estimate impact by community characteristics include socioeconomic status, ethnicity, gender, and urbanization. Jere Behrman, William R. Kenan Jr. Professor of Economics, co-directs this project.
    Building Community Partnerships in the Galápagos Archipelago: Led by Michael Weisberg, Professor of Philosophy, this project supports the Galápagos Education and Research Alliance (GERA), a partnership between Penn faculty and the people of the Galápagos, particularly the community on San Cristobal Island. GERA projects address issues where ecology, climate change, poverty, and educational inequality intersect. This funding supports the continuation and expansion of GERA projects, including establishing partnerships on Floreana Island, creating educational programs about potable water, developing public health fieldwork opportunities for students, and establishing accurate coastal maps, among other initiatives. Faculty co-directors are from the School of Arts & Sciences, Penn Nursing, and the Stuart Weitzman School of Design.

Making a Difference in Diverse Communities is a key component of the School’s commitment to driving global change and advancing research and teaching around issues of diversity, inequality, and human well-being.

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