Penn Arts & Sciences Announces Making a Difference in Global Communities and Klein Family Social Justice Grants

Penn arts & sciences

Penn Arts & Sciences has awarded grants to fifteen projects through the Making a Difference in Global Communities and Klein Family Social Justice initiatives. 

Making a Difference in Global Communities, formerly known as Making a Difference in Diverse Communities, supports multidisciplinary projects led by Arts & Sciences faculty working with students to address global societal challenges, including inequities in race, gender, sexual identity, socioeconomic mobility, education, health care, and political representation, as well as climate change, poverty, and immigration.

The Klein Grants, a new program, are a component of the School’s commitment to contributing to the achievement of social justice through research and teaching, and through community engagement rooted in the arts and sciences.

The awarded projects are led by faculty from across the humanities and social sciences with contributions from scholars from the Graduate School of Education, the Weitzman School of Design, Penn Nursing, Penn Vet, and the Perelman School of Medicine. In addition, the granted projects involve partnerships with community organizations in locations from Philadelphia to the Galápagos Archipelago, South Africa, Cyprus, and others. 

“I’m thrilled to see the range of projects in this class of Making a Difference and Klein awardees,” says Steven J. Fluharty, Dean and Thomas S. Gates, Jr. Professor of Psychology, Pharmacology, and Neuroscience. “The breadth of their geographic reach, intellectual inquiry, and creative production is indicative of the richness of the liberal arts. With projects gathering data on campus, teaching philosophy and math in prisons, and making music in high school classrooms, among other endeavors, each one of these seek to empower learning and grow knowledge at Penn and beyond.”

The 2021 Making a Difference in Global Communities projects are:

Penn-in-Kenya II: Bringing the World’s Premiere Refugee Film School Online, led by Peter Decherney, Professor of English and Cinema & Media Studies. This project, expanding on previous work in Kenya, will partner Penn students with students at the FilmAid Kenya training program at the Kakuma Refugee Camp to design an open online course, a MOOC, that will allow refugees and other at-risk communities around the world access FilmAid’s successful curriculum.

Diverse Global Communities and Local Resource Allocation, led by Hans-Peter Kohler, Frederick J. Warren Professor of Demography and co-director of the Population Aging Research Center. In the past few years, Malawi has seen a surge in the number of officially recognized villages and traditional authorities (local chiefs). This project explores how village size and village heterogeneity shape the provision of local public goods and seeks to understand the policies that drive village-splitting decisions and how fragmentations impact inequality and prosperity. Guy Grossman, Professor of Political Science, is co-director. 

Reducing Inequalities in College Access in Latinx Communities in Philadelphia, led by Emilio Parrado, Dorothy Swaine Thomas Professor of Sociology. This project is a partnership between Penn’s Center for Latin American and Latinx Studies and the Center for Culture, Art, Training, and Education. The two-year project aims to enhance college access and success among Latinx communities in Philadelphia through a college readiness program, student mentoring, conversations between Penn faculty and high school students, and service learning and research opportunities that will bring Penn students into the community.  Amalia Dache of the Graduate School of Education co-directs this project. 

Seeds of Understanding: Prejudice-Reduction via Inter-Cultural Contact, led by Nicholas Sambanis, Presidential Distinguished Professor of Political Science. The project explores whether anti-immigrant bias, prejudice, and hostility can be mitigated via social contact in a learning environment designed to promote inter-cultural understanding. In collaboration with the University of Cyprus and CARITAS, an international NGO providing humanitarian assistance to migrants and refugees, researchers will measure the effects of intergroup contact between natives and refugees/immigrants from different ethno-racial groups in the context of an after-school program targeting school-age children.

Sighting Black Girlhood, led by Deborah Thomas, R. Jean Brownlee Term Professor of Anthropology and Director of the Center for Experimental Ethnography. The project builds on an existing exhibit and portrait campaign called “The First Time I Ever Saw Your Face,” designed to see Black girlhood as a sacred space. It will involve a team-taught course, collaborations with partners in Philadelphia, Jamaica, and South Africa, and a traveling exhibit that will generate research on interventions in the lives of Black girls in those area. Grace Sanders Johnson, Assistant Professor of Africana Studies, and Krystal Strong of the Graduate School of Education co-direct the project. 

LAVA: Laboratorio para apreciar la vida y el ambiente, led by Michael Weisberg, Professor and Chair of Philosophy. Penn researchers have established partnerships in the Galápagos Archipelago through community science initiatives that pair communities and technical experts to co-conceive, plan, execute, analyze, and disseminate scientific research. The grant allows the LAVA team to continue and expand their work, with projects including research on and public engagement with marine life and the health of the aquatic ecosystem, climate change resilience, and a public health survey. Faculty co-directors include Erol Akçay, Associate Professor of Biology; Karen M’Closkey and Keith VanDerSys of the Weitzman School of Design; Jennifer Pinto Martin of Nursing; Carol McLaughlin of the Perelman School of Medicine; and Daniel Beiting of the School of Veterinary Medicine. 

My Philadelphia Climate Story, led by Bethany Wiggin, Associate Professor of Germanic Languages and Literatures and Founding Director of the Penn Program in Environmental Humanities. This project recognizes the urgent need to integrate climate literacy into all levels of education and training. Leaders will develop a network of ten regional climate classrooms linked to one another and to Penn faculty and students to create a diverse collection of student-researched, developed, and authored climate stories. Their genres range from personal micro-essays to field notes, to long-form oral histories, essays, and video documentaries, and they will culminate in a storytelling festival and book which shares the project’s title.

The 2021 Klein Family Social Justice Grant awardees are:

Diversity and Equity Initiative (DivE In) for the Mind Sciences, led by Angela Duckworth, Rosa Lee and Egbert Chang Professor. This project addresses the underrepresentation of students of color, first-generation students, low-income students, and students from the LGBTQ+ community in the mind sciences generally and at the graduate level at Penn. Through one-on-one workshops and mentorships and a comprehensive online program, DivE In aims to remove systemic barriers to higher education. 

Community Assessment of Race-Related Experience of Stress for Black Mothers, led by Morgan K. Hoke, Assistant Professor of Anthropology. Philadelphia exhibits significant racial disparities when it comes to maternal and infant mortality and morbidity. This interdisciplinary project seeks to document the experiences of race-related stress among Black pregnant women in the greater Philadelphia area. Working in collaboration with community organizations and health partners, the project documents women’s experience of stress and the sources of stress relief alongside information on birth outcomes, thereby generating information for policy makers and care providers while also providing resources to study participants and their communities. Jennifer Warren of George Mason University co-directs the project.

Belonging, Daily Emotions, and Academic Performance in First-Generation Students, led by Sarah Jaffee, Professor of Psychology. This project will test how first-generation, low income (FGLI) students’ sense of belonging in college impacts their day-to-day emotional experiences and grades. As the number of FGLI students at Penn increases, it is important to know how these factors intersect and where greater efforts can be made to increase a sense of belonging for all students. Camille Zubrinsky Charles, Walter H. and Leonore C. Annenberg Professor in the Social Sciences, and Laura Perna, Vice Provost for Faculty and GSE Centennial Presidential Professor of Education, co-direct the project. 

West Philadelphia Community Archaeology Project, led by Megan Kassabaum, Associate Professor of Anthropology. In collaboration with People’s Emergency Center, a homeless services provider, this project focuses on community archaeology in Philadelphia’s Mantua, West Powelton, Saunders Park, Belmont, and Mill Creek neighborhoods. Despite gentrification and other changes, material traces of the rich history of these areas persist. The power of community archaeology lies in the ability to use these material traces as entry points into discussions about gentrification, systemic racism, and socioeconomic change and to recover a heritage that may seem lost. Douglas K. Smit, a senior fellow in the Department of Anthropology, is project co-director. 

Prison Teaching Initiative Collaboration, led by Mona Merling, Assistant Professor of Mathematics. Under the scope of this project, mathematics faculty and graduate students contribute directly to prison education by teaching accredited college-level mathematics classes at the South Woods Prison in New Jersey, through the Prison Teaching Initiative (PTI) program housed at Princeton University. In addition to providing instruction to incarcerated students, PTI’s innovative, evidence-based practices offer faculty and graduate students an occasion to improve and expand their teaching. 

Words and Beats: Music Technology and Social Emotional Healing in Philly Schools, led by Carol Muller, Professor of Music. This project collaborates with West Philadelphia High School (WPHS) and the Netter Center for Community Partnerships to create a therapeutically informed, sustainable music technology program at WPHS that can be replicated elsewhere in the city and other urban schools fighting poverty and daily trauma. It strives to work against racial inequality by equipping the music technology studio with additional resources to enable students to produce their own words and music as they gain music technology knowledge, skills, and certification and gives students the space to create stories in a style of their own, supported by family and community. 

Empowering Community Voices and Visions, led by Karen Redrobe, Elliot and Roslyn Jaffe Endowed Professor in Film Studies. This project, a collaboration with Philadelphia’s Scribe Video Center and Penn’s Center for Teaching and Learning, is rooted in the belief that community-based learning spaces are sources of knowledge and experience, and that research universities can empower those spaces through the sharing of resources. The grant will support community-based media projects and the development of anti-racist teaching practices related to socially transformative media projects, and will also train Penn students as community facilitators. 

Philosophy in Prisons and Jails, led by Daniel Wodak, Assistant Professor of Philosophy. This project will help to develop a long-term prison and jail education initiative, including teaching philosophy to adult and juvenile inmates in the Philadelphia region. The goal is to offer academically rigorous education, including credit-bearing courses, and ultimately, a degree-granting program for non-traditional populations. Jennifer Morton, Presidential Penn Compact Associate Professor of Philosophy, and Sigal Ben-Porath of the Graduate School of Education are project co-directors. 

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