Twelve projects funded through GIANT

3/26/2021 11:04:47 AM

Kimberly Belser

The Institute for Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Access (IDEA Institute) awarded 12 grants through its Grassroots Initiatives to Address Needs Together (GIANT) program, launching eight new Phase 1 projects and continuing four Phase 2 projects. The goal of the GIANT program is to “enable teams of students, postdocs, staff, and faculty to propose and implement research-based initiatives in the areas of inclusion, diversity, equity, and access.”

IDEA Institute Director and Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering Lynford Goddard said, “GIANT is a unique program that empowers people in Grainger Engineering to make transformative impact by working together with many populations. GIANT provides both funding and mentorship for teams to implement initiatives, study how and why the initiatives are effective, and disseminate best practices.”
Phase 1 Projects
-    Federico Cifuentes-Urtubey, Paola Baldaguez Medina, Julie Lorenzo from the Departments of Computer Science, Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, and Civil Engineering will manage the “Peer Mentorship in a Virtual University Setting”, through which they will work with the Morrill Engineering Program (MEP) and the Society of Hispanic Professionals in Engineering (SHPE). The program will “guide undergraduates from underrepresented groups through graduate school pathways by pairing them with a graduate student mentor in their field.”
-    André Schleife from the Department of Materials Science and Engineering (MatSE) will lead the MatSE Afterschool Academy with Professor Cecília Leal, and a group of graduate and undergraduate students. They will work to develop an online program which shares information pertaining to the field of MatSE with juniors from under-resourced high schools. The high school students will also learn of future career options in the field. The program will also prepare students to pursue MatSE in higher education through applying to the University’s MatSE program.
-    Hongye Liu from the Department of Computer Science will collaborate with the Departments of Industrial and Enterprise Systems in Engineering, Bioengineering, and Statistics to lead the GIANT “Applying a theoretical understanding of text-Based Learning modalities” project, which will work to meet the needs of students with disabilities through the creation of new course modalities. The team will “study the preferred characteristics and usage of text-based materials from the student and instructor perspective” to develop ClassTranscribe ebooks.
-    Casey Smith, Assistant Director of Instructional Support from the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, will lead the “REACH Projector: Remote Embodiment for Augmented Collaborative Help” project with researchers from the Department of Curriculum and Instruction. The project seeks to address the need for collaborative “support mechanisms in our community” through outreach activities which will allow users to “talk and share gestures around a common artifact while in separate locations.”
-    Patrick Snyder from the Department of Physics will lead “Rising Scholars@Illinois – a High School Physics Mentorship Program”, a program formed in a collaboration between the Society for Women in Physics (SWIP) and the Society of Physics Students (SPS). The goal of the online program is to provide “high-quality physics and mathematics mentoring and tutoring services at no cost to high school students who need it most.”
-    Joan Brown, Academic Advisor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE), will manage the “Leadership and Excellence in Engineering Pathways” (LEEP) project, a collaborative project which will include ECE, and the Departments of Aerospace Engineering,  Industrial and Enterprise Systems Engineering, Mechanical Science and Engineering, and Nuclear Plasma Radiological Engineering. LEEP will “provide students that identify as women, African American/Black, Hispanic/Latino(a), and/or Native American/Alaskan Native (women+AHN) with tools and resources needed to succeed as an undergraduate researcher and develop the skills to become a strong candidate for graduate studies.”
-    Tiffani Williams from the Department of Computer Science is in charge of the “Designing an Inclusive Language Framework that Cultivates Inclusive Cultures for Black Students, Faculty, and Staff” project. With the support of the GIANT grant, the project will focus on exploring the “perceptions of Black students, faculty, and staff about inclusive language used in engineering spaces and develop an inclusive language framework to foster inclusive cultures to support the recruitment and retention of Black engineers.”
-    Lara Hebert, program coordinator of Worldwide Youth in Science and Engineering (WYSE), will manage the WYSE Trail Blazers initiative in collaboration with students in WYSE, Women in Engineering (WIE), and MEP. WYSE Summer Camps serve hundreds of students each summer, a growing proportion of which receives Trail Blazer scholarships for campers from underrepresented populations in STEM. This project seeks to study how the summer camps and special programming for scholarship recipients builds community and influences decisions to pursue STEM careers.
Phase 2 Projects
-    Hebert will also manage the “Identifying Myths of Access for underrepresented Groups IN Engineering: Apprenticeship Builds Community (IMAGINE ABC)” project, which will work with the families of students between Grades 5 through 8 to “demystify engineering and barriers to STEM careers.” The program was created through a collaboration between WYSE, as well as DREAAM (Driven to Reach Excellence and Academic Achievement in Males) and UNCC (Urbana Neighborhood Connections Center), community partners of the University.  
-    Samantha Rubeck and Jazmin Aguilar-Romero, graduate students from the Departments of Physics and Chemistry, will manage “Allies in STEM”, a project developed through a collaboration between GradSWE (the graduate student community of the Society of Women Engineering), SHPE, and the Society for the Advancement of Chicano/ Hispanic and Native Americans in the Sciences (SACNAS). Six workshops and a discussion series will be held throughout the duration of the program, which will “provide a space to challenge and understand unearned advantages in STEM, educate participants about common challenges for minoritized students, and inspire participants to become better allies.”
-    Holly Golecki from the Department of Bioengineering will manage the “Building Confidence and Engagement through Undergraduate Research” project, which will offer research opportunities to undergraduate students to “increase their awareness of opportunities in STEM fields and their desire to pursue advanced degrees.” The project plans to continue providing research opportunities and training to University students in the Academic Redshirt in Science and Engineering (ARISE) program and to extend this to students affiliated with the National Society of Black Engineering (NSBE) and SHPE. The research projects will help students to “build technical competencies and confidence in engineering.”
-    Sharlene Denos from the Department of Physics will lead the “Cena  y Ciencias: A Model for Family-Centered Outreach in Underserved Communities” project. In collaboration with the University, local school districts, SACNAS, SHPE, the project will connect Latinx scientists with families of the program “to engage, in Spanish, with youth and their families in monthly science events.”