Featured Dean's Innovation Grant Stories
Read the featured stories and highlights from our current and past College of Letters, Arts and Sciences (CLAS) Dean’s Innovation grant recipients.
Keywords: grants, funding, climate change, design
The GITA Collection at the Auraria Library
The Gender Institute for Teaching and advocacy partnered with the Auraria Library in order to produce a digital archive open to the public, through the Auraria Library Digital Collections Repository. This interdisciplinary endeavor sought to delve further into archival materials to produce new histories of Colorado feminist and queer organizing from the 1970s until today.
The Gender Institute for Teaching and Advocacy (GITA) @ MSU Denver digital collection houses archival materials collected by GITA, previously the Institute for Women’s Studies and Services (IWSS). Materials document feminist activism at MSU Denver and on Auraria Campus, in addition to events, posters, letters, papers and documents regarding gender, women’s and sexualities studies and services offered to students affected by sexism and other forms of oppression. Materials range from the 1970s until today. By making this work accessible GITA recognizes the decades of feminist, queer and anti-racist work the Institute, generations of students, the university and local and global communities have led. In preserving the memory, we hope that many more generations find inspiration in this archive to document, analyze, strategize, and continue the work to end sexism and all forms of oppression.
- GITA’s archive team employed 4 student workers in 2022-2023. One of the student workers was paid thanks to the CLAS Innovation Grant. Students scanned 1641 documents, which were uploaded to GITA’s SharePoint site and the Auraria Libraries’ Digital Collection. Plans are in development to feature additional documents on the GITA website.
- In March 2023, the team presented the 30+1 Bridge Speakers Exhibit at GITA, which was designed by GITA’s lead student archivist, with the collaboration of the three other students from the archive team, GITA student workers and student volunteers.
- GITA publicized a call for scholars to apply to an archive mini grant to popularize the archive. We circulated the call through personal contacts to other scholars and networks in the field of Gender, women’s and sexuality studies. The circulation of the call spread the word on the existence of this archive, GITA and MSU Denver, as a site with a history of a long engagement with Gender, women’s and sexuality studies and feminist and queer activism. The winner, a PhD candidate in Communications Studies at CU Boulder (Mikayla Torres) will do a presentation on their work at MSU Denver in November 2023.
- The project team will present at the the National Women’s Studies in Baltimore, MD, on October 28, 2023.
Arkansas River Valley Field Experience
The 2022-2023 Dean’s Innovation Grant was used to bring awareness to MSU Denver students of the rich diverse history and cultural heritage of southeast Colorado. Often the focus of Colorado history is focused on Denver and the mountains, but not of the state’s Arkansas River Valley. The grant enabled MSU Denver Senior Lecturer of History Kevin Rucker to travel and research to the region’s historic sites to create the MSU Denver Maymester class “Colorado History: Arkansas River Valley Field Experience” and MSU Denver student internship programs at Bent’s Old Fort Historic Site and Boggsville National Historic Site. The cultural and history of the region encompasses Native Americans, Spanish conquistadors and settlements, Santa Fe Trail, fur trade, Pueblo and steel industry, Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad, Sand Creek Massacre, ranchers and farmers, and World War II Japanese-American internment facility at Camp Amache.
The grant award enabled students to attend the five day Arkansas River Valley Field Experience, June 6 – 10, with lodging and museum fees covered by the award. Students provided their own transportation and to bring spouses and children. The field experience began at Fort El Pueblo and Pueblo Heritage Museum then traveled to Rocky Ford and spend the night at La Junta motel. The second day the tour traveled to Comanche National Grasslands’ Vogel Canyon, then to Bent’s Old Fort where students were treated to a barbecue and spend the night with bedrolls in the fort’s actual rooms. Third day students toured La Junta’s Koshare Indian Museum and Otero County History Museum, Las Animas’ Bent County History Museum before arriving at Historic Boggsville where they were greeted with a barbecue and spend the night with bedrolls in the two-story 1867 Prowers ranch house. The fourth day had students travel further east down the Arkansas River to visit Fort Lyon, Bent’s New Fort Historic Site, Lamar’s Big Timbers Museum and Granada’s Camp Amache Japanese-American Internment Camp before retiring for the evening in Lamar Motel. The final day the tour visited Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site before returning to Denver.
While researching for this class two new internship programs were created at Bent’s Old Fort National Historic Site and Boggsville National Historic Site. During spring of 2023 had one MSU Denver student at Bent’s Old Fort and one student at Historic Boggsville as an inaugural pilot program where they performed site maintenance, acted as docents and learned hands-on historic archival research.
The Maymester “Colorado History: Arkansas River Valley Field Experience” class will be offered again in 2024 as well as internship programs at Bent’s Old Fort and Boggsville.
The Pyla-Koutsopetria Archaeological Project
The 2022-2023 Dean’s Innovation Grant allowed team members to investigate the Hellenistic period (323-31 BC) of the Vigla site in Cyprus which falls under the umbrella of the Pyla-Koutsopetria Archaeological Project (PKAP). PKAP is a two-pronged program focusing on undergraduate teaching and original research. The primary educational focus will be giving MSU Denver undergraduates an opportunity to expand their historical awareness by actively studying abroad in a safe and accommodating Mediterranean country and receive historical and archaeological training through the departments of History and Anthropology of MSU Denver. It’s a collaboration with undergraduate students from multiple institutions (Reed College, Boston University, the University of South Carolina, the University of Michigan).
Read more about this project in the MSU Denver RED Story:
Prior to 2022, CLAS Dean’s mini-grants were provided to faculty to support their scholarly research, undergraduate research and teaching which strengthened faculty and student engagement and ultimately, improved our programs and offerings.
2021 Mini-Grant Stories
Carbon Storage in a Changing Climate is an ongoing project started in 2015 by Dr. Sarah Schliemann (Senior Lecturer of Environmental Science). The project is focused on the role alpine tundra soil plays in the global carbon cycle. Due to the tundra’s consistently low temperature, soil in the ecosystem has historically stored large amounts of carbon, in the form of organic matter. However, with a changing climate, this ecosystem may switch from a carbon sink to a carbon source and release greenhouse gasses to the atmosphere.
Over the last 8 years, the project has engaged over 50 students in field and lab work. In the spring of 2022, we used the CLAS mini-grant to assess the levels of nitrogen and phosphorus in the soil as these nutrients can influence the soil’s ability to retain carbon. This lab work engaged 3 MSU Denver undergraduate students, including Charis Glatthar who is the first blind student to major in Environmental Science. Charis’ work on the project was featured in an MSU Denver RED story in the spring of 2022. This project is currently finishing up and the team expects to publish one or more journal articles in 2023.
Supported in part by CLAS mini-grant funding, the Design for the Common Good International Exhibition was successfully hosted at MSU Denver’s Center for Visual Art from Jan 14 – Mar 19, 2022. Curated and organized by Professor Lisa M. Abendroth (Communication Design Program, Department of Art), the exhibition celebrates public interest design, a practice that champions diversity, equity, and inclusion through community-based approaches to the design of buildings, environments, products, and systems. The exhibition showcases 30 projects representing six continents and 22 countries. Projects were from curated from within the five international design organizations that comprise the Design for the Common Good Network (DCGN) and also includes a selection of regional solutions situated in and around the U.S. Rocky Mountain west. With hands-on student involvement in exhibition design plus its catalog, a total of three undergraduate courses contributed to exhibition deliverables during the Fall 2021 semester accounting for the active engagement of 32 students. An embodiment of the principles embedded in the exhibition theme, student participation in the process further illustrates how community-based actions can create positive impacts through inclusive approaches to design.
The exhibition continues via support from a National Endowment for the Arts, Grants for Arts Projects – Design grant that is supporting, in part, its ability to travel. The prospectus outlines the traveling exhibition opportunity as expressions of interest are being accepted to determine next destinations in 2023. Additionally, the work lives on in a digital archive presented on the DCGN exhibition website.
The Ch’orti’ Project is an ongoing language documentation effort at MSU, with high involvement from students. Our work is oriented toward developing scholarly and practical Ch’orti’ (Mayan) language materials, with the primary goal of supporting the language-revitalization needs of the Ch’orti’ community in Guatemala. Through building connections with community members and scholars, the project provides meaningful and impactful experiences for current and future students. The project was founded by director Dr. Robin Quizar (Emeritus Professor of Linguistics) in 2013 and is co-led by Dr. Rich Sandoval (Assistant Professor of Anthropology). It is run in collaboration with MSU Anthropology’s Ethnography Lab and lab director Dr. Rebecca Forgash (Professor of Anthropology), with additional collaboration and student support provided by Jill Scott (Laboratory Coordinator for Sociology and Anthropology). Starting in Fall 2021, our work has focused on a Ch’orti’ Project website. This has involved some students working on website building and design while others have worked on its Ch’orti’ language content. In Spring 2022, we used the CLAS Dean’s Mini-Grant Funds to host Yaxun B’alam, a Ch’orti’ speaker with technical linguistics training. Yaxun met with project members virtually each week to discuss linguistic analysis and provide insider perspective on Ch’orti’ content being prepared for the website. While the website is almost ready to go live, it will also be a work in progress for years to come. As such, we plan to invite Yaxun to continue collaborating with us on this initiative.