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VCU Community Engagement News

Center for Community Engagement and Impact

Initiative included two unique grant programs – REAL Challenge Grants and Community-Engaged Research Impact Grants

Twelve experiential learning projects from a diverse range of VCU schools/colleges have been awarded funding through the 2021 REAL Grants initiative. Five of these projects will receive support from the REAL Challenge Grants program, while the remaining seven will be supported by Community-Engaged Research (CEnR) Impact Grants.

While this marks the second year of the REAL Challenge Grants initiative, this iteration saw an increased collaboration with Community-Engaged Research (CEnR) in the Office of Institutional Equity, Effectiveness and Success (IES). 

“We are excited to be able to provide support once again for some of the outstanding experiential learning projects happening around campus,” Erin Webster Garrett, assistant vice provost for REAL, said. “The selection committee and I were overwhelmed by the caliber of proposals that came in – narrowing it down to our final list was nearly impossible.  

“Equally as exciting was our new partnership with CEnR on this initiative. This collaboration has already paid dividends for both the academic units as well as the university at large. A huge thank you is owed to Heidi Crapol and Amanda Hall for their proposal that we work together. Together, we can do more for more students, and that is always the goal.” 

Real Challenge Grants

The five projects selected for REAL Challenge Grant funding are listed below; a full description of each can be found on the REAL website

  • VCU Multilingual Ambassador Program, Jenna Lenhardt (co-funded by CEnR)
  • Practical Digital Health Applications, Denise Emminger
  • Snead Transfers Achieving REAL Success (STARS) Program, Hawley Smyth and Cait Burns
  • The Queerantine Archive – Documenting LGBTQIA2+ Survival and Resilience During COVID-19, B. Ethan M. Coston
  • Cultivating Children’s Resilience through Community-based Art Education, Yiwen Wei (co-funded by CEnR)

CEnR Grants

The seven projects selected for Community-Engaged Research Impact Grant funding are listed below; a full description can be found on the CEnR webpage.

  • Public Relations Research Partnership with the Sacred Heart Center: For a Thriving Latino Community, Baobao Song, Ph.D.
  • Strategic Sourcing for Food Security, David Berdish
  • Textile Waste Not Want Not: Creating Value by Diversion, Kimberly Guthrie
  • Arts-Based Methods as a Culturally Responsive Approach to Understanding the Experiences of Black Mothers, Nicole Corley, Ph.D.
  • Enhancing Student Empathy and Civic Engagement in a Community-Engaged Pediatric Asthma Research Program, Robin Everhart, Ph.D.
  • Community-engaged research in the biomedical engineering classroom, Anathea Pepperl, Ph.D.
  • Cultivating children’s resilience through community-based art education, Yi Wen Wei, Ph.D.

“The projects we selected for funding truly exemplify the VCU mission and academic experience,” Webster Garrett said. “There is a thread of resiliency, rebuilding and recovery that runs through these proposals that I believe is exactly what VCU and our connected communities need right now. These programs will benefit many cohorts of students, both present and future, as well as our region as whole, so we are proud to be able to support them.” 

About the REAL Challenge Grants

This year’s call for REAL Challenge Grants proposals centered around the theme of the “triple-threat candidate.” Preference was given to proposals who advanced experiential learning at VCU in at least one of the “triple-threat” areas:

  • Extensive work experience through an academically-linked internship, co-op, or job
  • Engagement in extended academic projects
  • Significant progress towards an industry-recognized credential

The application process opened in February and ran through April 15.

About the CEnR Impact Grants

The inaugural CEnR Impact Grant was developed in partnership with VCU Real and the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program. Preference was given to proposals that advanced innovative CEnR methods and evaluation tools into a pre-existing undergraduate course or co-curricular learning experiences and aimed to support students’ social mobility and career readiness through exposure to high-impact educational practices addressing issues of equity and justice. 

The application process opened in February and ran through April 1.Categories Community-Engaged Research
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