Research News

Eight ‘Grand Challenges’ award winners embody inquiry, innovation and impact

September 25, 2017

Of 14 applications to the inaugural Grand Challenges Engage initiative, eight finalists are receiving a combined total of $200,000 to carry out the Wisconsin Idea on behalf of the UW-Madison School of Education over the next two years.

While discussing one proposal, a School of Education faculty member who served as an anonymous review panelist noted, “This is cutting edge work that will have a profound impact on teaching and learning.”

The Grand Challenges initiative inspires and facilitates interactions among School of Education faculty, staff and community partners. The goal is to build interdisciplinary teams to identify and design innovative solutions for critical social and scholarly problems across Wisconsin and around the world.

The School of Education's Grand Challenges team hosted its
Engage Poster Fair Aug. 31 in the Education Building's
Morgridge Commons. Here, onlookers examine a poster
representing a recently funded, "CCBCDeepDive Digital
Research Library Pilot Project."
In 2015, Dean Diana Hess sought to build on the innovative research and programs of the School of Education with a new initiative to spark interdisciplinary collaboration.  Hess invited the Wisconsin Collaborative Education Research Network (The Network), under the direction of Jack Jorgensen and Rich Halverson, to design a Grand Challenges initiative that would draw on the expertise of School of Education faculty and staff, and engage campus and community partners in groundbreaking work. In July 2016, Sarah Archibald joined the Network to co-design and co-lead Grand Challenges, which launched in February 2017 when more than 200 faculty, staff and students from across the School attended a kickoff event.

The eight funded projects receiving funding include efforts to: create a digital children’s library to enhance diversity-related scholarship; develop an interactive theatre performance for students through the use of video gaming technology; document the role of language paraprofessionals in supporting schools and immigrant families; empower underserved youth through the performing and fine arts; increase student and family engagement in out-of-school science experiences; support rural special education teachers; examine how immigrant parents and students can engage in educational policy discussions; and explore the efficacy of an arts experience (glassblowing) as a therapeutic intervention for individuals with Parkinson’s disease. Each of these initiatives draws on expertise from across departments and units in the School of Education and most include significant involvement of community partners.

“I am so impressed by the collaboration and innovation the Grand Challenges initiative has sparked across the School of Education,” says Hess. “We are successfully facilitating new partnerships for faculty and staff across departments, with other schools, and with community partners. The fabulous proposals that were submitted for Engage funding show that the Grand Challenges initiative is off to a great start.”

The Grand Challenges at UW-Madison’s School of Education currently supports two competitions: Engage grants (up to $25,000 each); and Transform grants (up to $250,000). Recipients of the 2017-18 Engage grants are listed below. Grants are funded by the UW-Madison Provost’s Office, donors, and the Wisconsin Center for Education Research (WCER). Applications for the Transform grants are due December 15, 2017.

More information about the Engage projects is available on this Grand Challenges web page.

2017-18 UW-Madison School of Education
Grand Challenges Engage Grant Recipients

1. CCBCDeepDive Digital Research Library Pilot Project
KT Horning (Cooperative Children’s Book Center), Brenda Spychalla (MERIT), Miron Livny (Computer Sciences), Lauren Michael (Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery).

2. What the Moon Saw, Interactive Performance Research
Dan Lisowski (Department of Theatre and Drama), Shuxing Fan (Department of Theatre and Drama), Roseann Sheridan (Children’s Theater of Madison), Mike Lawler (Children’s Theater of Madison), Erica   Halverson (Department of Curriculum and Instruction), Kevin Ponto (School of Human Ecology, Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery).

3. UW Community Arts Collaboratory
Kate Corby (Dance Department), Erica Halverson (Department of   Curriculum and Instruction), Faisal Abdu’Allah (Art Department).

4. Glassblowing for Individuals with Parkinson Disease
Kristen Pickett (Department of Kinesiology), Helen Lee (Art Department).

Taucia Gonzalez
Taucia Gonzalez, a faculty member with the Department
of Rehabilitation Psychology and Special Education,
stands next to a poster representing the recently
funded initiative, "Exploring and Realizing the Equitable
Inclusion of Immigrant Parents and Students in
Educational Policy- and Decision-Making." The Grand
Challenges team hosted an Engage Poster Fair Aug. 31
in the Education Building's Morgridge Commons.
5. Exploring and Realizing the Equitable Inclusion of Immigrant Parents and Students in Educational Policy- and Decision-Making
Mariana Pacheco (Department of Curriculum and Instruction), Yang Sao Xiong (Social Work), Taucia Gonzalez (Department of Rehabilitation Psychology and Special Education).

6. Statewide Partnership to Strengthen the Role of School-based Language Paraprofessionals in Latino Student and Immigrant Family Engagement
Carmen Valdez (Department of Counseling Psychology), Leslie Orrantia (Community Relations), Nelse Grundvig (Wisconsin Center for Education Research).

7. Curiosity Practice: A powerful new lever for science engagement across Wisconsin
Leema Berland (Department of Curriculum and Instruction), Rosemary Russ (Department of Curriculum and Instruction), Noah Weeth Feinstein (Department of Curriculum and Instruction).

8. Developing a culturally sensitive, holistic, and sustainable health promotion program for El Salvadorans with chronic illness and disability
David Rosenthal (Department of Rehabilitation Psychology and Special Education), Aydin Bal (Department of Rehabilitation Psychology and Special Education), Barbara Alvarado (Madison Arcatao Sister City), Ian Davies (Edgewood College), Alberto Vargas (Latin American, Caribbean, and Iberian Studies).