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St. Lawrence Awards Spring 2015 Innovation Grants

St. Lawrence University announced the Spring 2015 Innovation Grant award recipients on Tuesday, which include an intergroup dialogue project, ecologically sustainable landscape signage, LCD screens for Sullivan Student Center conference rooms, workshops to learn how to computer coding and a grammar video project for first-year students.

Supported by the President’s Office, the Innovation Grants program began in 2010 to encourage initiatives that will improve the quality of life at St. Lawrence through curricular, co-curricular or campus life projects and provide a foundation for St. Lawrence’s future. Students, faculty and staff are eligible for the grants.

“The successful grants all have the potential to offer transformative, positive change to campus life,” said Lisa Cania, vice president for community and employee relations.

Committee members included Cania; Judith DeGroat, associate professor of history; Taylor Castator ’15; Elaine White, executive secretary for Student Life; and Jeremy Freeman, director of Admissions.

Below are the winning proposals:

Intergroup Dialogue Project

  • 
Mary Jane Smith, associate professor of history and coordinator of African American Studies
  • Valerie Lehr, vice president and dean for academic affairs and professor of government

Facilitating dialog across campus has been identified by the Presidential Commission on Diversity as a method for embedding diversity and inclusion into St. Lawrence's culture. The Diversity Committee will implement an Intergroup Dialogue program to train participants in leading peer-to-peer “dialogues across difference” in our community. Students would initially facilitate dialogues under the mentorship of a faculty member or residential life staff member who has been trained in Intergroup Dialogue. After successfully completing training, students would facilitate peer-to-peer dialogues. Intergroup Dialogue content and methods will also be included in a number of academic courses.

Student Center LCD Screens


  • R. Christopher DiMezzo ’18

One or two of the three main Sullivan Student Center conference rooms (rooms 242, 333 and 336) will be enhanced with LCD screens. The project will include a hook-up in the center of the tables to connect to student or employee devices. These screens would also be beneficial to students, faculty and staff wishing to present material and collaborate in the conference rooms.

SLU Codes Project

  • Whitni Watkins, technical services and systems librarian
  • John LaShomb, web developer and systems administrator
  • Eric Williams-Bergen, director of digital initiatives

The SLU Codes project will include a series at least seven technical workshops designed to provide opportunities for students, staff, faculty and interested community members to learn the basics of programming and coding. Sessions will improve understanding of programming in everyday life as well as introducing the audience to programming for fun through hobby projects. Two large events will take place at the end of each semester as part of the technical workshops series. The structure of the large events will include multi-level concurrent coding sessions on different topics ranging in skill level, selected student presentations and a demonstration table for small student projects. There will then be five smaller sessions, which will focus on a specific skill stemming from the larger events, such as HTML manipulation, utilizing the command line and building with Raspberry Pi kits.

Ecologically Sustainable Landscape Signage


  • Sara Ashpole, assistant professor of environmental studies

This project will install six educational and interactive signs and kiosks at the Environmental Studies Ecologically Sustainable Landscape (ESL) site along the newly constructed Saddlemire Trail. Students involved in designing the signs are enrolled in the Ecological Restoration course (ENVS 367). The design drafts of potential interpretive signs submitted by students will be reviewed, edited and approved by the Environmental Studies faculty before seeking approval by the Signage Committee. The signs will educate in a meaningful and memorable way that promotes critical thinking and enjoyment as they travel through the ESL property. These signs will contribute to the Living Laboratory used by the Department of Environmental Studies by connecting the natural, cultural and historical aspects of the site to visitors.

Microlearning Grammar Video Project


  • Jennifer Hansen, associate dean of the First-Year Program and professor of philosophy
  • Debbie Bishop, administrative secretary of the First-Year Program

The grant will assist in producing 10, 60- to 90-second videos that build core grammatical competencies for our first-year students, such as comma usage, passive language, subordinate clauses or precise verb. First-Year Program (FYP) faculty continually struggle with how to effectively teach English grammar, including punctuation, syntax and citation. Consequently, FYP instructors persistently search for innovative lessons or techniques to engage students. The microlearning approach is a promising direction, as it increases student motivation, active engagement, internalization of lesson and sense of accomplishment with custom built training modules paired with assessments written by former LSAT and GMAT writers. To determine which 10 grammatical lessons are top priority, the FYP office staff will survey current FYP faculty and first-year students.

Find out how to apply for Innovation Grants.