Spring 2018 Innovation Grants

Now in its eighth year, the Innovation Grants program (funded by the Mellon Foundation and then the France-Merrick Foundation) has inspired so many wonderful programs on campus.  Take a moment, if you can, to review some of the past proposals as we celebrate the successful Spring 2018 proposals.

Encouraging citizen journalism, providing educational resources for outdoor experiences, piloting use of recycled plastics, and improving access to faculty research projects are the concepts that the committee found to be most well designed and innovative from among the eleven proposals. The committee members (In-Sil Yoo, Hana Bushara’21, Elaine White, Jeremy Freeman, and Lisa Cania) loved the variety of ideas and chose these four to have the optimum effect on campus. 

Next academic year is likely to be the last year of our program. If you’ve ever had a great idea and thought you might write a proposal, we hope you will consider next year’s opportunities!

St. Lawrence Citizen Journalism Incubator (SLCJI)

John Collins (Project Coordinator)
Erika Barthelmess
Nicole Eigbrett ‘14
Martha Foley
Kalie Garwood
Juraj Kittler
Aune Nuyttens ‘20

The St. Lawrence Citizen Journalism Incubator (SLCJI) is a new initiative designed to establish St. Lawrence University as a regional hub for citizen journalism: the idea that ordinary people can act as journalists by gathering and sharing information about what is happening in the world. Led by several local organizations that have a professional journalism or citizen journalism-related focus (Weave News, The Hill News, Nature Up North, and North Country Public Radio), the SLCJI will provide training and support to 25 students and other aspiring citizen journalists in our campus and local community, selected through a competitive application process. Applicants will be asked to propose a specific citizen journalism project that can be completed within six months and that has the potential to make a significant community impact. Participants will attend a full-day training event in September 2018 featuring a plenary workshop led by an outside facilitator; several concurrent sessions devoted to specific approaches to citizen journalism work (e.g., local investigative reporting, citizen science research, multimedia storytelling); a second plenary workshop focusing on strategies for publication, dissemination, and community engagement; and a networking reception. In April 2019 the SLCJI will continue with a half-day symposium at which participants will showcase their work, reflect on the project’s successes, and identify areas for future improvement and possible expansion.

Naturalist Packs

Gwen Cunningham
Emlyn Crocker
Melissa Burchard

With the support of an Innovation Grant we propose the implementation of an equipment loan program called Naturalist Packs at Launders Science Library. This program will allow St. Lawrence students, faculty and staff to check out backpacks containing science and natural history resources such as binoculars, trail maps and wildlife guidebooks from the library. Access to these environmental resources will incentivize and enhance experiences in nature, improving accessibility to the outdoors for everyone in the St. Lawrence campus community, regardless of background and previous outdoor experience. The concept of checking out “nature backpacks” has become widely popular at public libraries across the United States, and has proven highly successful although to our knowledge, few if any such loan programs have been developed by private university libraries. The 8th learning goal in the St. Lawrence Curriculum Guide is: “A knowledge of the complexity and diversity of the natural world”. Naturalist Packs will be an innovative step forward for St. Lawrence in our aim to build a campus community that actively connects with, understands, and advocates for the natural world by encouraging engagement with the many natural spaces available on and off campus. Through a partnership with Nature Up North, this initiative will be shared with a diverse audience, including students, faculty and staff with varying levels of comfort and experience with the outdoor world.

Precious Plastics

Sean Cunningham
Bridget Ireland '18

Goal: "Transform plastic waste into valuable things" Less than 10% of plastic collected for recycling is actually recycled. The project involves collecting recyclable plastic material, build simple machines which will process the material, and create small-scale artisanal products. This represents a "hands-on" environmental program that can directly involve classwork from multiple disciplines from Art and Econ to Chemistry and Environmental studies.

Visualizing Faculty Research
Evelyn Jennings
Eric Williams-Bergen
Elun Gabriel
Marina Llorente

At the heart of our work as a university are the teaching and research of our faculty, yet right now we have no systematic means to share these activities with Laurentians on campus or beyond, or with prospective students and their families. We have many sources that convey some of this information, but we lack a way to integrate it all and make it user-friendly to a diverse audience.  This Innovation Grant will do preliminary work on how best to gather (as much as possible through automation, pulling from available repositories of information) and represent the data visually in a way that is clear and appealing to a variety of audiences. The grant would provide funding for the programming work to develop a prototype of one or more concepts, after researching some of the models that currently exist.  Examples of concepts to be explored include:

• Web-based (searchable) listing of scholarly and creative publications (by faculty – and possibly
• Dynamic visualization of faculty research interests and how they interconnect
• The ability to subscribe to content updates – e.g. receive an email when a faculty member has
   a new journal article, book, or creative work published
• A web-based geo-spatial map of faculty teaching and research interests around the world
• Dynamic connection between faculty research and teaching interests and the course catalog