Micro-grants, macro impact: Campus climate work gets a boost

Thursday, March 24, 2016

The climate around the University is warming—in a good way.

 On March 21, the Campus Climate Engagement Team (CCET) awarded $4680 to 10 projects to foster dialogue, respect, and personal growth that will help everyone on the Twin Cities campus experience a climate in which they feel more valued, safe, and welcomed.

“Micro-grant opportunities were created to spark creativity and support existing innovative projects addressing campus climate issues,” says Nasreen Mohamed, CCET member and a creator of the micro-grant project. “Sometimes, the work of transformation is about supporting a collection of small changes motivated by students, staff, and faculty to create an awareness and commitment to building a healthy campus climate for all.”

The pilot micro-grant project supports new and existing activities at a local or grassroots level. Applicants were asked to focus on one of four themes: furthering dialogue about an issue affecting campus climate, especially among marginalized communities; training to fill in gaps of knowledge or skill that impede progress to improve the campus climate; increasing access and equity for those in marginalized populations; and engaging with people in neighborhoods near campus.

University President Eric Kaler congratulated the micro-grant recipients. “Addressing campus climate — which is a top priority of mine — is an ongoing and critical effort that requires everyone’s involvement to make real change,” he says. “That’s why it’s especially exciting to honor important projects with these creative and helpful micro-grants . . . small, but powerful, steps toward long-term change.”

The chosen projects were funded by allocating about half the CCET budget—which is provided by President Kaler—for the current academic year. To qualify, projects had to be sponsored by either a registered student group or a University department. The 10 proposals were chosen from 24 submissions; awards ranged from $260 to $500. Many of these awards augment other funds for projects. Here are the projects that were awarded micro-grants:

  • Equity and diversity training/book club for staff in Academic Support Resources/One Stop Student Services to increase cultural competency.
  • Deaf and Hard of Hearing Day, hosted by the Interpreting/Captioning unit of the Disability Resource Center to bring deaf and hard of hearing prospective students to campus.
  • A family summer soccer event and picnic to recruit/retain Latino/a students, hosted by the Latino/a Faculty and Staff Association in partnership with La Raza.
  • The development of a monthly Social Justice Professional Development series in CEHD (College of Education and Human Development) Student Services to address multiple topics on social justice such as power and privilege, the value of ethnic studies, and self-care in order to do equity and diversity work.
  • An event, “Dispelling Myths: Fat, Fatphobia, and Challenging Social Stereotypes,” stretching discussions about equity and diversity on campus to include size.
  • Developing a training using Disability Resource Center and Office for Equity and Diversity student ambassadors on “good design,” which expands the idea of universal design to include all communities and identities of people.  The training will be presented to students in the College of Design and elsewhere on campus.
  • The MAASU (Midwest Asian American Student Union) spring conference, which will attract college students from all over the Midwest to engage with the challenges pertaining to the Asian American and Pacific Islander student experience.
  • A college-wide communications workshop to increase cultural competency for faculty and staff, with the aim of improving recruitment and retention of a diverse population of students in the CEHD graduate school.
  • The Student Parent Help Center, which has enlisted mechanical engineering students to build a Mobile Lactation Pod to promote the need for more lactation spaces on campus and a possible portable solution.
  • A kickoff event for women who work in IT and students interested in pursuing careers in information technology, no matter their major, hosted by a steering committee of professionals in OIT/IT.

“We are pleased to receive a micro-grant, as it will enable us to host a panel on a topic we are both passionate about: Fat phobia and the unhealthy diet culture that currently reigns in America today,” say Melissa Wuori and Ivory Taylor, co-organizers of the project. “We are also thankful for the support of our sponsors in the Office for Equity and Diversity, the Women's Center, the School of Social Work, and the School of Public Health, and their invaluable commitment to the project.”

“The projects represent some of the different ways that individuals, groups, and units are seeing and experiencing different climates on our campus,” says Na’im Madyun, CCET member and another creator of the micro-grant project. “With these grants we have inched just a tiny bit closer toward a place where one loves to be and hates to leave. Now, we have to work to continue."









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