Phase 2 Grand Challenges Research Awards

Executive Vice President and Provost Karen Hanson in October 2017 announced the second phase of UMN Driving Tomorrow research investments for interdisciplinary collaborations aligned with goals of the campus strategic plan.

UMN Driven small collage imageGrand Challenges Research Interdisciplinary Team Awards, totaling $2.96 million in support over two years, have been awarded to six interdisciplinary projects encompassing more than 120 faculty and external partners. In addition, 11 faculty have been named Grand Challenges Research Scholars; they will be part of two collaboratives undertaking extended interdisciplinary engagement in academic year 2018–19.

The internal research investments will engage University of Minnesota faculty in new or expanded work to address complex issues related to Assuring Clean Water and Sustainable Ecosystems and Fostering Just and Equitable Communities (or an integration of the two). These are among the University’s five Grand Challenges focus areas previously identified by the GC Research faculty committee.

Phase 1 of Driving Tomorrow research investments in fall 2016 awarded a total of $3.6 million to 29 teams of faculty across all five of the University’s Grand Challenges areas of special focus. Like the first phase, the second phase of the Grand Challenges Research initiative supports the strategic vision of a more integrative and deeply engaged campus collaboratively addressing critical societal issues.

Support for the awards: The University's Grand Challenges investments were made from reallocations previously earmarked for strategic plan investments, augmented by support from the Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost and key campus partners. A partnership between the Institute on the Environment (IonE) and the Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost provided enhanced opportunities for faculty collaborations focusing on water/ecosystem issues (aligned with IonE's discovery grants program). Support from the Metropolitan Consortium helped to fund two projects related to just and equitable communities. (More information on supporting partners is below).

GC Research Phase 2 Overview

Phase 2 of the GC Research initiative is distinct from Phase 1 in focusing on two of the five challenge areas (as noted above). Future GC Research opportunities will spotlight the remaining three areas: Enhancing Individual and Community Capacity for a Changing World, Advancing Health through Tailored Solutions, and Feeding the World Sustainably. Phase 2 is also distinct from the first phase in offering two opportunities for Twin Cities campus scholars: GC Research Interdisciplinary Team Awards and the GC Research Scholars Collaborative.

As in Phase 1, the interdisciplinary team awards will invest in research projects that will distinguish the University and its scholars as leaders in addressing the two spotlighted Grand Challenges and the intersection of both. 

The new GC Research Scholars track establishes two six-member collaboratives in which faculty will have half-time appointments. The collaboratives will develop a plan of action for major initiatives addressing one or both of the Grand Challenges. Drawing on existing University strengths (research, programmatic, and infrastructural), the work of the GC Research Scholars will help to further shape how the campus scholarly community mobilizes to address Grand Challenges.

The two-year team awards and the one-year GC Research Scholars appointments both emphasize interdisciplinary work that includes external community partnerships, the integration of undergraduate and graduate students, the involvement of multiple disciplines, and local and international contexts--consistent with the GC research guidelines in the strategic plan. In addition to advancing high-quality research, all awardees are asked to help identify best practices for interdisciplinary research and innovative ways that our institution can further draw on its breadth and depth to enhance interdisciplinary efforts.

GC Research Interdisciplinary Team Awards for 2017–19

Funding partners for the Grand Challenges Research Interdisciplinary Team Awards are the Institute on the Environment, which provided funds for water/ecosystem-related investigations; and the University Metropolitan Consortium, which provided support for two of the three projects related to just and equitable communities). Six interdisciplinary teams of faculty received awards, with the total investment totaling $2.96 million over two years. The funded interdisciplinary projects engage include co-PIs, extended teams with additional faculty members, representatives of external partner organizations, and students.

Fostering Just and Equitable Communities

Identifying and Addressing Disparities in the Criminal Justice and Health Care Systems. Co-PIs: Rebecca Shlafer, Pediatrics; Michelle Phelps, Sociology; Kevin Reitz, Law School; and Tyler Winkelman, Medicine. $570K interdisciplinary team award, with support from the U Metropolitan Consortium.
Homework Starts with Home. Co-PIs: Ann Masten, Institute of Child Development; Maria Hanratty, Humphrey School of Public Affairs; and Eric Grumdahl, Minnesota Department of Education. $540,000 interdisciplinary team award, with support from the U Metropolitan Consortium.
Displacement, Dispossession, Belonging, and Embodiment: Co-creating Translocal Sciences and Arts of Storytelling for Justice. Co-PIs: Roozbeh Shirazi, Organizational Leadership, Policy, & Development; Cindy Garcia, Theatre Arts & Dance; and Kristine F. Miller, Landscape Architecture. $260,000 interdisciplinary team award.

Assuring Clean Water and Sustainable Ecosystems

Assuring Clean Water and Sustainable Ecosystems via Improved Agroecological Management. Co-PIs: Lawrence P. Wackett, Biochemistry, Molecular Biology, & Biophysics; Carl J. Rosen, Soil, Water, & Climate; and William R. Harcombe, Ecology, Evolution, & Behavior. $150,000 interdisciplinary team award, with funding support from the Institute on the Environment.

Intersection of Just and Equitable Communities and Clean Water

Water and Equity: Co-developing Research and Engaged Approaches to Transforming Environments (WE CREATE). Co-PIs: Kate Derickson, Geography; Susan Galatowitsch, Fisheries, Wildlife & Conservation Biology; Sarah Hobbie, Ecology, Evolution, & Behavior; Bonnie Keeler, Institute on the Environment; Stephen Polasky, Applied Economics; and Fred Rose, Institute on the Environment. $720,000 interdisciplinary team award, with funding support from the Institute on the Environment.
Wild Rice in Minnesota and the Great Lakes Region: A Flagship for Environmental Preservation and Indigenous Resource Sovereignty. Co-PIs: G.-H. Crystal Ng, Earth Sciences; Mark Bellcourt, CFANS Office of Diversity and Inclusion; Mae Davenport, Forest Resources; Daniel Larkin, Fisheries, Wildlife, & Conservation Biology; Cara Santelli, Earth Sciences; and Michael Dockry, U.S. Forest Service. $720,000 interdisciplinary team award, with funding support from the Institute on the Environment.

GC Research Scholar Collaborative Awards for 2018–19

Five University programs (along with the Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost) will support the work of the Grand Challenges Research Scholar Collaboratives: Global Programs & Strategy Alliance, Institute for Advanced Study, Institute on the Environment, Interdisciplinary Center for the Study of Global Change, and the Office for Public Engagement.

All the scholars in each collaborative will contribute to a comprehensive approach to each interdisciplinary area of focus. Some members also have Community-Engaged Scholar or Global Scholar designations, emphasizing work in partnership with external partners locally and globally.

GC Research Scholars are appointed for one academic year, 50 percent time.*

The two six-member collaboratives for 2018–19 are:

Clean Water and Sustainable Ecosystems-Just and Equitable Communities Intersection Collaborative

Oscar Garza (Community-Engaged Scholar), Pharmacy Care & Health Systems
Mary Hermes (Global Scholar), Curriculum & Instruction
Kimberly Hill-Malvick, Civil, Environmental, and Geo-Engineering
Daniela Sandler (Global Scholar), Architecture
Diane Willow (Community-Engaged Scholar), Art

Just & Equitable Communities Collaborative

Bianet Castellanos (Community-Engaged Scholar), American Studies
Carl Flink, Theatre Arts & Dance
Sumanth Gopinath, Music
Susan Mason, Epidemiology & Community Health
Richa Nagar (Global Scholar), Gender, Women & Sexuality Studies
Ross VeLure Roholt (Community-Engaged Scholar), Social Work

*Support for the two GC Research Scholar Collaborative groups includes a 50-percent time appointment, physical space and logistics, and linkages to University and external information and resources.


View or download a GCR Phase 2 summary (includes project descriptions for the interdisciplinary teams, plus names of extended team members and partners).

Click here to learn about Phase 3