The Scarlet & Black

The Student News Site of Grinnell College

The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Innovation, funded: professors talk upcoming projects

By Sarah Wig

This year’s Innovation Fund grants will go towards supporting six pilot projects and nine new planning projects. The Innovation Fund is a College institution that supports unique projects and ideas by faculty, staff and students. The purpose of the fund is to enhance innovative ways of teaching and learning. The selection criteria require the projects to focus on strategic planning goals and investigate creative ideas, and the fund aims to encourage an environment that includes experimentation and imagination.

One of this year’s projects is a two-year pilot of “A Global Kitchen in the Liberal Arts,” run by Professor Todd Armstrong, Russian, and Senior Director of Global Initiatives Kate Patch in collaboration with Dining Services, the Institute for Global Engagement, College faculty and students.

Planning to open a kitchen in the HSSC was challenging, according to Armstrong, because the question of what it would be used for arose in many discussions. Armstrong saw the kitchen as an opportunity to animate a new space and turn it into a place for teaching and organizational use.

“The Innovation Fund [money] is to continue to develop the beginning of an infrastructure for this multi-cultural space and bring in a person to be the coordinator of the space and the team of Global Kitchen Peer Mentors,” said Armstrong.

Global Kitchen Peer Mentors help members of the community learn how to use the space properly and also facilitate activities. The space has been named the Marcus Family Global Kitchen in honor of Tobi Klein Marcus ’87 and Michael Marcus ’86. The family hopes that the kitchen can be a place where sharing a meal together increases cross-cultural understanding and begins to turn strangers into friends.

A large number of events have taken place in the kitchen, ranging from study breaks by International Athletes and Allies and Queer Athletes and Allies to “Chai time” with the South Asian Student Organization. On March 7 this year, the kitchen will host a Slavic coffeehouse to celebrate Maslenitsa, a Russian Orthodox holiday.

Armstrong said, “It is one of the most gratifying feelings to see the space used well and what kind of community and sense of belonging it brings.” Armstrong is currently using the kitchen regularly for his two-credit course Soviet Food Culture. It’s the first time the kitchen has been used for a teaching purpose.

“I’m really interested in things that help feed the community as food is a very positive way to bring people together and keep in touch with one’s identity,” said Armstrong.

Another pilot project funded this year is “Data Space: Using Data & Stories to Bring Disciplines Together,” led by Professor Shonda Kuiper, statistics, and Professor Xavier Escandell, anthropology. The goal of the project is to create a “data space” that will highlight the research of students and faculty on campus.

Instead of just writing an introductory article about the research hosted by the space, the project aims to create an interactive website which include visualizations like maps with different variables. Through Kuiper’s consulting experience and the interdisciplinary work of the Data and Social Inquiry Lab, which Escandell runs, the professors hope to explore different areas in collaboration with alumni and current faculty.

“Our goal is to make it nationally available and have interesting stories where data is available and that it could tie into student classes,” said Kuiper.

The website would enable research by faculty, alumni and students to connect into the classroom, with interactive features to help students learn more about the research without knowing the in-depth analysis, allowing increased academic accessibility.

The website would also provide datasets for people who want to get into advanced research and do analysis of the data. “It is meant to be very accessible with growing levels of complexity for a wide group of students,” said Kuiper.

The funding is being used to develop the structure of the website, hire students to develop the building blocks, and for the large number of working parts in this lengthy process.

Leave a Comment
More to Discover
Donate to The Scarlet & Black
Our Goal

Comments (0)

All The Scarlet & Black Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *