The Gephardt Institute’s Civic Engagement Fund supports WashU students, faculty, and staff working to strengthen the fabric of their communities. Grantees collaborate with community partners to develop initiatives and Community Engaged Courses that catalyze positive change. There are four distinctive grant categories that support different kinds of community-engaged action: Course Development Grants, Grants for St. Louis Projects, Small Change Grants, and the Community Engagement Opportunity Fund.
Read about our spring 2019 Civic Engagement Fund grant recipients below.
Course Development Grants provide up to $5,000 to support faculty with the development, evolution, and evaluation of Community Engaged Courses. The grants are available to all faculty teaching courses at the undergraduate and/or graduate level in any discipline or school and must culminate with the recipient teaching a Community Engaged Course.
- Borders and Belonging: Citizens, Immigrants, Refugees; History and Geopolitics of Migration and the Current Crisis around the Mediterranean: Christi Smith, PhD, Senior Scholar and Assistant Dean, Center for Diversity & Inclusion; Younasse Tarbouni, PhD, Senior Lecturer, Arabic, College of Arts and Sciences
This Ampersand course will create a cooperative program to link Washington University students and Maplewood Richmond Heights high school students who arrived in the United States as refugees to make social connections and work on language skills.
- Empathy First: Solutions with Heart: Liz Kramer, Associate Director, Office for Socially Engaged Practice, Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts; Jenni Harpring, Assistant Dean, Office of Field Education, Brown School
Students will practice methods of understanding knowledge to highlight how empathy changes the experience of understanding a problem. Over the course of the semester, students will work in small teams to practice methods of understanding, critically reflect on their learning, and identify opportunities for change. The project will explore the question, “How might we make the experience of walking better in this community?” Small teams will concentrate on a specific 2 block area in the St. Louis region to understand the question from a variety of perspectives of expertise.
Organizations including Bi State, Trailnet, and the City of St. Louis’s Office on the Disabled have all identified the need for improved pedestrian infrastructure, and better data related to complete pedestrian infrastructure. Partners such as these will be engaged to design the criteria for the audit and observation components of the project.
- To Sustainability and Beyond: People, Planet, Prosperity: Avni Solanki, PhD, Lecturer, Energy, Environmental, & Chemical Engineering, McKelvey School of Engineering; David Webb, Adjunct Lecturer, Environmental Studies, College of Arts and Sciences
This is a first -year course that combines interdisciplinary classroom education with trans -disciplinary project work to address local sustainability challenges. Students will be introduced to the principles of sustainability across multiple academic fields, case studies, workshops, and exercises to build soft skills and prepare for effective community engagement. They will also co-create a project with OneSTL and East-West Gateway Council of Governments.
- Landscape Architecture: Jacqueline Margetts, Senior Lecturer, Landscape Architecture, Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts
The purpose of the project is to produce a design ideas toolkit for use by the Great Rivers Greenway (GRG) in their community engaged design efforts to redevelop the disused Hodiamont streetcar route into a greenway through the West End neighborhood. The design ideas developed by students will be informed by the data gathered by GRG through their extensive surveys and discussions with the community in addition to direct input from GRG, Cornerstone, and local residents. The intent of the work is to help facilitate discussion and engage community members with new ways of thinking about the design of the greenway through their neighborhood.
- Civil Rights, Community Justice & Mediation Clinic St. Louis Pro Bono Mediation Project: Karen Tokarz, J.D., LL.M., Charles Nagel Professor of Public Interest Law & Public Service, School of Law
The Clinic Mediation Project provides free mediation services to the St. Louis housing courts to assist landlords and tenants in resolving their disputes before trial. By settling cases through mediation, the Clinic Mediation Project helps tenants avoid evictions; decreases the destructive impact evictions have on families and neighborhoods; reduces homelessness and increases housing stability; improves the health and welfare for the primarily low income, predominantly African American tenants who appear in the St. Louis housing courts; reduces the time and cost to landlords of going to trial and executing an eviction; and often can help landlords recoup lost rent by creating a payment plan.
This grant will aid in the evolution of the project to work closer with their partners, help sustain the operations throughout the year, aid in tracking data and developing assessments, and explore funding to streamline and sustain operations of the Clinic-Mediation Project across all courtrooms that we serve on a year-round basis for years to come.
St. Louis Projects: Community Partnership Grants provide up to $5,000 to support the development of new initiatives or the further expansion of smaller projects. Successful applicants propose a substantive project in partnership with community members or organizations in St. Louis and receive financial support, as well as advising for implementing community-based initiatives. These grants are available to all students, faculty, and staff.
- Stop the Bleed: St. Louis’ Experimental Evaluation Protocol: Vinith Ilvarasan, Class of 2020, College of Arts and Sciences; and Rithvik Ilavarsan, Class of 2020, College of Arts and Sciences
This project aims to fund the evaluation of a revised bleeding control protocol. Dr. Laurie Punch and her team at Power4STL have developed this protocol as a response to the severe lack of bleeding control trainings that have been distributed in marginalized communities.
- Evaluating Biochar for Cost-Effective Remediation of Heavy Metals Contamination in Soil at Urban Contamination in Soil at Urban Agriculture Sites for the St. Louis Refugee Community: Jeff Catalano, Faculty, College of Arts and Sciences
The International Institute of St. Louis has requested assistance in evaluating methods to treat heavy metals contamination in urban gardens at several sites in St. Louis City that are farmed by refugees resettled in the area. IIST’s Global Farms program has identified a potential treatment method, biochar addition, that may prevent heavy metal exposure in a cost-effective manner, but needs technical assistance to determine if the method is viable. The results of this project will be shared with other organizations in the urban agricultural community and initiate broader community engagement on this topic.
- C3 (Communities, Connections, Conversations) Health: Michael Nehls, MD/PhD, Biology and Biomedical Science, School of Medicine; Akua Nuako, MD/MS, Clinical Investigation, School of Medicine
As second-year WashU medical students, some of Akua and Michael’s most profound educational experiences have involved learning with and from community members and community health workers (CHWs). They are passionate about expanding connections among the community, CHWs, and WashU affiliates, and providing a space for community members to openly express their concerns and questions about health topics that cannot be addressed in standard 15-minute clinical encounters. C3 (Connecting Communities through Conversations) Health Sessions are community health workshops centered around community-identified issues for WashU doctors, faculty, and students, as well as CHWs and the community members they all serve. This project aims to bring people with clinical or professional expertise and those with lived expertise together with people dedicated to erasing the disparities that divide our city.
St. Louis Projects: Community Planning Grants provide up to $1,000 in funding to support the development of new initiatives or the further expansion of smaller projects. Successful applicants propose a substantive project in partnership with community members or organizations in St. Louis and receive financial support, as well as advising for implementing community-based initiatives. These grants are available to all students, faculty, and staff.
- Narrowing the Gap: Ziheng Xu, MD, School of Medicine
The goal of Narrowing the Gap is to work on reducing maternal and infant mortality in Spanish Lake through community partnership. The first phase is based on a desire to build trust, provide services, and gather information on how best to expand services. The initial services at Impact Agape Ministries and other Spanish Lake venues will include connecting people to social services they may not know about, bringing WashU physicians, retired BJC nurses, and/or St. Louis Integrated Health Network’s (IHN) maternal advocates to discuss health concerns; offering short lessons on maternal/infant health topics after first asking the congregation what they want to learn about; and providing health-related giveaways such as prenatal vitamins, fresh food, and pregnancy pillows. Ultimately, we will engage in direct action–possibly a mobile women’s health clinic–to address maternal/infant mortality.
Small Change Grants provide up to $500 in funding to support ongoing and new initiatives focused on cultivating civic engagement around the world. Small Change Grants fund special events, educational experiences, small community projects, and more. These grants are available to all students, faculty and staff.
- Dunbar Elementary School Community Mural: Brooke Bulamash (ArchEngage), Class of 2021, Sam Fox School of Design and Visual Arts
ArchEngage connects students with faculty, practicing professionals, and local community members to collaborate on pro-bono design-build projects for communities throughout the St. Louis area. Dunbar Elementary School is a historic institution of St. Louis’ Jeff-Vander-Lou neighborhood that has served many generations of families. Due to low enrollment, Dunbar is currently at risk of closure. The project, a collaboration between WashU students, Dunbar students, and community partners in the Jeff-Vander-Lou neighborhood, will generate a design that celebrates the rich history of the community and the school while incorporating the school’s namesake Paul Laurence Dunbar, one of the first influential Black poets in American literature. The design will be implemented in three mediums: an 8’ x 6’ canvas mural, an outdoor sign in front of Dunbar Elementary, and T-shirt prints. These three aspects will contribute to the community’s efforts to increase enrollment and retain its student body in order to ensure the institution remains open. This will be a mobilizing project that serves as a starting point, fostering an ongoing and meaningful collaboration between WashU and the Jeff-Vander-Lou neighborhood.
- RIZE: WUSTL’s Independent Black Magazine: Efua Osei, Class of 2021, College of Arts and Sciences
Rize is an independent student run magazine for Black Students (and Black WashU Affiliates) by Black Students. It gives a space for Black voices on campus to be heard, and seeks to get the WashU Black community–students, faculty, and alumni–more engaged with each other and knowledgeable about what is happening on campus.
- Bear Cubs Running Team: Kyle Cepeda, Class of 2019, McKelvey School of Engineering
Bear Cubs Running Team is a free, weekly running program for St. Louis area children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Each fall and spring season, varsity student athletes at WashU volunteer to coach one-on-one with a child in the program, allowing them to build a personal relationship with their athlete and provide individualized support for their specific needs and levels of functionality. Since the program’s inception in 2015, Bear Cubs has impacted over 50 families and 70 student athletes in the St. Louis region. The organization is currently working towards obtaining independent non-profit status and spreading similar Bear Cubs programs to other universities. Until this step is complete, Bear Cubs relies on individual donations and community grants to keep the program free for all the families served each season. The funding from the Small Change Grant allows the organization to enter 50 of their athletes in the TakeSteps4Kids Race during the spring season. The TakeSteps4Kids Race is organized by WashU students, and race proceeds support Big Brothers Big Sisters of Eastern Missouri.
Learn more about the Civic Engagement Fund here.