Skip to main content

Chancellor Announces Funded Projects for 2024-25

A hand holding a light bulb with connected dots flowing from the light. Meant to convey the idea of innovation and connections.

Since July 2020, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign Chancellor Jones has made an annual commitment to funding projects that prioritize research on systemic racial inequities and injustices. The Chancellor considers these issues to be of the highest importance in the battle against systemic racism and generationally embedded racial disparity.

This year, the chancellor’s office was looking for projects that support the vision of the university’s Campus/Community Compact to Accelerate Social Justice. The compact was developed by 150 scholars and practitioners and “addresses six critical focus areas that challenge our community: Accessible Technology; Community Relations; Economic Development; Health, Wellness & Resilience; Inclusive Education; and Workforce Development,” according to their website.

The Chancellor awarded funding to a total of 12 projects this year. Awards were given in three categories: Community-Based Innovation, Systemic Institutional Change and Societal Impact. NCSA staff and affiliates are a part of four projects awarded this year.

Community-Based Innovation

Anita Chan, NCSA affiliate from the Department of Information Sciences, leads a project titled Activating a Peer-to-Peer Train the Trainers Network for Digital Equity Network in East Central Illinois: Advancing Racial Justice in Non-Profit Digital Navigation Programs. Her team was awarded $100,000 to support the project, an ongoing effort to give community members tools and knowledge to assist and train each other on digital literacy. Their program trains Digital Navigators – community members who are given tools like laptops and taught how to assist others in the community. The Digital Navigators operate as a kind of neighborhood IT, helping people do the basics, like setting up their broadband or helping them find the tech resources they need.

Professor Minakshi Raj, NCSA affiliate from the College of Applied Health Sciences, is the PI on a project that also includes team members Lisa Gatzke, who leads NCSA’s UIX design team, and Ian Brooks, a Center affiliate from the Department of Information Sciences. Their team was awarded $68,210 for their project titled Development of SPICE-Healthcare: Supporting Personalized and Inclusive Cuisines in Environments for Healthcare. Their project attempts to address the need for a diversity of care in long-term care facilities. Much like the rest of the U.S. population, older generations come from a variety of backgrounds and cultures with varying dietary needs. To create care that matches the needs of the diverse populations of facility residents, Brooks and Gatzke’s team is working on a web-based platform that will help clinicians create culturally and medically appropriate nutrition plans for those in their care.

Systemic Institutional Change

Scott Althaus, an NCSA affiliate and director of the Cline Center for Advanced Social Research, is leading a project titled Enhancing SPOTLITE to Improve Police Accountability in All U.S. Communities. This project was awarded $100,000, which Althaus hopes to use to empower researchers working to develop sound police reform measures based on verifiable data. From the project description, “Building on the work of Cline Center researchers on the initial version of SPOTLITE United States – the most authoritative and comprehensive registry of police uses of lethal force across the United States – this project will enhance national data for 2022 and 2023 by adding fields that identify the agency or agencies involved, the exact time and location of the event, and whether the incident included a death or injury.”

A picture of Scott Althaus.

This project will reveal for the first time how frequently police uses of lethal force nationwide result in injuries as well as in deaths. Previous efforts have only documented lethal outcomes. The SPOTLITE team is extremely grateful for Call To Action support for advancing our efforts to improve police accountability across the United States.

–Scott Althaus, director of the Cline Center for Advance Social Research

Societal Impact

Andrew Margenot, a professor in Crop Sciences and a Center for Digital Agriculture (CDA) affiliate, is on a project titled Cultivating Green in the City: A Soil and Planting Framework for Urban Agriculture and Ecology in East St. Louis. His team was awarded $99,915 for their work in creating effective urban farming planning.

Urban farming not only revitalizes declining neighborhoods and cities but provides an important source of local produce for communities in need. However, this type of farming has many challenges due in large part to the relatively inhospitable nature of urban areas for agriculture. Margenot’s team aims to build “a set of planting design guidelines around phytotechnology and phytoremediation techniques to stabilize contaminated soils with complex-rooted plants and possibly [remove] contaminants through plant uptake,” as described in the project details.

You can find the full list of awardees and more information about each project here: Chancellor’s Call to Action Initiative: Funded Projects 2024-2025

Back to top