Three School of Education Faculty Awarded Engaged Humanities Grants

Three School of Education faculty—Nicole Fonger, Mike Gill, and Courtney Mauldin—have been awarded grants from the Engaged Humanities Network to support their community-oriented projects, addressing mathematics’ intersection with geography, fermentation as a community practice, and Black girl literacies.

To build on the community-engaged work already happening across Syracuse University, the city of Syracuse, and Central New York, College of Arts and Sciences (A&S) Dean’s Professor of Community Engagement Brice Nordquist and his team established the Engaged Communities (EC) initiative in 2021.

This program provides faculty, students, staff, and community partners with support for publicly engaged research, programming, and creative work. Inspired in part by a desire among faculty, staff, and students to collaborate with communities beyond the University, the program provides project teams with seed money for their work over the next academic year. Nordquist says critical to the prolonged success of this effort is forming collaborations among project leaders that enhance the scope and reach of their work.

With funding from A&S, the Academic Affairs’ Office of Strategic Initiatives, and external grants, a record 11 publicly engaged projects received 2023-2024 Engaged Communities mini grants. Project leaders come from four different schools and colleges and from 17 different departments and units.

Over the course of the year, the 11 teams will convene regularly in the Tolley Humanities Building to workshop project ideas, exchange resources, work through challenges, collectively advocate, and collaborate across projects and communities. Members of previous years’ EC cohorts also will participate in those meetings so that their projects continue to grow along with this expanding network.

Exploring the Intersection of Math Education and Geography Through Youth-Centered Community-Engaged Research on Environmental Justice

Nicole FongerProject Leads: Nicole Fonger, Assistant Professor of Mathematics and Mathematics Education in A&S and the School of Education; Ken Keech, mathematics teacher at Nottingham High School; Jonnell Robinson, Associate Professor of Geography and the Environment in the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs; Stephen Caviness, Ph.D. student in the School of Education; Karley Voyias, graduate student majoring in Mathematics Education; Waleed Raja, graduate student majoring in Mathematics Education; and Lauren Ashby, graduate student majoring in Sociology in the Maxwell School.

This project convenes an interdisciplinary group of scholars in the fields of mathematics education and community geography to design, organize, and host a seminar series focused on community-engaged, youth-centered research. This initiative builds on the work of Data Warriors, a Syracuse-area high school student-led organization which addresses environmental justice issues through advocacy.

The series centers on graduate-student peer mentoring and the theme of “Youth-Centered Environmental Justice Through Math and Mapping.” It culminates with a youth-centered workshop for high school students interested in pursuing environmental justice through math and geography lenses. The project team will meet throughout the coming school year and will continue to invite Syracuse City School District (SCSD) students in as co-researchers.

Fermenting Stories: Exploring Ancestry, Embodiment and Place

Project Lead: Mike Gill, Associate Professor in the School of Education.

Michael Gill

Fermenting Stories will conduct a series of fermentation classes for the general public at Brady Farm in Syracuse. Fermentation is a way for community members to preserve and transform ingredients as well as connect to their culture.

From kimchi to sauerkraut to sourdough, fermented foods can be tied to family practice and storytelling. Fermenting Stories will build a public web-based archive documenting experiences and histories of fermentation, allowing individuals to share memories and stories attached to family, place, and experiences of fermentation.

Unearthing Black Girl Literacies “In Place”

Project Lead: Courtney Mauldin, Assistant Professor in the School of Education.

Courtney MauldinIn 2020, professors Courtney Mauldin and Marcelle Haddix founded Breedlove Readers, a teen book club which provides Black girls access to literature that positively reflects their lives and creates spaces for them to gather in community and explore reading, writing, and creative expression. Through the Engaged Communities grant, Mauldin will extend that program to Shelby County in Memphis, TN, a county that is 54.7% Black and is described as having a “critical literacy problem.”

This initiative will provide Black girls access to literature that celebrates and affirms Blackness and Black girlhood in its multiple forms. Girls will meet during after school hours at Café Noir in Memphis over the course of two months on a bi-weekly basis to discuss a young adult novel selected by the group and will engage in creative writing projects. The Breedlove Readers and Café Noir will host a public exhibition of the girls’ work alongside a book fair open to the larger community.