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New research fund focuses on civic engagement

Concept of civic engagement featuring diverse human figures and symbols ofproblem solving, work and Ideas.


Published November 2, 2023

“Actively contributing to our community and society is a critical mission for our research enterprise. ”
Venu Govindaraju, vice president for research and economic development

Health and wellness coaching at a supermarket. A therapy program for individuals with Parkinson’s disease. Imagining Erie County’s climate future.

Those are just a few of the 12 civic projects selected this fall to receive grants of $5,000 for the first year of UB’s new Civic Engagement Research Fund.

The fund supports community-based research proposals that not only advance knowledge but have the potential to make a difference, whether in policy or practice or in the lives of those across the Buffalo region and beyond.

“Actively contributing to our community and society is a critical mission for our research enterprise,” says Venu Govindaraju, vice president for research and economic development. “Advancing community-based research and scholarship is one way we can make a positive difference in communities where pressing challenges will require the engagement across local and regional entities.”

The research fund grew out of recommendations from the Implementation Committee of the President’s Advisory Council on Race and its subcommittee on scholarship, tenure and recognition, says Robert Granfield, vice provost for faculty affairs. The subcommittee, which included faculty from across UB, sought to re-establish support for civic-based research that had dissipated with the discontinuation of the strategic strength in Civic Engagement and Public Policy in 2015, he says.

“The subcommittee recommended that UB provide support for civic/community-based research that advances UB’s mission of public engagement and broad social impact, especially in addressing various issues related to social justice and social inequities at the local to global levels,” Granfield says.

The fund, a collaboration between the Office of the Vice President for Research and Economic Development and the Office of the Vice Provost for Faculty Affairs, was established in June when requests for proposals were sent out to all full-time faculty. The deadline for proposals was in September.

A three-member faculty panel with expertise in community-based research reviewed the 24 proposals submitted, and recommended recipients based on several criteria, including academic rigor and potential for published scholarship, collaboration with an external partner and potential for external funding.

The selected proposals confront issues that address community needs today and beyond, Granfield and Govindaraju say. The research focuses on health inequities in marginalized populations, preventing gun violence, workforce development in East Buffalo and developing arts and music initiatives for historically marginalized youth, among other issues.

The 12 principal investigators awarded $5,000 grants were:  

  • Jamie Barber, clinical assistant professor, Department of English, College of Arts and Sciences, “Connecting and Creating: Students Write at the Intersection of Art and Science.
  • Linda Kahn, research professor, Department of Family Medicine, Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, “Drug Court Smiles: Addressing Dental Care Equity for Justice-Involved People.”
  • Lucia Leone, associate professor, Department of Community Health and Health Behavior, School of Public Health and Health Professions, “Identifying Determinants of Produce Prescription Implementation and Usage.”
  • Gina Prescott, clinical associate professor, Department of Pharmacy Practice, School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, “Hypertension Cascade of Care in Marginalized Populations.”
  • Teresa Quattrin, UB Distinguished Professor and senior associate dean for research integration, Department of Pediatrics, Jacobs School, “Diabetes Screening, Coaching on Health and Wellness, Advocacy and Linkage to Health Care in a Supermarket Located in a Marginalized Area.”
  • Laura Roberts, clinical assistant professor, Department of Communicative Disorders and Sciences, College of Arts and Sciences, “SPEAK OUT! Therapy Program (for individuals diagnosed with Parkinson’s or a related movement disorder).
  • Tiffany Skidmore, visiting associate professor, Department of Music, College of Arts and Sciences, “Collaboration with Duo Gelland and Buffalo String Works.
  • Susan Spierre Clark, assistant professor, Department of Environment and Sustainability, College of Arts and Sciences, “Imagining Erie County’s Climate Future.”
  • Heather Territo, clinical associate professor, Department of Pediatrics, Jacobs School, “Use of Community Health Workers to Address Social Determinants of Health in Patients at Risk for Gun Violence.”
  • Kim VanDerlinden, director of social sciences interdisciplinary programs, College of Arts and Sciences, “Realizing, Recognizing and Responding to Trauma: Exploring Harvest House’s Trauma-informed Workforce Development Program for Women in East Buffalo.”
  • Bonnie Vest, research associate professor, Department of Family Medicine, Jacobs School, “Creative Arts and Healing Among Veterans: Impacts of Community-based Photography Workshops on Veterans’ Well-Being and Quality of Life.”
  • Xiaozhong Wen, associate professor, Department of Pediatrics, Jacobs School, “Sustainable Prenatal Promotion of Breastfeeding by Obstetric Providers.”

“The teams working on these projects will showcase how the Civic Engagement Research Fund will successfully serve as a community pulse check and offer ideas for continuous improvement to programs that positively engage and impact our neighbors,” Govindaraju says.

Funding for the initiative is expected to continue over the next three years, after which time the impact of the research fund will be assessed, Granfield says.

“It is hoped that future calls for proposals will result in an increased number of proposals from faculty interested in conducting community-engaged research,” he says. “Also, it is hoped that these efforts will lead to a university-wide community of scholars at UB interested in conducting this type of research.”