N.C. A&T Receives $300K NSF Award for Building Community Partnerships through Citizen Science

09/07/2020 College of Health and Human Sciences

EAST GREENSBORO, N.C. (Sept. 7, 2020) – A research team in the College of Health and Human Sciences (CHHS) at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University has won a $300,000 planning grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to bring citizen science to the A&T community.

This Institutional and Community Transformation (ICT) project will use social science to engage students, faculty and Greensboro citizens, groups and organizations in identifying, understanding and addressing local social problems. The project seeks to build the capacity for establishing citizen science communities that engage students in meaningful learning experiences in and around the university with the overall goal of creating communities that sustain human health and well-being. 

The project is led by Tobin Walton, Ph.D., an assistant professor of sociology at A&T, and Caren Cooper, Ph.D., an associate professor at North Carolina State University. The A&T team includes Stephanie Teixeira-Poit, Ph.D., assistant professor of sociology; Sharon Parker, Ph.D., associate professor of social work; Anna Lee, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology; Adrienne Aiken Morgan, Ph.D., assistant professor of psychology; Kalynda Smith, Ph.D., assistant professor of psychology; and Elimelda Ongeri, Ph.D., CHHS associate dean for research and innovation.

“We are truly excited about this award,” said Lenora Campbell, Ph.D., CHHS dean. “Integrating citizen science projects with active learning pedagogies in university classrooms is an important mechanism for improving student learning outcomes in STEM and other fields through linking their academic experiences with real world problem-solving and the scientific enterprise.”

The two-year capacity building grant will include training for faculty and students on citizen science and using the SciStarter IT platform to participate in ongoing citizen science research projects. The focus will be in three key areas: needs assessment, knowledge and relationship building, and information technology infrastructure. Initial capacity building efforts at A&T will be centered in the CHHS sociology and psychology programs and extend through partnerships with other programs in the college, then to other colleges and divisions across campus, university student organizations and the broader East Greensboro community.

The project will build the capacity of faculty, students and the surrounding communities to engage with and develop interdisciplinary citizen science projects that more fully involve students and other stakeholders in the scientific process. These “co-created” projects will have greater relevance to the everyday lives of students and greater potential for significantly enhancing:

  • student attitudes toward science and their capabilities within STEM coursework and programs
  • public attitudes toward science and its relevance for solving real-world problems
  • the social validity of the scientific knowledge produced

Ultimately, these efforts have the potential to enhance persistence and promote sustained change to the cultural norms that have separated teaching, research and community needs and interests.

The capacity building efforts in this project will lay the groundwork for a subsequent larger NSF project that will involve the implementation, rigorous assessment and evaluation of these co-created projects on student learning and community health and well-being.

Media Contact Information: uncomm@ncat.edu

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