Marquette University Social Justice Projects Receive Innovation Fund Awards

BY CHRIS KERRJune 24, 2015

MILWAUKEE – Marquette University president Michael R. Lovell recently announced the university’s first-ever strategic innovation fund awardees. Thirty-eight unique projects led by Marquette faculty, students and staff across a variety of disciplines will receive nearly $5 million.

Awardees fell into one of six thematic categories: academic programs and student support, community collaboration and outreach, water and environmental, advanced manufacturing and engineering, university infrastructure and support, and health and well-being.

Great Lakes Environmental Film FestivalProjects with a specific community engagement or social justice issue orientations include:

  • Marquette’s Democracy Lab which seeks to connect social science research to urban public policy;
  • Project Freshwater, a team-taught, project-based learning experience for Marquette University’s Upward Bound (UB) participants, introduces low-income, first-generation young men and women to the vital importance of water to our lives and well being, instructing them in water studies and innovative engineering technologies that help sustain this valuable resource;
  • Water POD Mini Water Purification System, which will work with Marquette professors and students to demonstrate a practical, affordable and sustainable means to restore personal wellness and good water stewardship to those individuals and communities presently suffering from contaminated surface and well water;
  • Non-Electric Oxygen Concentrator for Developing Countries, the development of a new kind of oxygen system for rural clinics that produces and stores oxygen locally, driven principally by renewable energy sources;
  • Milwaukee Poverty Database, a searchable, sortable database of information on poverty issues. The data will be accessed through Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service (NNS), an online source for objective, professional reporting about central city Milwaukee, and available to the public, journalists, faculty and students on any device capable of Internet access;
  • The Great Lakes Environmental Film Festival (GLEFF), a new annual event that examines themes of sustainability, environmental justice, and ecological awareness in the media. GLEFF presents thought-provoking films and dialogue that raise awareness of a wide variety of interconnected ecological, social, and economic themes.

“I couldn’t be more pleased with the creativity and passion of our faculty, students and staff throughout this entire process,” President Lovell said. “Every proposal we received showed a tremendous amount of innovative, entrepreneurial thinking, and each demonstrated a real desire to make Marquette, the broader community and the world better.”

Unveiled in President Lovell’s inaugural address in September 2014, the strategic innovation fund is similar to a venture capital fund, providing seed money to students, faculty and staff to explore entrepreneurial ventures. University leadership originally designated $2 million for the fund, and President Lovell raised an additional $3 million for it in just his first two months as president.

Earlier this year, more than 270 teams submitted pre-proposals, which were vetted by a newly established University Innovation Council. Ultimately, 180 final proposals were submitted and then reviewed by two teams of three people from the Innovation Council. A group of university leaders, including deans and vice presidents, along with President Lovell and Provost-elect Dan Myers, then discussed more than 50 proposals that were most highly recommended by the Innovation Council review teams. The president and provost-elect also reviewed additional meritorious proposals prior to finalizing the awards.

“What’s most exciting to me is that the projects come from students, faculty and staff, and represent all areas of our campus, from education to engineering to dentistry to a vast array of other disciplines,” said Dr. Jeanne Hossenlopp, vice president for research and innovation who led the innovation fund process.  “Further, each of the university’s strategic plan themes will be moved forward by these innovative projects.”

Hossenlopp added that she and the University Innovation Council will in the coming months work with a number of the unfunded finalist proposals to explore possible alternative funding sources. They will also hold best practices workshops in advance of next year’s competition.

Marquette University is an Ignatian Solidarity Network member institution and engaged in a range of ISN programs including the Ignatian Family Teach-In for Justice and Immersion Experience Coordinators Summit.

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