Bridging the Divide grant will fund projects impacting people and places

By Paula Van Brocklin, Office of the Vice President for Research

Two interdisciplinary research teams have been selected to receive funding from Iowa State University’s inaugural Bridging the Divide internal funding opportunity, an experimental seed program to holistically address complex societal challenges through new collaborations among university researchers in design, art and humanities, social science and STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) disciplines.

Grant recipients

The team of Cristina Poleacovschi, assistant professor in civil, construction and environmental engineering; Nell Gabiam, associate professor in world languages and cultures and political science; and Carl Weems, professor and chair of human development and family studies, was selected for their proposal, “Responding to Humanitarian Crises: Human-centered Built Environment and Resilient Refugee Communities.” Their research introduces the concept of human-centered refugee camps – the built environments which consider the human perspective throughout the design process. Specifically, the team will address the needs, rights and perspectives of vulnerable communities, answering the question, “How does the built environment of the refugee camp affect community resilience?” in the context of European refugee crisis.

The team of Christina Gish Hill, associate professor in world languages and cultures; and Marshall McDaniel, assistant professor in agronomy, was selected for their proposal, “Revitalizing Soils, Revitalizing Cultures: Three Sisters Intercropping in Midwestern Native American Communities.” Their research focuses on the Native American practice of intercropping, or growing corn, common beans and squash in the same area. These plants were called the ‘three sisters’ by many tribes because they thrived when planted together. Gish-Hill and McDaniel’s objectives are to assess the current cultural, historical and agricultural importance of three-sisters intercropping to Native American communities in the Midwest; explore the impact of revitalizing the practice; and determine the effects of North America’s original intercropping agriculture system on soil health.

Positive outlook

The grant’s review committee received a total of 13 proposals for funding consideration, a step forward in Iowa State’s research mission to foster new working relationships among faculty from disparate disciplines to increase Iowa State’s capacity to pursue convergence-based research.

“We look forward to seeing how these new collaborations combine the perspectives of faculty in the arts, humanities and social sciences with those of faculty in the STEM fields to pursue an entirely different type of interdisciplinary research at Iowa State,” said Sarah Nusser, vice president for research.

Associate professor of community and regional planning and director of the Center for Excellence in the Arts and Humanities Carlton Basmajian was pleased with the proposals’ breadth and creativity.

“The quality and diversity of the pool indicates strong interest in interdisciplinary research and a potentially unmet demand for mechanisms to support such work in the future,” he said.