New Grant Program for Grad Students Launched to Fund Research Fighting Social Injustice

Dr. Hawthorne learning about island environments from a Belizean island resident examining Open Reef imagery.

Graduate students interested in developing social justice research projects have a new funding source through Citizen Science GIS in the Department of Sociology.

The new initiative splits proposals into two areas: Amplify Knight Voices and Broaden Community Connections. Amplify Knight Voices funds projects that address “educational or environmental inequality; oppression; anti-racist practices and systems; and/or brutality.” Broaden Community Connections addresses projects “that include meaningful partnerships with communities with high percentages of underrepresented groups.”

Applicants can pitch ideas that encompass both, but it’s not necessary. The fund’s founder, Associate Professor Timothy Hawthorne, Ph.D., encourages students from other disciplines like engineering or health sciences to apply as well; by combining different fields, “students will be able to learn from one another and maybe bounce some ideas off each other,” he said.

Addressing social justice issues and encouraging students to work with members of society is a key element of the work of Hawthorne and Citizen Science GIS at UCF. The research organization has several projects in Florida and around the globe that actively include the perspectives of local residents or citizen scientists.

The “community first” approach is the key to significant breakthrough, explains Hawthorne. The intent behind their research is to collaborate with stakeholders, not prescribe solutions to research questions. This elevates local voices and generates intimate, interpersonal connections.

“As a large public university, we have a responsibility to connect what we do in our research with those in broader society,” Hawthorne said. “This funding program allows our students to be responsive and inclusive of diverse voices. That inclusivity can strengthen the work and learning for all involved.”

The fund began with $5000 from Hawthorne’s recent “UCF Reach for the Stars” award as seed money, but he challenges donors to grow the fund. More than just research, the fund is an opportunity to stand in solidarity with a fight against systemic racism; acknowledge privilege and take action; and support efforts to broaden representation of underrepresented groups, according to Citizen Science GIS.

All disciplines are encouraged to apply, but sociology graduate students and projects that involve interdisciplinary collaborations with research focused on sociological efforts gain priority.

“This new funding program is a way to amplify such work, and encourage the next generation to pursue scholarship that engages science and society, while tackling incredibly timely and complex themes around social justice and advocacy,” said Hawthorne.

Learn more about the program and application details here. Donations to grow the grant fund can be made here.










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