hands together

URBANA, Ill. – Reinforcing its commitment to bringing practical, research-based solutions to residents of Illinois’ 102 counties, University of Illinois Extension announces an investment of nearly $1 million in 17 projects through the 2020 Extension Collaboration Grant which fosters collaborative relationships between Extension and other units and academic departments across the university.

“Extension is delighted to support these grants that facilitate the critical work of making research advancements that matter to the lives of Illinois residents and business owners,” says Shelly Nickols-Richardson, associate dean and director of Illinois Extension. “The mission of Extension is to translate scientific findings from the university into practice, and we couldn’t do that without our campus partners.”

The 2020 Extension Collaboration Grants receive financial support from University of IllinoisOffice of the Provost Investment for Growth Program and Illinois Extension. The program focuses on supporting research and partnerships that address critical issues in five key areas: food, economy, environment, community, and health.

Of 50 proposals submitted for the 2020 to 2022 program, 17 will move forward with research and outreach that increases food availability, fosters health and wellness, addresses critical environmental issues, and generally enhances the lives of Illinois’ diverse populations.

“This year’s grant recipients represent a wide variety of timely and relevant topics that align with Extension's grand challenges,” Nickols-Richardson says. “Moreover, about one-third of the awarded proposals address issues of inclusion, diversity, equity, and access.”

Team members for each of the 17 approved proposals will conduct research and share outcomes and deliverables over a two-year span.  Each team also works with Illinois community members, whether it’s through citizen science for pollinator conservation, new tools for teachers, or health at home for families.

Awards are administered by University of Illinois’ Extension and Public Engagement Connection Center (EPECC).

“We asked these awardees to pitch ways to support Illinois residents, and they delivered,” says Deborah Seiler, EPECC coordinator. “In a year when nothing is normal, it’s especially inspiring to see all of the creative ways these teams are ready to roll up their sleeves and get to work.”

Awarded projects include:

Statewide Community Engagement in Pollinator Conservation awarded to the Department of Entomology in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, with Alexandra Harmon-Threatt as principal investigator, collaborating with Kelly Allsup of Illinois Extension.

Illinois Positive Aging for Latinos Study (I-PALS) awarded to the School of Social Work, with Lissette Piedra as principal investigator, collaborating with Willene Buffet and Molly Hofer of Illinois Extension.

Sustainable Insect Control in High Tunnel Vegetable Production Through Biological Control awarded to the Department of Crop Sciences in the College of ACES, with Kacie Athey as principal investigator, collaborating with Bronwyn Aly of Illinois Extension.

Empowering Illinois’ Farmers to Mitigate Food Safety Risks awarded to the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition in the College of ACES, with Pratik Banerjee as principal investigator, collaborating with Laurie George, Zach Grant, and Grace Margherio of Illinois Extension.

Assessing the Needs and Connecting Young and Beginning Farmers with Extension Resources in Northern Illinois awarded to Illinois Extension, with Joseph Malual principal investigator, collaborating with Hope Michelson in the Department of Agricultural & Consumer Economics in the College of ACES and Grant McCarty and Nikki Keltner of Illinois Extension.

New Immigrant Foodways awarded to the Department of History in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, with Teresa Barnes as principal investigator, collaborating with Margarita Teran-Garcia of Illinois Extension.

Illinois Geothermal Coalition Technical and Outreach Program awarded to the Illinois State Geological Survey, with Andrew Stumpf as principal investigator, collaborating with Jay Solomon and Nancy Ouedraogo of Illinois Extension.

Central Illinois’ Cultural Assets: Mapping Resources, People and Meaning to Propel Community and Economic Vitality awarded to Fine and Applied Arts Administration in the College of Fine and Applied Arts, with Jennifer Novak as principal investigator, collaborating with Kathie Brown, Earl Allen, and Anne Silvis at Illinois Extension.

Increasing Knowledge of Human Tickborne Diseases among Farmers and Extension Officers in Illinois awarded to the Department of Pathobiology in the College of Veterinary Medicine, with Rebecca Smith as principal investigator, collaborating with Teresa Steckler of Illinois Extension.

Developing and Delivering a Stress Management and Mental Health Program in Pembroke Township and Kankakee County awarded to the Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering in the College of ACES, with Josephine Rudolphi as principal investigator, collaborating with Courtney Cuthbertson in the Department of Human Development and Family Studies in the College of ACES and James Theuri and Megan Walsh of Illinois Extension.

Advancing an Integrated Approach to SEL, STEM, and Equity in Middle and High School awarded to the School of Social Work, with Kevin Tan as principal investigator, collaborating with Durriyyah Kemp and Michael Neil of Illinois Extension.

GSI Research Toolkit and Outreach throughout the State of Illinois awarded to Illinois Extension, with Eliana Brown as principal investigator, collaborating with Margaret Schneemann and Layne Knoche of the Illinois Indiana Sea Grant and Jennifer Jones, Erin Harper, Christopher Enroth, Erin Garrett, Austin Little, and Peggy Doty of Illinois Extension.

Illinois Inquiry Adventures in Nature: Expanding Environmental Education for Youth awarded to the Education Policy, Organization & Leadership program in the College of Education, with Samantha Lindgren as principal investigator, collaborating with Susan Gasper, Abigail Garofalo, and Meghan McCleary of Illinois Extension.

I-Rural: Reimagining Illinois Rural Tourism through Community and Extension Collaboration awarded to the College of Applied Health Sciences with Joelle Soulard as principal investigator, collaborating with Jennifer Russell of Illinois Extension.

Health Data Literacy Ambassadors awarded to the School of Information Sciences, with Rachel Magee as principal investigator, collaborating with Jennifer McCaffrey, Patricia McGlaughlin, and Susan Sloop of Illinois Extension.

Safe, Efficient Schools During the COVID-19 Pandemic awarded to the Department of Landscape Architecture in the College of Fine and Applied Arts, with Brian Deal as principal investigator, collaborating with Lisa Merrifield and Karen Winter-Nelson of Illinois Extension.

Identifying and Breaking Down Barriers to Inclusivity in the Master Naturalist Program awarded to Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences in the College of ACES, with Joy O'Keefe as principal investigator, collaborating with Peggy Doty, Abigail Garofalo, and Chris Evans of Illinois Extension.

Visit the Extension and Public Engagement Connection Center for a complete list of co-investigators and collaborators and to learn more about each project.

SOURCE: Deborah Seiler, Extension and Public Engagement Connection Center Coordinator, Illinois Extension

WRITER: Liz Smith, Media Communications Coordinator, Illinois Extension

ABOUT EXTENSION AND PUBLIC ENGAGEMENT CONNECTION CENTER: The Extension and Public Engagement Connection Center is a portal for the University of Illinois community to connect with Extension for public impact-focused scholarship. We help individuals find partners with common interests to pursue applied research, teaching, and outreach through the deeply rooted Extension network, in order to deliver positive impacts for Illinois residents.

ABOUT EXTENSION: Illinois Extension leads public outreach for University of Illinois by translating research into action plans that allow Illinois families, businesses, and community leaders to solve problems, make informed decisions, and adapt to changes and opportunities.