2022 GIANT Project Selections

The IDEA Institute is delighted to announce that eight projects have been selected for the 2022 Grassroots Initiatives to Address Needs Together (GIANT) program. GIANT seeks to enable teams of students, postdocs, staff, and faculty to propose and implement research-based initiatives in the areas of inclusion, diversity, equity, and access.

8 projects have been funded this year, with seven new (phase 1) projects and one continuing (phase 2) project. Five projects are being co-funded by the IBM-Illinois Discovery Accelerator Institute (IIDAI) and the IDEA Institute.

2022 GIANT Project teams

*projects co-sponsored by IBM-Illinois Discovery Accelerator Institute (IIDAI) and the Institute for Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Access (IDEA). 

Phase 1 Projects

Micro-Internship Pilot*

Team Members:

  • Amy Fruehling (Director, Engineering Career Services)
  •  Ulyssia Dennis (Associate Director, Engineering Career Services)

Accessing diverse student talent is a goal of Grainger Engineering corporate recruiters. Competing priorities may prevent these students from gaining relevant work experience, building career competencies, and participating recruiting activities. This study will assess the impact of paid, micro-internships on underrepresented first-year student career success and provide a foundation for the possible development of a micro-internship program.

HUG Initiative: Research Career Roadmap for Historically Marginalized or Underrepresented Genders*

Team Members:

  • Mei-Yun Lin (graduate student, Electrical and Computer Engineering)
  • Hsinju Chen  (graduate student, Electrical and Computer Engineering)
  • Mayura Kulkarni (undergraduate student, Electrical and Computer Engineering)
  • Holly Golceki (Teaching Assistant Professor, Bioengineering)

This project promotes the pursuit of research careers among undergraduates and graduates of Historically marginalized or Underrepresented Genders (HUG) in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. By holding panel discussions, interactive workshops, and networking luncheons, the project aims to demystify what it means to be a researcher and to provide resources on research opportunities.

Grainger Engineering Graduate Student Diversity Ambassadors Program

Team Members:

  • Diana Gonzalez (Director, Graduate Student Success)
  • Laura Reiter (Graduate Programs Coordinator)

The Graduate, Professional, and Online Programs Office will launch a graduate student leadership program, Grainger Engineering Graduate Student Diversity Ambassadors, charged to strengthen the recruitment and retention of students from marginalized populations in GCOE’s graduate programs. This initiative aims to measure impact of a facilitated presence of Diversity Ambassadors as positive role models on the recruitment and retention of target populations, and to develop a set of best practices for diversifying our graduate student body.

ASL Aspire: A Game-Based Vocabulary Platform for Deaf Students

Team Members:

  • Mona Jawad (undergraduate student, Bioengineering)
  • Ethan Gaughan (undergraduate student, Bioengineering)
  • Amy Lee (undergraduate student, Bioengineering)

American Sign Language (ASL) Aspire teaches ASL STEM vocabulary to deaf students, a historically underserved group, via online games. This project will research the impact of the platform on the classroom performance and self-efficacy of middle school students.

Partnerships to Create Opportunity through Mentoring and Informal Learning

Team Members:

  • Marcia Pool (Assistant Director for Education)
  • Rex Gaskins (Associate Director for Education)
  • Taylor Dent (Marketing and Outreach Specialist)
  • Margaret Browne Huntt (Assistant Director, Strategic Research Initiatives and Chief Diversity Officer)
  • Amber Lannert (Senior Director of Advancement)
  • Bilal Karim (Data Innovation Analyst)
  • Mariah Webb (undergraduate student, Cancer Center at Illinois)
  • Reghan Daniels (undergraduate student, Cancer Center at Illinois)

This project aims to develop a talented, diverse STEM pipeline by partnering with local organizations to connect with middle school students from underserved populations. Hands-on activities described in the context of a societal problem, mentoring, and career pathway discussions will be used to connect with students and inspire their interest.

Graduate Orientation for Women (GROW)*

Team Members:

  • Rupal Nigam (graduate student in Aerospace Engineering)
  • Aadhy Parthasarathy (graduate student in Aerospace Engineering)
  • Tove Kopperstad (graduate student in Aerospace Engineering)
  • Aanchal Gupta (graduate student in Aerospace Engineering)

This initiative aims to organize a year-long orientation program for incoming graduate students identifying as women in Grainger Engineering. The proposed activities aim to create an increased sense of belonging and confidence, areas with which graduate women in engineering often struggle.

AIM High: The Accessible and Inclusive Materials for High Quality Family STEM Experiences*

Team Members:

  • Lara Hebert (GCOE Public Engagement Coordinator)
  • Rafael Tinoco (Assistant Professor, Civil & Environmental Engineering)
  •  Tracy Dace (Founder & CEO, Driven to Reach Excellence & Academic Achievement for Males (DREAAM))
  • Ashita Bawankule (GCOE Administration)
  • Jaelyn Evans (undergraduate student, Computer Science)
  • Kellye Smith (Champaign Unit 4 School District)
  • Rita Conerly (Account Tech, Center for Advanced Study)

This project will create a bank of engineering design challenges and college/career materials that teachers and community organizations can use to provide more inclusive environments for family STEM engagements. These multilingual (English, French, Spanish) resources will minimize participation barriers for immigrant families, enabling youth to find their sense of belonging in STEM.

Phase 2 Project

Applying a Theoretical Understanding of Text-Based Learning Modalities to Develop New Course Modalities That Meet the Needs of Student with Disabilities (Phase II)

Team Members:

  • Hongye Liu (Teaching Assistant Professor, Computer Science)
  • Chrysafis Vogiatzis (Teaching Assistant Professor, Industrial & Enterprise Systems Engineering)
  • Lawrence Angrave (Teaching Professor, Computer Science)
  • Jenny Amos (Teaching Professor, Bioengineering)
  • David Dalpiaz (Teaching Assistant Professor, Statistics)

Students with disabilities face numerous additional challenges when digital content is inaccessible or difficult to use. Based on our Phase I results, the team will generate a collection of representative digital books in Grainger/STEM courses, implement and improve the most needed functionalities for the books through ClassTranscribe and assess the effects of such implementation regarding students' performance and expectancy factors.