Faculty, staff innovation rewarded with Minnesota State grants

Innovation and exciting ideas abound at MSUM, where faculty and staff foster a nurturing and challenging environment for students. Campus educators continually find ways to improve the learning experience and help everyone feel represented. Several MSUM employees participated in the Minnesota State system’s innovation funding event – a competition involving 54 academic institutions, which rewards forward-thinking proposals that enhance student experiences.
Last spring, several faculty and staff members’ innovative ideas were chosen as finalists to receive funding for projects based around diversity, equity and inclusion. These projects included small seed (up to $10,000) and large seed ($25,000) categories. 


Large Seed Category

In April, two large seed projects from MSUM earned the opportunity to participate in the Academic & Student Affairs Division of Minnesota State’s “Shark Tank Open”. Similar to the show “Shark Tank”, 12 projects from participating Minnesota colleges pitched their innovation ideas to a panel of judges (the sharks) in hopes of receiving up to $25,000 in funding.  

Brian Wisenden – M State Collaborative Oceanarium Course 

Biosciences Professor Brian Wisenden received a $24,936 grant for his project to provide opportunities to prospective students through MSUM’s Oceanarium. This project helps progress Minnesota State’s 2030 Equity goal by encouraging qualifying students at Minnesota State Community and Technical College (M State) to enroll in a 1-credit course to learn how to operate an Oceanarium. Upgrading the Oceanarium will enhance access to higher education for BIPOC, Pell-eligible and underrepresented students. Students are given a paid internship that offsets the cost of the course.  
"I’m so grateful this opportunity exists,” Wisenden says. “The Oceanarium is a highly engaging facility that attracts anyone through any walk of life.” 
MSUM’s Oceanarium is in the basement of Hagen Hall and will include seahorses, stingrays, horseshoe crabs, and more.  


Trista Raezer-Stursa and Travis Dolence – Veteran's Archives 

Trista Raezer-Stursa, library archivist, and Travis Dolence, web librarian, proposed a new student learning opportunity that hires student interns to create a website that interprets the stories of Civil War veterans using the latest innovations from the digital humanities field. 

Students would perform research using original primary sources, including the Solomon G. Comstock Papers from the MSUM Archives. They would learn how to contextualize and visualize these veterans' stories using technology to build a comprehensive website. The website would include maps, links to scanned images of the letters, other archival photographs and documents, textual analysis, data visualization, and historical interpretation. 

Trista and Travis’ proposal was well received in the competitive open, but ultimately, other great proposals were selected from this year’s competing projects. 


Small Seed Category 

Colleen Gordon and Mary Muehlberg – Inclusive Open Textbook Panel 

Librarians Colleen Gordon and Mary Muehlberg received a small seed grant of $8,000 for their proposal to provide payment for students who participate on a BIPOC student panel. The panel will work with faculty to create diverse, equitable, and inclusive open textbooks. 
The funded program is a collaboration between the Library, The Office of Online Learning, and The Office of Diversity and Inclusion. 
“This project aims to build a collaborative creative process and support system to foster the production of diverse and inclusive open educational resources (OERS),” Muehlberg said. “OERs provide a solution to lacking accessibility, diversity, and inclusion in course materials.” 

Whether at the small or large seed level, MSUM continues to find innovative ways to make all voices heard.  

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