Grand Challenges initiative designed to ignite ideas that can transform the world


Initiative designed to ignite ideas that can transform the world

A bold new initiative was launched earlier this year by UW–Madison’s School of Education that’s designed to form interdisciplinary partnerships that can address critical problems that span education, health and the arts.

The aptly named Grand Challenges is a grant program designed to pave the way for fresh ideas that can push the frontiers of knowledge, and lead to innovative new ideas and programs that will make a real difference in the world of scholarship and practice.

“Through this initiative, we will unleash the power of our most promising research and programs to fulfill the Wisconsin Idea here and around the world,” says Richard Halverson, a professor of Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis who co-directs the Wisconsin Collaborative Education Research Network (The Network) and the Grand Challenges initiative.

Grand Challenges kickoff event
Richard Halverson introduces members of the Grand Challenges team during
a kickoff event Feb. 1 in the Education Building's Morgridge Commons.
Grand Challenges is a grant program to support research and practice in the three areas in which the School of Education excels — education, health and the creative arts. The School not only is home to traditional, education-related departments but also houses the departments of Art, Dance, and Theatre and Drama. In addition, the School includes the Department of Kinesiology and other health-related programs in occupational therapy, counseling psychology and rehabilitation psychology. Through these diverse fields, the School is uniquely positioned to address some of society’s most pressing needs.

“Mitigating the problems we face in today’s society requires a multidisciplinary approach,” says Sarah Archibald, the associate director of The Network and the co-director of Grand Challenges. “As one example, we know so much more about the science of how the brain works, the short- and long-term effects of trauma on the brain, and ways to build new neural pathways than we did a decade ago. This knowledge can be a game changer for providing deeper learning opportunities for traditionally underserved kids.”

The Grand Challenges initiative officially launched on Feb. 1, when more than 200 faculty, staff and students from across the School attended a kickoff event in the Education Building’s Morgridge Commons.

Those interested in formally getting involved then set up a meeting with the Network for a consultation on their idea. To date, 21 teams representing over 70 people have met with the Network to discuss their ideas for making a difference.

To further build connections, the Grand Challenges team planned five “meet-ups” where over 100 faculty, staff and community members with similar interests met to make new connections, and four “Spark Dinners” that provided an opportunity for teams of diverse expertise to move toward proposals.

A sampling of proposals includes: Art-making as Therapy for Chronic Illness; Forgiveness Therapy in Prisons; a Center for Prevention Science in Rural Education and Health Care; and a Center for Neuroscience in Education.

Teams taking part in Grand Challenges can apply for Engage Grants of up to $25,000 or Transform Grants of up to $250,000.

Engage grant proposals are due Aug. 1 and a poster fair displaying the projects will be held Aug. 31. Posters and proposals will be reviewed and Engage grants will be awarded early in the 2017–18 academic year.

The Transform grants are designed for projects that are larger in scale, with these proposals due in December. Transform teams will present their proposals at a Gala event in early 2018, where local and national experts will serve as judges.

Each Grand Challenge team must include at least two School of Education faculty or staff from different departments. Teams will represent multiple academic disciplines, and may also include team members from across UW–Madison, other universities and the wider community.

To learn more, visit the Grand Challenges website.

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