University of Vermont

REACH Grant Update

Urban bicycler in Bogotá, Colombia photographed as part of ethnographic fieldwork by Professor Luis Vivanco

It has typically been difficult for faculty members in the social sciences, arts and humanities to access external funding for research, scholarship and creative works -- funds in these areas are very limited and the sources that exist are extremely competitive.

And it is often difficult for faculty in the sciences, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) disciplines to fund exploratory work that could lead to large external grants. Last spring, the REACH Grant Program -- jointly funded by the Office of the Provost and the Office of the Vice President for Research -- was created to help remove those hurdles.

Led by Cindy Forehand, Interim Dean of the Graduate College, a committeeof 32 faculty reviewed 98 proposals and funded 17 separate projects, with funds going to each College at the University of Vermont (UVM).

The intended effect -- helping faculty members grow their research, scholarship and creative works portfolio -- is now being felt as grant recipients begin reporting the outcomes of their REACH-related work.

One recipient of REACH funds was Dr. Luis Vivanco, an associate professor in the College of Arts and Sciences Anthropology Department and director of the Area and International Studies program. In June 2013, the grant allowed him to spend two-and-a-half weeks in Bogotá, Colombia, getting started on ethnographic fieldwork on urban bicycle cultures. "I conducted numerous interviews of prominent bicycle advocates," he says, "as well as public officials and scholars involved in bicycle transportation issues." Dr. Vivanco plans to use his REACH funding to return to Colombia and conduct additional research this year.

The REACH grant "Evaluating How Disruptions in the Roadway System Affect Accessibility to Essential Services in Vermont" that was awarded to Dr. David Novak and his colleague Dr. James Sullivan is another strong example.Novak (an associate professor in the School of Business Administration) and Sullivan (a researcher in the Transportation Research Center) have generated several papers, will attend several conferences, and are leveraging their REACH work into proposals for additional, external funding.

Professor Deb Ellis and cameraman Dinesh SabuDr. Carmen Smith, an associate professor in the College of Education and Social Service's Education Department, was thrilled to have received funding. "My work on the REACH grant has gotten off to a great start," she says. "I have developed a working version of a motion-controlled mathematics game using the Kinect that allows elementary students to investigate angles by using their bodies." The Kinect sensor bar detects the player's arm movements, and the type of angle formed by the player's arms changes the color of the screen in front of them. By experimenting with different movements, the player can determine the hidden rules that make the screen change each color.

For Deb Ellis, an associate professor and filmmaker in the College of Arts and Science's English department, the REACH funds have made a major difference in her ability to produce impactful work. In her case, that work is a film that ties the easy accessibility of hard-core porn on the Internet to the emotional development of children. "For starters," Ellis says, "the grant has been instrumental in allowing us to engage in in-depth research and production on a project that has been kicking around in our heads for ten years. Without the REACH grant we never could have accomplished what we did over the summer, and continue to work on now." Ellis and her team used the funding to travel and shoot interviews, have the interviews transcribed, and to attend a conference directly related to the subject matter of her film.And key to the process:a short teaser film, funded by the REACH program, that will aid in her efforts to raise the funds needed to finish the film. For more on Deb Ellis's film project, visit endoflovefilm.com.

"With the continued support of Provost David Rosowsky, we are looking forward to a second round of funding this year," says Interim Dean Forehand. "The REACH grants have clearly met their objective and are an outstanding investment in the careers of our faculty members."

For more on the REACH program, see "REACH Grant Program Funds Faculty in Varied Disciplines." And watch for more updates in future issues of IMPACT.