Grants Funded for the 2018-2019 Academic Year

The following projects were selected for funding by the annual Women's Board Grants Committee in April 2018.

Faculty Research and Support

Exploring Awareness of Pre-exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) in HIV-Vulnerable Adolescent and Young Women in Chicago
Project led by Sadia Haider, Faith Fletcher, and Amy Johnson

African American (AA) youth are disproportionately burdened by HIV infection in the United States. Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) is a promising biomedical prevention strategy that has the potential to reduce HIV incidence among HIV-vulnerable populations. However, despite PrEP’s demonstrated effectiveness, women remain under-represented in HIV prevention efforts. Furthermore, HIV prevention data regarding knowledge and implementation of PrEP for women remains limited, particularly among adolescent and young women. This proposed research aims to expand existing PrEP research by engaging young AA HIV-vulnerable women, and investigate the sexual health needs related to PrEP of under-represented communities, specifically adolescent and young AA women in Chicago who are at high risk for HIV acquisition. By engaging young AA women we hope to gain a better understanding of their unmet needs related to PrEP and develop strategies to address the HIV-related health inequities among this population residing in the South Side of Chicago.

Amount Awarded: $37,875

Project led by Stacy Tessler Lindau

This proposal requests catalytic support to grow WomanLab from proof-of-concept to a high-impact NIH-funded knowledge dissemination program. WomanLab, a virtual multi-media platform, addresses a major gap in public knowledge about women’s sexual function in the contexts of aging and illness. Led by a practicing gynecologist, NIH-funded scientist and world expert on female sexual function, Dr. Lindau founded WomanLab in 2017 to accelerate public access to growing scientific evidence and specialized clinical expertise about the preservation and recovery of female sexual function in the context of aging and illness. In 2017, WomanLab received proof-of-concept funding for two years from a Chicago foundation and anonymous donor. With this funding, we a diverse patient advisory board has been engaged that guides content development and advocates for WomanLab's mission, launched a successful campaign on preservation and restoration of sexual function among women affected by cancer and are gaining interest from a growing international audience. 

Amount Awarded: $50,000

Role of High Fat Diet and Gut Microbiome in Age Related Macular Degeneration
Project led by Dimitra Skondra, Eugene Chang, and Katie Gut

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD), the leading cause of irreversible blindness in aging adults, is a multifactorial disease in which environmental/lifestyle factors like diet play a crucial role along with aging and genetics but it remains unknown how these interact. Understanding these interactions is crucial for the development of new treatments since no cure or prevention exists. Gut microbes play a key role in health and disease and are significantly affected by diet and environmental factors but their role in AMD is unknown. The goal of this innovative proposal is to study if gut microbiota could be the common denominator that connects lifestyle/environmental factors with aging and genetic predisposition in AMD. The project will investigate how gut microbiota changes affect the retina and correlate with diet. This approach will help uncover mechanisms causing AMD and could provide a new breakthrough insight into new treatment strategies to prevent blindness in the community.

Amount Awarded: $36,000

The Future of Mastectomy
Project led by Jennifer Tseng

This project will bring robotic mastectomy, a new technological innovation in breast surgery, to UChicago Medicine.  This has the potential to greatly positively impact patient care and surgeon experience.

Amount Awarded: $10,000

Building Social Capacity to Address Behavioral Health Needs and Reduce Incarceration in Underserved Chicago Communities
Project led by Matthew Epperson and Leon Sawh

Over the past 40 years, many urban communities have experienced a devastating combination of inadequate capacity to address behavioral health needs and the over-criminalization of their residents. As a result, mass incarceration has yielded concentrated damage in poor and minority communities, where resources have been focused on punishment instead of treatment. In order for these trends to be reversed, social capacity must be built in communities most impacted by mass incarceration to address unmet behavioral health needs. The purpose of this community-based research study is to develop and pilot test a social capacity assessment tool (SoCAT) in two high-incarceration Chicago communities: Austin and Washington Park. Funding will provide a critical step in advancing community-level interventions aimed at building social capacity to address behavioral health needs. Such interventions have the potential to lower devastating incarceration rates in some of Chicago’s most vulnerable and underserved communities. 

Amount Awarded: $65,616

Families in Transition: Supporting Academic Success with Housing
Project led by Marianne Bertrand, Carmelo Barbaro, Ruth Coffman, Megan Porter and Isaac Ahuvia

One in twenty Chicago Public Schools students is experiencing homelessness. The long-term effects are apparent. Students fall full grade levels behind while their families struggle to find a safe place to sleep night to night. Dr. Marianne Bertrand and her team partnered with Chicago’s homelessness sector to evaluate the Families in Transition (FIT) program, a first-of-its-kind effort to provide permanent supportive housing units and wraparound supportive services to 100 families in Chicago Public Schools (CPS) in neighborhoods with highs incidences of violent crime. UL will serve as the analytic backbone of this initiative, working with providers to understand how housing services affect family- and student-level outcomes. This program offers a unique opportunity for the University of Chicago community to put real, meaningful evidence behind the common sense understanding that a safe, supportive living situation is the foundation of a family’s economic stability and a child’s performance in the classroom.

Amount Awarded: $33,475

The Arts and Cultural Institutions

Photograph 51
Project led by Charles Newell, Nora Titone, Peggy Mason, Jocelyn Malamy, and Erin Marie Williams

History may well remember the work of Watson and Crick that shaped biology, but it was British physical chemist and crystallographer Rosalind Franklin who provided the key to the double helix DNA discovery. During the 2018/2019 Season, Court will produce Anna Ziegler’s Photograph 51, which shares the complex story of Rosalind Franklin, an ambitious female scientist in the world of men, her pursuit for the secret of life, and her forgotten accomplishments. As a work authored by and centered on a woman, Court anticipates that the production will resonate with individuals interested in science, raising public understanding around issues that affect women in science. Court’s Center for Classic Theatre programming will go beyond the stage to explore the intersection of art and science, encouraging exploration and discourse of issues and themes within Photograph 51.

Amount Awarded: $10,500

Creation of CHIME Studio B - Undergraduate Computer and Electronic Music Studio
Project led by Sam Pluta, Berthold Hoeckner, Augusta Read Thomas, and Courtney C. W. Guerra

Since the arrival of Sam Pluta, Assistant Professor of Music Composition and Director of the CHIME Studio (Chicago Integrated Media Experimental Studio) in Fall 2016, there has been a dramatic increase of activity around electronic music. Classes like “Composing with Sound” and “Computer Music Programming” have been overflowing with eager, creative students. In response to this explosion of demand, the Music Department will add a section of the course “Composing with Sound” next year. However, with just one studio space for all classes, lessons, and research, CHIME is already operating at capacity, unable to accommodate many interested users from across the University. Located on the first floor of Goodspeed Hall, this studio will add and significantly enhance our capabilities, including an analog modular synthesizer and multichannel film and television mixing capabilities. 

Amount Awarded: $22,500

Fire Escape Film's Women in Film Initiative
Project led by Grace McLeod and Juliette Hautemont

Fire Escape Films received a generous grant from the Women’s Board in 2016 to start their Women in Film Initiative: a comprehensive program centered around providing production opportunities and specific programming for female student filmmakers. Thanks to the original grant,  10 ambitious short films written and directed by women were produced, centering on female protagonists, all with top-quality production value. Fire Escape Films were also able to program events pertaining to women in film, and in the wake of #MeToo and the sexual harassment cases that have rocked Hollywood, this programming proved both timely and crucial. If the current state of the entertainment industry has told us anything, it’s that we truly need more female filmmakers in the world, and Fire Escape Films would like to play their part in empowering young women’s voices.

Amount Awarded: $12,000

Art + Technology: Expanding Access for UChicago
Project led by Jason Salavon, David Wolf and Christina Jensen

The Logan Center is will increase the capacity of the Hack Arts Lab (HAL)—an open-access laboratory for creative digital fabrication and visualization—as it moves into the new Media Arts, Data + Design Center. HAL’s relocation promises to significantly grow the number of students and faculty it serves by increasing open hours by 400%, tripling its square footage, welcoming traffic of approximately 175 courses and course sections per year, and much more. To accommodate the increased demand, HAL requires additional equipment. This project will help provide a physical anchor that cultivates an environment for collaborative experimentation and practice-based research—an environment in which students and faculty tackle projects together and learn from one another in the areas of media arts, data, and design. Ultimately, it will add a new dimension to the University, positioning it to contribute, critically and concretely, to the designed world of our future. 

Amount Awarded: $23,100

Quality of Student Life

UChicago Summer Scholars Program for Black/African American Students
Project led by Yaneth Bello

Black/African American students are the most underrepresented students in the College. Maintaining a rigorous academic culture, one of UChicago’s core tenets, is impossible without a community that is richly diverse in many forms, including race and ethnicity. To bring more Black/African American students to the College, College Admissions proposes a special new resource: the UChicago Summer Scholars Program. With support from the Women’s Board, College Admissions will offer Black/African American high school juniors from across the country a free immersive experience. Participants will sample liberal arts classes, live in residence halls, and see first-hand the academic and social resources available at a highly selective, research university. The experience will also include excursions across the city of Chicago and admissions workshops on applying to highly selective universities, including UChicago. The program will play a vital role in recruiting Black/African American students and sustaining the College’s diverse academic culture. 

Amount Awarded: $65,080

Bridging The Divide – A Public Service Leadership Program
Project led by Gretchen Crosby Sims, Crystal Coats, Courtney Marsh and Katrina Mertens

To many people, politics in America has never felt more polarized. The 2016 presidential election exposed deep fault lines in our country. Now more than ever, communities nationwide have become islands of red and blue, with little dialogue or interaction between them. Bridging the Divide, a new program at the Institute of Politics run in partnership with Eureka College in Eureka, Illinois, is an attempt to address this growing chasm and promote a deeper understanding of and between urban and rural communities.  Students from both the University of Chicago and Eureka College will meet three times over the 2018-19 school year to explore how issues like education, unemployment, and the drug crisis affect both urban and rural areas.  They will look at how common challenges play out differently in rural vs. urban contexts, and how they can give rise to different attitudes about what policy solutions make sense.  And most importantly, they will look for where shared understanding and common ground can be found.  After visits to Chicago and Eureka, the program will conclude in Springfield, where students will reflect upon what they have learned, share these conversations with policy-makers and practitioners, and think about how they themselves can contribute to divide-bridging efforts in the future.  

Amount Awarded: $41,500

Grace Hopper Celebration Scholarship Fund
Project led by Isha Mehrotra and Juliette Hainline

ACM-W, UChicago’s women in computer science organization, will establish a scholarship fund for 15 undergraduate and graduate women students at UChicago to attend the annual Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing (GHC), September 26-28, 2018. GHC is the world’s largest gathering of women technologists. 27 women attended GHC 2017 through combined funding from the Women’s Board and the Division of Physical Sciences, both isolated instances of funding. Because of the remarkable impact on our community, students are actively working to establish a sustainable endowment fund with the Division of Physical Sciences and Alumni Relations and Development. 

Amount Awarded: $21,400

Community Outreach

Wellness Recovery Arts Program
Project led by Doriane Miller, Emily Lansana, DeeDee Pacheco and Natalie Watson

The program collaborators, comprised of arts professionals, educators, medical clinicians, social workers and medical students, will implement a three week summer cohort of the Wellness Recovery Arts Program (WRAP). WRAP is a trauma informed program for teenagers on the South Side of Chicago that uses the arts as a tool to help them to process and address trauma. WRAP experiments with integrating high-caliber performance arts practices as well as high-caliber clinical therapeutic practices. The summer WRAP cohort involves the use of University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration and Pritzker School of Medicine students in the development of curriculum and implementation of the program’s therapeutic needs. WRAP provides a means for multidisciplinary and cross-institutional collaboration around an issue that directly impacts the University and its surrounding communities.

Amount Awarded: $50,000

CAPTURE – A Comprehensive Approach to Provide Timely Urgent Resources to Every Child with Asthma in School
Project led by Anna Volerman and Valerie Press

This project will expand an innovative school-based asthma program to four Chicago Public Schools to improve asthma care and outcomes for children on Chicago’s South Side.  This program was developed with a multidisciplinary team as part of an academic-community partnership and has proven to be effective in four South Side charter schools. The program improves asthma care through system-based approaches including: education for children with asthma, their parents, teachers, staff, and peers; enhanced education for office clerks; streamlined processes for identification and communication about asthma in schools; care management with children and families via phone and in-person visits at home and/or school to address behavioral and social determinants of health; and referrals to primary and subspecialty care to increase access to high-quality asthma care. Through this program, project leaders aim to improve health and academic outcomes for elementary school children affected by asthma on Chicago's South Side.

Amount Awarded: $57,000

Debate it Forward Scholarships
Project led by Leah Shapiro and Josh Aaronson

Debate it Forward (DIF) is a 501c3 non-profit organization founded by two University of Chicago undergraduates. DIF employs University of Chicago students to teach afterschool and school-day debate classes to schools that currently lack access. Primarily focusing children with special learning needs, children of low income, and young children, DIF cultivates the skills needed for healthy discourse. Demonstrated outcomes of DIF include a variety of social-emotional benefits, including analytical & thinking skills, perspective taking & empathy, and research & communication skills as well as 100% of parents reporting that they would re-enroll their children in a DIF program. This grant will provide scholarships to at least 200 students.

Amount Awarded: $25,000

Expanding Innovative Computer Science Training with Interactive Devices
Project led by Elisabeth Moyer, Seth Severns and Radha Ramachandran

Computer programming and data analysis have become essential workforce skills, and Chicago Public Schools (CPS) now requires computer science training for all high school graduates. However, CPS teachers lack resources and experience in teaching computing. The outreach team of UChicago’s Center for Robust Decision-making in Climate and Energy Policy have therefore developed a highly effective coding course, Coding and Data Exploration with Smart Lamps, that engages students in programming smart devices; to date it has reached approximately 360 students in 7 schools.  With funding from the Women’s Board, this program will expand by building an interactive online curriculum and developing teacher training modules. These online modules will allow CPS teachers to cover some material independently before the PSD team arrives for hands-on work with real devices. Documentation and training materials will also allow any school district to replicate the curriculum and teaching materials. 

Amount Awarded: $38,954

Smart Teen Program
Project led by Michael Christiano, Jason Pallas and Sara Arnas

The Smart Museum of Art’s Teen Program explores community engagement and cultural capital. In partnership with the Chicago Housing Authority (CHA), the program increases access to cultural opportunities for underserved teens representative of the surrounding communities. Through the program, teens are encouraged to think critically about social and political issues from the perspective of their own lived experiences. Working with artists, arts professionals, and community members, participants will renovate the Washington Park Chalet, creating a designated teen space for the cultural benefit of the community that will last far beyond the length of the program.

Amount Awarded: $50,000

STEAM Ahead! – An After-School Enrichment Program
Project led by Todd Barnett

The STEAM Ahead! program is an after school enrichment program that provides a holistic array of academic and social supports to more than 100 students at UChicago Charter School, assisting them with achieving their academic and professional goals. Program activities include academic preparation for college along with life skills development and increased personal, global and cultural awareness.  While the STEAM Ahead! program is being offered at all five UChicago Charter School campuses, this request specially addresses the need at two elementary school campuses: Donoghue and North Kenwood-Oakland.  

Amount Awarded: $50,000