2020 CO+RE Research Projects Selected

CO+RE | The Community + Research Partnership Program

May 22, 2020
By Tyler Wolpert


From a collaborative hub for indigenous Latin American (primarily Maya) immigrants to a sport development program, the five projects recently awarded funding from the CO+RE: Community + Research Partnership Program address the needs and interests of Urbana-Champaign communities through sustainable, equitable partnerships.

Launched earlier this year, CO+RE is a pilot program supported by the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research and Innovation focused on developing long-term, reciprocal relationships with community stakeholders. Program leader Cynthia Oliver’s passion for uniting researchers and community members is palpable, even over a grainy video call interrupted by a barking dog and spotty internet.

“We all live in the same community, albeit with very different realities. CO+RE is intended to address those realities and their related needs.” said Oliver, a Professor of Dance and the Associate Vice Chancellor—Humanities, Arts, and Related Fields. “Research happening at the university is relevant to all of us, and it’s critical to engage.”

CO+RE gives researchers and community members a foundation and seed funding­­­ to explore areas that show promise in substantively improving the lives of East Central Illinois residents. A selection committee composed of three community members and three University of Illinois members evaluated a competitive pool of 26 proposals for impact in a variety of creative, scientific, and humanistic fields.

Selected proposals include:

Examining the Effects of a Youth-Based Sport for Development Program on Socio-Emotional Learning and Academic Efficacy

Developing a novel sport for development program to help youth in the Champaign/Urbana area develop socially and academically.

Project Abstract

The purpose of this collaborative project (Youth Olympians Program) is to jointly develop a novel sport for development (SFD) program to help youth in the Champaign/Urbana area develop socially and academically. The project will be designed and led by UIUC students and faculty in close collaboration with staff at the Don Moyer Boys and Girls Club (DMBGC) in Champaign. The research component will examine the effects of the program on youth participants’ socio-emotional learning (SEL) and academic efficacy. Additional aims of the project are to ascertain which program components evince specific outcomes, and to explore how being involved in the program influences adult leaders’ socialization and career preparation. The main issue addressed is helping youth in Champaign and Urbana develop socially and academically, needs which have been identified by the community partner and the local school districts. Youth (ages 5-16) will take part in this 8-month program designed to utilize sport, physical activity, the cultural arts, and educational workshops to address the stated outcomes.

This project is an equal collaborative effort between faculty in the Departments of Recreation, Sport and Tourism (RST) and Kinesiology and Community Health (KCH) as well as staff from the DMBGC. The DMBGC has a need to provide high quality programming for youth, particularly to those who come from communities affected by poverty and struggle in school. The DMBGC wants to expand its programming to include evidence-based pedagogies, and to develop a robust evaluation scheme. The proposed program directly addresses the ongoing needs of the community partner by enabling faculty and students at UIUC, who have the latest knowledge and training in sport and physical activity pedagogy, to work alongside DMBGC staff in designing, implementing, and evaluating the Young Olympians Program.

The proposed project furthers UIUC’s mission of discovery, engagement, and innovative learning in several ways. First, it provides a direct avenue for public engagement for students and faculty to design and evaluate a program aimed at addressing community needs. Second, the project establishes an innovative learning environment for UIUC student leaders as they work collaboratively with DMBGC staff, directly applying knowledge gained in the classroom to practice. Finally, the project allows all partners to discover design components that are linked to outcomes. The project will directly benefit both UIUC researchers and the community partner. It will enable researchers from RST and KCH to collect longitudinal data that will be publishable in top tier journals and which can be leveraged for external funding. The DMBGC will benefit by having a theory-driven, pedagogically sound program delivered and evaluated to help it achieve its mission of enabling all young people, especially those residing in communities affected by poverty, to reach their full potential as productive, caring, responsible citizens.

Research Team

I-Pollinate: Bringing Citizens and Scientists Together for Research

Building a partnership between researchers, extension, and citizens that will improve data collection for insect conservation efforts while engaging and educating citizens.

Project Abstract

Insect declines threaten global biodiversity by reducing the vital services provided by ecosystem services, including pest control, pollination, and nutrient cycling (Potts et al. 2010; Hallmann et al. 2017). These declines also can destabilize entire ecosystems as insects serve as primary food sources for numerous birds, mammals, amphibians, and other animals (Hallmann et al. 2017). One of the primary limitations to addressing these declines is adequate data on species distributions, declines, and preferences. Citizen science, the process by which citizens contribute to scientific research by assisting with data collection, provides an opportunity to tackle the data limitations that prevent conservation efforts (Dickinson et al. 2010). By building a partnership between researchers, extension, and citizens, the I-Pollinate program will improve data collection for insect conservation efforts while engaging and educating citizens.

Research Team
  • Alexandra Harmon-Threatt, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
  • Morgan Mackert, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
  • David Zaya, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
  • Kelly Allsup, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
  • Christopher Evans, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
  • Candice Hart, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
  • I-Pollinate partners will be recruited through the University of Illinois Extension

Illinois Maya Initiative

Developing a collaborative hub connecting researchers, community social service professionals, and indigenous Latin American (primarily Maya) immigrants and refugees in east-central Illinois.

Project Abstract

The Maya Illinois Initiative aims to develop a collaborative hub connecting researchers, community social service professionals, and indigenous Latin American (primarily Maya) immigrants and refugees in east-central Illinois. We seek funding to develop this initiative in pursuit of four primary goals:

  1. To establish models of best practices, consistent with ethical guidelines, state-of-the-art examples of collaborative research, and recognized standards of indigenous community rights, that will serve as a resource for members of the university community seeking research or engagement connections with the Maya community.  Because the practical and ethical challenges of work with this community differ significantly from more conventional research, extension, and engagement work across our campus, we see this not only as a resource for prospective researchers and engagement specialists but also for campus oversight boards such as the IRB.
  2. To serve as a clearinghouse helping to connect and align research and engagement efforts from across our campus, to minimize duplication, and to more effectively leverage existing skills, experiences, and outcomes from previous and ongoing work.
  3. To develop a sustainable campus-community platform that will facilitate the development of collaborative research and outreach work generated by community members, regional institutional stakeholders, and campus researchers and extension agents.
  4. To make this project a model for other sorts of campus-community collaborative infrastructures at the University of Illinois and comparable work with indigenous Latin American and other vulnerable communities elsewhere.

The Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies serves students, faculty, and scholars from across the University of Illinois campus, along with communities from across Illinois and the Midwest, by promoting innovative research, specialist teaching, and public awareness of the Latin American region and its complex connections to the United States and other parts of the world. Community engagement is core to the Center’s mission and is evidenced by a robust set of activities serving K-14 educators and their students, business and professional groups, local social service agencies, and the general public. This proposal builds on the Center’s longstanding engagement with service providers who work with Latinx migrant communities in the CU area so that they can offer more culturally and linguistically sensitive and effective support to the indigenous (primarily Maya) migrant communities in Champaign County.

Research Team
  • Katherine Szremski, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
  • Julia Albarracín, Western Illinois University Andrew Orta, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
  • Ryan Shosted, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
  • Alejandra Seufferheld, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
  • Margarita De L Teran-Garcia, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

MOVE MS and Beyond: Fostering Group Exercise for Individuals with MS and Other Disabilities Through Research-Supported Community Programs

Designing, developing, implementing, and sustaining an MS-specific physical activity program.

Project Abstract

Engagement in physical activity (PA) and exercise yields important benefits for those with chronic disease and disabilities. Although many barriers contribute to low participation (e.g. distance, cost, scarcity, inaccessibility, isolation), people with chronic conditions such as multiple sclerosis (MS) desire and would benefit from PA and exercise programs that are inclusive, appropriate, evidence-based and convenient. Further, adults with chronic conditions and disabilities often feel alienated in exercise spaces and desire condition-specific exercise programming in their local community. The present study aims to design, develop, implement and sustain an MS-specific PA program. Our research team has been involved in the implementation of the community program MOVE MS for the last 2.5 years in central Illinois. We have identified challenges that can be addressed with the current proposal to ensure successful continued collaboration.

Research Team
  • Brynn Adamson, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
  • Chung-Yi Chiu, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
  • Ashley Dennis, Urbana Park District Kay Hankins, National Multiple Sclerosis Society
  • Elsie Hedgspeth, Urbana Park District Stacy Kirkpatrick, teacher in Bloomington/Normal
  • Toni Liechty, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
  • Laura Rice, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

STEAM TRAIN (Transdisciplinary Research Across Institutional Near-Peers)

Providing educational enrichment across grades and institutions.

Project Abstract

Franklin STEAM Academy (Franklin) hosts a culturally diverse student body, in search of enrichment opportunities to both captivate their interests and push the boundaries of their creativity. University of Illinois Laboratory High School (Uni) seeks resources to provide students with a passion for mentoring to pursue their community-oriented goals. The Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology (IGB) is a collaborative research institute focused on grand societal challenges, with a robust outreach program embodying their motto, “Where science meets society.” To this end, we provide both educational activities for students of all ages and build relationships with community groups. Together, Franklin, Uni, and the IGB envision a community research partnership program to achieve the goals of all three groups. The STEAM TRAIN will be a student-led effort to tackle life science grand challenges of their own choosing, with the benefit of multi-generational mentorship teams. These teams will feature near-peer Uni High students, aided by University of Illinois graduate and undergraduate students and IGB outreach staff. This program will foster collaboration across disciplines while empowering younger students to explore their own ideas for the future of science and a better tomorrow.

Research Team
  • Daniel Urban, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
  • Zanne Newman, Franklin STEAM Academy
  • Christopher Brunson, Franklin STEAM Academy
  • David Bergandine, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign Laboratory HS
  • Courtney Fenlon, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
  • Gene Robinson, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

“I’m thrilled with the response we received—both the diversity and number of submitted proposals. The projects represent a variety of investigators and community groups who will reach a wide swath of our community and make a tangible impact,” said Oliver.

Over the next year, these research teams will develop their pilot projects with an initial 20K in seed funding and a potential two years of subsequent support. Data and proof-of-concept from some of the pilot projects will be a basis for developing external funding proposals.

“Our team is thrilled to be a part of CO+RE,” said Extension Specialist and Human Development and Family Studies Research Assistant Professor Margarita Teran-Garcia, a principal investigator on the Illinois Maya Initiative. Based in the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies, The initiative seeks to develop a collaborative hub that connects researchers, community social service professionals, and indigenous Latin American (primarily Maya) immigrants and refugees in east-central Illinois. Once established, this hub can offer more culturally and linguistically sensitive and effective support and education to these migrant communities.

Connecting with community stakeholders and being respectful to their culture and ideas is critical to this project’s success. “In order to be effective in community participatory research, you have to earn the respect and trust of the community members” said Teran-Garcia.

Establishing bonds like these is critical to the CO+RE Program’s efforts.

“Relationships are everything,” said Oliver. “Projects like the Illinois Maya Initiative let the community know that we are engaged—we are invested in them.”

The five selected programs reflect the CO+RE Program’s initial efforts. After evaluating the program’s efficacy, CO+RE leadership will explore how to support more collaborations moving forward, particularly those dedicated to the community’s arts initiatives.

For more information about the CO+RE Program, contact Cynthia Oliver, Associate Vice Chancellor—Humanities, Arts, and Related Fields.