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Five community-campus partnerships were awarded funds for projects that enhance the engagement mission of the university locally, nationally, and globally.

The University of Tennessee Community Engagement Incentive Grants are allocated through a competitive annual process, subject to both academic and community peer review. This year’s funded projects range from teaching music in Tanzania to funding a new bat house to be placed in the UT Gardens.

Hilary Herndon

Hilary Herndon, associate professor of viola, plans to partner with the Korongoni Secondary School in Tanzania. The nation is classified as a “least developed country” by the United Nations. Herndon proposes sending UT student teachers to Tanzania this summer to teach daily music lessons to the school children.

“What better way to demonstrate to a UT music student the value of music than to have them experience firsthand what it means to those who struggle with the basic needs,” said Herndon. “Art is one of the ways we say ‘I am alive, and my life has meaning.'”

The other four funded proposals are as follows:

  • Davis
    Marleen Kay Davis

    Marleen Kay Davis, Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture distinguished professor of architecture, for “Priorities for Downtown Knoxville: Exploring Recommendations for the Urban Land Institute, 2015.” Working with the City of Knoxville, the Urban Land Institute has made recommendations to its leaders about the future use of five downtown sites. Davis plans to teach a research design studio course this fall to assist the city with building consensus for community decisions. Funds will help extend the course research beyond the classroom, with public events, exhibits, and a permanent publication. The goal is to help students gain insight into the public process related to urban design decisions.

  • McCracken
    Gary McCracken

    Gary McCracken, professor of ecology and evolutionary biology, for “Fostering Children’s Conservation Ethic Through a Bat-Centered Conservation Education Program.” This project involves constructing a community bat house that will provide a focal point for the education and implementation of conservation education curricula. It also will provide an opportunity for children and other community members to experience bats in the wild. The bat house—measuring 10 feet by 10 feet—will accommodate thousands of bats and be placed at an approved location at the UT Gardens, adjacent to the Tennessee River. The grant will cover the cost of the initial structure and matching funds will be used to complete construction.

  • Steen
    Andrew Steen

    Andrew Steen, assistant professor of earth and planetary sciences, for”Root Mark Analysis Utilizing Citizen Science.” Steen hopes to tap into citizen scientists, whom he describes as an underutilized resource for crowd-sourcing research. “Previous attempts to incorporate citizen scientists into research on postmortem alterations to bone are rare, but yield promising results,” the proposal states. This project will explore modifications to bone caused by plants, a commonly identified trace. Principal investigators and area middle school students will collect data for statistical comparisons. The results will serve as a method of engaging students in the scientific process, an exploration for the utility of citizen science in similar research, and a proof of concept for forthcoming Nation Science Foundation (NSF) and National Institute of Justice (NIJ) proposals.

  • Fulton
    Gale Fulton

    Gale Fulton, associate professor of landscape architecture and chair of the department, for “Lonsdale Elementary Performative Landscapes.” Fulton’s work focuses on enhancing a well-established collaboration between the landscape architecture program, the Great Schools Partnership, and Knox County’s Community Schools. Fulton will work with Lonsdale Elementary Community School to establish vegetable gardens and other performative landscapes on their site. Grant funds will be used for supplies and construction of the new gardens July 1–August 20, 2015.

Proposals for a UT Community Engagement Incentive Grant may be for community-engaged projects or partnerships that promote the principles of engagement as applied to research, teaching, or outreach. The next application cycle for Community Engagement Incentive Grants is expected to open January 2016.


Elizabeth Burman (865-974-8363,