Jefferson Trust Announces Grants to Support 18 Projects at UVA

Female student with arms raised as she stands on top of boulders overlooking the Shenandoah Valley

A 2016 Jefferson Trust grant is helping to expand a summer program that gives incoming students a mountaintop experience. (Photo by Dan Addison)

From helping prepare the next generation of professors and school leaders to providing a platform for collaborative research at micro- and nanoscales, the Jefferson Trust, an initiative of the University of Virginia Alumni Association, will award 18 grants totaling more than $775,000 to University entities on Friday. The ceremony is set for the Upper Garden of Pavilion III at 4:30 p.m. (rain site: Alumni Hall; check the Jefferson Trust's Facebook page for up-to-date information).

Established in 2006, the Jefferson Trust is an unrestricted endowment that distributes funds annually through a University-wide grant program. Its mission is to pursue excellence across the University by supporting initiatives that enhance teaching, scholarship and research; allow faculty and students to work closely together while engaging in hands-on learning; and allow the University community to make an impact on other communities – locally, nationally and globally.

This year, a $50,000 grant will help support Experiential Career Development within the UVA Career Center. In order to better prepare students for a competitive job market, the center plans to launch a new professional development course for second- and third-year students that secures internships and integrates one-on-one alumni mentoring.

“In today’s job market, students need a competitive advantage,” Everette Fortner, associate vice president of career and professional development, said. “The Jefferson Trust’s support of a ‘guaranteed internship’ course provides just such an advantage.”

In addition, a $60,000 grant for Developing Leadership in 3-D Bio-Printing will provide research funds for the Department of Biomedical Engineering’s two state-of-the-art 3-D bio-printers. The funding will be used for interdisciplinary research projects as well as providing UVA students with hands-on training in 3-D bio-printing.

“Since their arrival on Grounds eight months ago, our 3-D bio-printers have stimulated overwhelming interest from faculty and students at all levels across the University – from first-year undergraduates through medical residents,” Professor of Biomedical Engineering Shayn Peirce-Cottler said. “This project will provide a more defined, accessible and visible forum to facilitate collaborative research and training in 3-D bio-printing.”

Since its first grants were awarded in 2006, the Jefferson Trust has given $5.5 million to fund 141 initiatives spanning a broad range of schools, departments, student groups and academic centers at the University.

Other funded grant proposals include:

•    Preserving Self-Governance for Our Third Century ($47,235) This project is a combined effort of the University’s Student Council, Honor Committee and Judiciary Committee, in partnership with the Faculty Senate, to ensure that the next generation of faculty is as supportive as the last generation of the University’s culture of self-governance. The program’s aim is to offer orientation and continuing education for new faculty entirely directed by students actively involved in the three organizations.

•    Jefferson Society Archives Project ($33,615) The history of the Jefferson Literary and Debating Society is in many ways the history of the University. The approximately 32,500 archival items represent crucial pieces of University history that have fallen into disrepair and become inaccessible to the University community. The Jefferson Society Archives Project will hire students to organize the collection and collect metadata to create a comprehensive archival inventory. They will create high-resolution images for 5,000 items in the collection using resources at the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library. Finally, the society will develop a website to house its images and inventory to make them accessible. 

•    Planning for Jefferson Institute for Engaged Youth ($59,500) The establishment of an institute focused on youth as assets can further distinguish UVA in relation to its mission of research, teaching and public service. Spearheaded by the Curry School of Education, these funds will support the planning phase of a proposal for a new pan-University Institute for Engaged Youth to promote scholarship, policy analysis, programming, education and service focused on youth as assets. 

•    Curry Teacher Education ($67,375) The Curry Teaching Fellowship is a proposed partnership between Virginia school divisions and the UVA teacher preparation program to better align critical school needs with teacher training. The intent of the fellowship is to identify and support teaching candidates in much-needed subjects (including special education, elementary education and math) during their transitions from teacher training into their first year of employment by: sharing recruitment, application and fieldwork oversight between school and Curry personnel; continued formal mentoring and success measurement of alumni by the division and Curry through the first year of employment; and enhancing the financial support for candidates during their final year in the Curry program. 

•    Mass Cytometry Antibody Bank ($35,000) Mass cytometry is a new technology that allows the simultaneous measurement of up to 100 different cellular attributes of thousands of individual cells. The major limiting factor for researchers in accessing this technology is the high cost of buying the necessary antibodies for an experiment. This grant will  establish a crowd-sourced antibody bank as a mechanism to overcome this financial obstacle. The funding will support the initial stocking of this bank, which would eventually become self-supporting through future crowd-sourced donations.

•    The Daedalus Project ($10,320) There is a large dichotomy between the interests of students and what they end up studying. More than 70 percent of college graduates work in fields unrelated to their majors. Through a network of hands-on, project-based seminars, led by upperclassmen in the various undergraduate engineering disciplines, the Daedalus Project helps new, undecided engineering students discover their passions.

•    Cavalier Outdoor Adventure Retreats ($11,592) Cavalier Outdoor Adventure Retreat is a three-day outdoor orientation program piloted during the summer of 2015 as part of summer orientation for incoming students. Throughout July, leaders took groups of 10 first-years to Shenandoah National Park, where they participated in hiking excursions and team-building activities. The program proved to be a huge success, and with Jefferson Trust funding, the number of trips will double this summer.

•    The Automata Ambassador Program ($45,000) The Center for Automata Processing is a new UVA initiative to research innovative “big data” solutions through the new Automata Processor. Researchers have seen marked improvement in big data processing using automata processing technology. The center is now at the stage of building industry and government partnerships to explore automata processing applications. Through a pilot program, “Automata Ambassadors” can collaborate across disciplines to identify and solve big data issues faced by UVA research groups. The end-to-end problem-solving process will provide invaluable experience for UVA student ambassadors.

•    “Songs of Virginia” Songbook ($25,000) The University Singers and the McIntire Department of Music’s choral program (with Professor Michael Slon serving as project editor) will research, produce, and publish a commemorative edition of the University of Virginia’s songs, in the form of a hardbound book. 

•    Construction of Tissues in Vitro ($92,138) A shortage of donor organs for transplantation has led the field of regenerative medicine to explore the possibility of producing organs in vitro from embryonic stem cells. A few labs have shown that they can sometimes produce parts of organs or miniature organs by soaking stem cells in various culture media. This project uses a different approach, based on past results and expertise, allowing researchers to take control of embryonic stem cells and imposing them with a precise set of information. The goal of this project is to define optimal conditions to induce mouse embryonic stem cells to start differentiating and organizing themselves into full tissues, in a reproducible manner. 

•    Founders- and Funders-in-Residence ($24,000) The Founders- and Funders-in-Residence programs will expand upon the new and ongoing connections that can be made between students and professionals in the venture community. The professionals will be invited to Grounds and become engaged in a variety of opportunities, including special programming (speaking engagements, dinner events, mentoring, competitions), courses (guest faculty, project partners), and research (practice-oriented research and case writing). 

•    ‘Medical Innovation & Human-Centered Design’ Program ($71,463) Modern-day epidemics, such as childhood obesity, require new types of population- and community-based solutions. At the same time, advancements in fields like genomics create capacity and demand for highly individualized, data-driven care regimens. Future doctors will be called upon to integrate these changes into not only their own medical practices, but also into novel systems of care delivery that reflect these new realities. To address this, a new Medical Innovation & Human-Centered Design program will train UVA medical students in human-centered design (“design thinking”) and provide real-world opportunities to apply these principles, tools and procedures. 

•    Two-day Roundtables at SALALM 2016 ($10,000) A group of Latin American studies practitioners from a broad range of fields will be invited to  participate in a conference that will focus on the many ways in which individuals and institutions are facing globalizing trends in academic realms. The goal of the conference is to consider and question Latin American area studies as a focus of research and critical attention.   

•    Co-create UVA ($25,230) Co-create UVA aims to transform UVA’s educational culture and pioneer a national model for students and faculty reinventing higher education together. Co-create UVA will enhance the student experience at UVA on two levels: student participants in the programs will have powerful opportunities to lead the growing movement of student-faculty collaboration; and the general student body (e.g. students enrolled in a course receiving student consulting) will reap the benefits of the enhancements made to their learning environments.

•    Interdisciplinary Graduate Student Teaching Seminar ($57,532) To support graduate students as they learn to teach science in higher education, an innovative, interdisciplinary, one-credit teaching seminar course will be developed and implemented in chemistry, astronomy, biology and physics. This course will include collaboration across departments and with North Carolina State University, where a successful teacher preparation program for graduate students currently exists.

•    The Legacy of the Samuel Kootz Gallery ($52,000) “The Legacy of the Samuel Kootz Gallery,” an exhibition and catalogue from The Fralin Museum of Art at the University of Virginia, will present works by the European and American modernist artists represented by Kootz, and highlight the impact of his promotion of these artists on the postwar art world. The catalogue itself will be a lasting resource for scholarly research as well as a critical teaching tool to promote this creative lens for examining postwar art in America.

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