Grants promote education, partnerships, service

College of Education faculty members Jean Keller, Casey Barrio, Rossana Boyd and Wendy Middlemiss were featured in this story originally posted on InHouse:


University of North Texas Community Engagement winners top from left:
Michael McPherson, Wendy Middlemiss, Bruce Nacke and Danielle Cooper standing in for Whitney Peake.
Bottom from left, Rosanna Boyd, Oscar Garcia and Casey Barrio. (Photo by Gary Payne/ URCM)


A local soup kitchen, victims of sexual violence and domestic abuse, people with Parkinson's disease, high-risk infants, family businesses and Hispanic students who want to attend college will all find help through UNT's new community engagement partnerships.

The offices of Community Engagement, Provost and Research and Economic Development recently awarded seven grants to UNT faculty members to provide services in those areas around the Denton-Dallas- Fort Worth region.

Jean Keller, interim vice president for community engagement, said the grant program is designed to bring faculty, students and community members together to seek solutions to the communities' needs.

Keller said the nearly $53,000 allocated to these projects is to help UNT collaborate with and its larger communities to exchange knowledge and resources that are mutually beneficial.

"It is our hope the projects will be scaled and sustained along with information dissemination to promote best practices within community engagement," she said.

The grant winners come from a variety of disciplines across campus and help to reach UNT's fourth bold goal to establish UNT as a, engaged university and regional leader by building and expanding mutually beneficial partnerships and resources.

 The grant winners include:

Casey Barrio, associate professor of counseling and higher education, for her project "Program Evaluation of the Turning Point Rape Crisis Counseling Services."

 By working with the staff at Turning Point Rape Crisis Center to evaluate the center's programming, the counseling team will learn about the agency's operations, program development and writing for publication. Meanwhile the partnership will allow the center service more clients and better advocate for funding.

Rossana Boyd, principal lecturer in Teacher Education and Administration, for her project "Mentoring English Language Learners for Transition from High School to College."

In this program, the bilingual teacher certification program will pair students from UNT with English language learners at Guyer High School to help them respond to the challenges associated with pursuing college degrees. In many cases, parents are unable to help the students because they don't speak English. The program will teach high school students and their parents about the admission process, financial aid and careers, as well as how to address cultural constraints that could discourage them from pursuing a college degree. UNT students will serve as mentors to these students, giving them experience in bilingual education and in mentoring.

Oscar Garcia, professor of electrical engineering, for his project "Quantitative Determination of Improvement in Parkinsonian Voice."

This project builds on emerging research into the diagnosis and treatment of Parkinson's disease. Students in the  College of Engineering's Speech, Music and Digital Signal Processing Laboratory evaluate recorded speech features before and after treatment. This information can help determine treatments for different levels of severity, while showing students their research can improve people's lives.

Michael McPherson, associate professor of economics, for his project "Addressing the Needs of Denton's Homeless and Hungry: A Collaboration Between UNT and Our Daily Bread."

In this two-part project, students in the Information Technology and Decision Sciences Department will help resolve problems that Our Daily Bread, a Denton soup kitchen, has been having with its management database. This will help the organization track its clients' needs and have more reliable information for grant-writing purposes. In the second part, students in the Economics Department will collect data to help build a forecasting model that will help Our Daily Bread better estimate the number of meals to prepare each day. The organization serves about 200 hot meals to Denton's homeless population each day and provides numerous other free services. The partnership allows UNT students the chance to apply their skills while gaining a better understanding of homelessness and poverty in the community.

Wendy Middlemiss, associate professor of educational psychology, for her project "Offering Safe Sleep Spaces for Infants at High Risk of SIDS."

In this project, Middlemiss will partner with Texas Health Arlington Memorial Hospital to determine the effectiveness of a portable infant sleep space could prevent Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, which claims the lives of about 97 out of 100,000 babies in Tarrant County. The grant will provide these devices, similarly to devices that showed significant results in New Zealand, and it will establish an opportunity for further partnerships in this important field.

Bruck Nacke, professor of design for his project "Detailing the Social Rehabilitation Retail Environment."

In this project, UNT design students are help to design the interior of a general store at Gatehouse, a shelter for abused women. The shelter's clients can buy clothing and other necessities at this general store. The shelter also includes residential housing, a daycare, counseling center and other retail space. The partnership allows students to demonstrate their creativity in a way that supports a worthy cause and broadens their perspective on the needs in their community.

Whitney Peake, assistant professor of management, for her project "The UNT Department of Management Family Business Initiative."

This project will focus on the needs of local family businesses. It offers support for family businesses and the unique challenges they face. Through a partnership with Candy Haven and Cakes and Northstar Bank, UNT will establish a Family Business of the Year Award and networking event and develop a family business consulting course. The partnership is designed to strengthen UNT's ties in the community and engage students and the community.

"The faculty response to the call for proposal was excellent and we only wish we had more resources to fund additional projects," Keller said.

- Matthew Zabel, University Relations, Communications and Marketing