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UM Community Wellbeing Initiative Unveils New Seed Grants

The University of Mississippi’s Flagship Constellations initiative has awarded four new seed grants through its Community Wellbeing Constellation. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

Helping create an Ida B. Wells Commemorative Tour in Holly Springs and exploring the therapeutic use of vocal training in older adults are projects being funded through a new round of seed grants from the University of Mississippi’s Flagship Constellations initiative.

The four grants through the Community Wellbeing Flagship Constellation total $20,000.

The Flagship Constellations initiative was unveiled in November 2017 as a collaborative effort among faculty, staff and students from UM Oxford and the University of Mississippi Medical Center to explore and solve complex issues through the diversity of ideas. The initiative includes multidisciplinary teams working to find solutions to grand challenges in the areas of brain wellness, community well-being and disaster resilience.

With both rural and urban communities facing increasing challenges in areas such as environmental health, personal health and housing, the Community Wellbeing Flagship Constellation‘s research teams and programs work within communities to identify factors impairing their well-being and deploy new programs and practices to build stronger, more vibrant communities.

“We are incredibly excited by the project topics submitted and awarded in this round of the seed-funding competition,” said Meagen Rosenthal, constellation team leader and assistant professor of pharmacy administration in the UM School of Pharmacy.

“The awarded projects, with their diverse and extensive representation of community members, faculty and disciplines, are a testament to the power of the constellation initiative to bring together multiple stakeholders to address the complicated challenges that affect the people of our state.”

The proposals link researchers from a dozen departments on the Oxford and Medical Center campuses, including faculty and staff representing English, teacher education, history, theatre and film, music and more.

“The Community Wellbeing Flagship Constellation is doing amazing work that benefits communities in Mississippi,” said Josh Gladden, UM vice chancellor for research and sponsored programs. “This round of seed grants supports faculty and staff across 12 different academic departments, each bringing a unique set of skills to a single mission.

“As the name implies, these grants are intended to experiment with a variety of approaches and evaluate which are effective. The teams can use this experience and data to build larger competitive proposals to expand those programs. We are so grateful to the Duff family for enabling this important work.”

The grants are supported by a $1 million donation to the Flagship Constellations initiative by Thomas and Jim Duff, who created the Ernest R. Duff Flagship Constellation Fund in honor of their father.

The funded proposals are:

  • Growing Healthy Minds, Bodies and Communities: The project is a new and innovative standards-based curriculum that combines yoga and mindfulness, gardening and nutrition, social-emotional competencies, and anti-bullying and anti-bias to support the well-being of Mississippi’s children. The curriculum will be piloted within early childhood programs across north Mississippi to address the major challenges faced in the state. The proposed curriculum integrates strategies to promote physical, social, emotional and intellectual health while cultivating community engagement that has the potential to boost children’s overall well-being.
  • Lynching Memorialization in Lafayette County: Leveraging the Arts to Deepen Understanding, Impact, Response and Engagement: The proposal continues work already begun between the Montgomery, Alabama-based Equal Justice Initiative and north Mississippi community partners to install a marker memorializing the seven lynchings that occurred in Lafayette County. The team believes that working together across disciplines and including community members in the creation and presentation of artwork guided by professional artists will help deepen the community connection to the marker and to the history it represents, and will help articulate a common set of ideas of what it means to move forward.
  • Singing, Speaking and Swallowing: the Therapeutic Use of Vocal Training in Older Adults: This project brings together UM and UMMC collaborators along with Oxford-based assisted living centers to explore music therapy in the area of trauma. Researchers plan to apply some of music therapy’s tenets to a less-explored area: supporting aging adults by combining best practices and the highest standards of vocal pedagogy, communicative disorder science and elder care. The project will offer direct benefits to older adults living in facilities in Oxford, to their caregivers and to Ole Miss students and staff.
  • The Ida B. Wells Commemorative Tour: Tourism as a Form of Community Development: Ida B. Wells-Barnett, born enslaved in Holly Springs in 1862, was a journalist, educator and civil rights and women’s rights activist. The grant will support the research phase for the creation of an Ida B. Wells Commemorative Tour, which will chronicle the early life of Wells-Barnett and use the existing landscape to tell more inclusive public history narratives. The tour also will enhance local youth and community education, bring attention to Wells-Barnett and promote local economic development through reconciliation tourism.

The four new proposals mark the second round of grants from the Community Wellbeing Flagship Constellation. The first round, announced in November 2018, totaled $17,200 and are funding a range of research that affects Mississippi, including uncovering the link between water quality and health in Jackson.

Besides Rosenthal, the constellation team leaders include Annie Cafer, an assistant professor of sociology, and Seena L. Haines, professor and chair of the Department of Pharmacy Practice at the School of Pharmacy.

For additional information, visit http://flagshipconstellations.olemiss.edu/community-wellbeing/.

By Shea Stewart

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