UVA Funds Professors' Research on Civic Engagement, Neuroscience


By Bethanie Glover

A University of Virginia fund with an annual pool of $700,000 has provided several faculty members, including UVA EHD's Jennie Grammer and Rachel Wahl, with seed money to invest in their research.

The following is an excerpt from a story originally published by UVA Today. Click here to read the full story.


The President and Provost’s Fund for Institutionally Related Research announced its third round of awards to support faculty research that shows potential to benefit the University of Virginia community.

Launched in 2020, the seed fund supports UVA faculty researchers who design projects to improve life and learning at the University, especially for students. Proposals also support key elements of the University’s strategic plan, “A Great and Good University: The 2030 Plan.”

The fund is designed to provide initial support to launch projects that can either be completed with one-time funding, or, if they will require a larger investment, have the potential to attract longer-term funding from federal agencies, private foundations and other sources. The fund has an annual pool of $700,000, with a cap of $200,000 per award.

“We are thrilled to offer support to six proposals this year, tripling the number of awards from each of the past two rounds,” President Jim Ryan said. “While selecting only some of the competitive proposals that we receive is challenging, Ian and I are impressed with the potential that these projects have to benefit the UVA community.”

Provost Ian Baucom added, “The projects selected for this round of funding all share a deep desire to reach students where they are – in classrooms and dorm rooms, and as citizens and future leaders. Feeling a sense of belonging and welcome has been a recurring theme for students this year, chiefly as we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic, and I am delighted to see faculty members dedicating their thought and work to improving student learning and experience through this research.”

This year, 16 submissions were nominated by deans on a variety of topics from schools across Grounds. Six recipients were chosen, including two from the UVA School of Education and Human Development.

Jennie Grammer, Stern Bicentennial Associate Professor in Education and Neuroscience, received funding for her proposal, “Using Neuroscience in Real-World Settings to Improve Student Attention and Engagement,” which aims to optimize student learning experiences through neuroscience data. The project team will observe and analyze instructors and students using a combination of electroencephalography and methods identified by UVA’s Center for Teaching Excellence to improve student attention and engagement in class. The project’s effort to monitor brain function in classroom settings will ideally help instructors know which conditions set their students up for success.

Rachel Wahl, Department of Leadership, Foundations, and Policy, School of Education and Human Development; and Melody Barnes, Executive Director of the Karsh Institute of Democracy, received funding for their project titled “Is the Good Life Political? Civic Engagement, Ethics and Student Well-Being.” Wahl and Barnes’ research focuses on the past, present and future of the civic and political engagement of young people and its correlation to their well-being. The research team will engage faculty members on Grounds, conduct a public dialogue with community colleges on civic engagement and its effect on students with financial and caretaking responsibilities, and ultimately, develop new coursework and programs on the topic of civic engagement and its connection to student well-being.