Six interdisciplinary research teams announced as 2022 ISCE Scholars | VTX


One of the main objectives of the Institute for Society, Culture and the Environment (ISCE) is to prepare social science professors to compete for external funds to support their research. This goal is achieved, in part, through the ISCE Scholars Program.

“We are thrilled to announce the next cohort of ISCE Fellows,” said ISCE Executive Director Karen Roberto. “This group of talented researchers is interested in a wide range of social issues, from mitigating the risk of injury in the elderly to understanding the role of artificial intelligence in urban planning and the use citizen science to engage vulnerable populations in heat resilience planning. We are excited both by the breadth of the issues they investigate and by the relevance of their work to the many pressing concerns facing our world today.

Supporting social science research, broadly defined, is at the heart of what the ISCE does. Fellows, who receive up to $30,000 for a one-year period, typically work in interdisciplinary teams and conduct pilot studies or other preparatory research so they are prepared to apply to external funding agencies. such as the National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation, or private foundations, such as the William T. Grant Foundation or the Virginia Environmental Endowment.

Willandia Chaves, an assistant professor in the College of Natural Resources and Environment’s Department of Fish and Wildlife Conservation, is the principal investigator on a project focused on understanding the role of education and community cultural richness. in the participation of racial and ethnic minority groups in nature-based activities and civic engagement.

“We know that direct interaction with the natural environment has benefits for human health and well-being, as well as more positive attitudes and behaviors toward nature,” Chaves said. “However, interactions with nature are decreasing. This fact is of particular concern for Blacks, Asians, and Latinx people as they have lower rates of participation in nature-based activities and less access to nature compared to Whites.

According to Chaves and co-researchers Ashley Dayer, assistant professor of fish and wildlife conservation, and Tiffany Drape, assistant research professor in the Department of Agricultural Leadership and Community Education at the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences , Blacks, Asians and Latinx people are disproportionately affected by environmental degradation, such as pollution, and have reduced access to green spaces due to a number of factors such as historical segregation, institutionalized racism, lack of role models and security issues.

The research team plans to explore the use of environmental education and community cultural richness to understand their impact on the participation of racial and ethnic minorities in nature-based recreation activities and environmental civic engagement such as than conservation efforts.

“Community cultural wealth is an asset-based model that recognizes the cultural resources that minority groups develop and use to survive and resist different forms of oppression,” Chaves explained.

For the purposes of their research, the research team defines civic engagement as “the ways in which people participate in decision-making processes in their communities to improve their conditions and those of others”.

Chaves, Dayer and Drape plan to focus their research on water resources and will use a mixed-method sequential design to explore how prior educational experiences and the cultural richness of the community influence people’s decisions to participate in aquatic recreational activities or civic engagement, such as attending public meetings related to water conservation.

The results of their ISCE Scholar award will inform the development of several larger grant applications, such as the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies and the National Science Foundation.

“The support of the ISCE will be essential to launch this collaborative project,” said Chaves. “With this support, we will gain more experience on this topic, obtain preliminary data, refine our research questions and write a manuscript. All of this will make us more competitive for external funding.

The six ISCE Fellowship Projects and Associate Professors include:

  • Analysis of online reviews on injury prevention in older adultsled by Alan Abrahams, associate professor of business information technology at Pamplin College of Business, and Laura Sands, professor of human development and family sciences at the College of Liberal Arts and Humanities and faculty member of the Center for Gerontology .
  • Understand the role of education and community cultural richness in engaging Black, Asian, and Latinx people in nature-based activities and civic engagementled by Willandia Chaves and Ashley Dayer, both assistant professors in the Department of Fish and Wildlife Conservation, and Tiffany Drape, assistant professor of agricultural leadership and community education.
  • Can texting and coaching improve student performance?led by Susan Chen, associate professor, Chanita Holmes and Catherine Larochelle, both assistant professors, all from the Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, and Nicole Pitterson, assistant professor of engineering training at the College of Engineering.
  • Monocultures, water science and the struggle for food sovereignty in Guatemalaled by Nicholas Copeland, associate professor of history in the College of Liberal Arts and Humanities, and Kang Xia, professor in the School of Plant and Environmental Sciences in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences.
  • Engage vulnerable populations in extreme heat resilience planning through citizen science and knowledge co-productionled by Theodore Lim, assistant professor in the School of Public and International Affairs in the College of Architecture and Urban Studies, and Thomas Pingel, associate professor of geography in the College of Natural Resources and the Environment.
  • The prospects of artificial intelligence in urban planningled by Thomas Sanchez, professor, and Theodore Lim, assistant professor, at the School of Public and International Affairs, Chris North, professor of computer science at the College of Engineering, and Alec Smith, assistant professor of economics at the College of Science.

For more information on the ISCE Scholars program, visit the ISCE website or contact Yancey Crawford.

— Written by Yancey Crawford


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