The Towson University Foundation announces 2021 Grant Award recipients

January 30, 2021

The projects focus on vaccine research, culturally relevant theatre, Holocaust education and advancement of underrepresented groups

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In this 2018 file photo, Joyce Garczynski presents the Forget-Me-Not Holocaust exhibition to the Assistant University Librarian for Special Collections & University Archives, Ashley Todd-Diaz, and BHI graduate student Rebecca Berger.

Five Towson University projects that align with Towson University’s mission as an institution for the public good will receive funding from the Towson University Foundation (TUF).

The projects—focusing on vaccine research, culturally relevant theatre, Holocaust education and advancement of underrepresented groups in the areas of STEM research and physics—have been awarded a total of $100,000 in grants through the TUF.

“The work being performed every day by our students, faculty and staff supports our efforts as an institution for the public good,” TU President Kim Schatzel said. “And that work is only elevated by the generous contributions from our donors through the TU Foundation. The momentum of our work and our community partnerships is growing stronger, galvanizing TU's efforts as an anchor institution in the Baltimore region.”

The Towson University Foundation, Inc. was established in 1970 as a non-profit 501(c)3 corporation, allowing donors to make tax-deductible contributions in support of TU scholarships and fellowships, faculty development, research, outreach projects, academic and other programs.

"This has been an extraordinary year in many ways,” says J. William Murray, TUF president. “However, the COVID-19 pandemic didn't compromise the scope or quality of grant applications we considered. They represented a broad range of academic excellence. We are very pleased to fund five very worthy programs."

The grant awards are not only a cherished moment for the recipients, but for members of the TU Foundation as well.

"Each year I look forward to learning more about the outstanding work happening in the Towson University community,” says Kim Fabian, TUF vice president. “It is a privilege to support this year's projects, which offer exciting opportunities for experiential learning, emphasize inclusiveness and represent the very best of what TU has to offer.”

The Foundation received nine applications for funding and carefully evaluated the submissions using a rubric that was developed to assess specific outcomes and objectives for the various proposals.

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The following projects were awarded grant funding.

Toward More Effective Vaccines, with an Emphasis against SARS-CoV-2 ($22,700)

COVID-19, the group of clinical signs and symptoms associated with infection by the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, is now a global pandemic. There is no pre-existing immunity in people, and, to protect susceptible individuals, it is necessary to develop a vaccine against this agent that will induce this. The research seeks to develop a vaccine using specially engineered live and inert components to achieve effective and lasting immunity. The grant will fund original faculty research supported by undergraduate and graduate students in three labs.

“Students participating in this research will gain first-hand experience in research methodology and be exposed to authentic research that will encourage them to seek advanced degrees in the biomedical sciences," says biology professor Barry Margulies.

Black Theatre Troupe ($22,700)

Led by the Department of Theatre Arts, The Black Theatre Troupe will offer culturally relevant theatre and production opportunities to Black students and the larger TU community to experience Black narratives as a vehicle for social change and transformation. Students will be invited to workshops with guest artists in acting, playwriting, directing, production, design and advocacy with a lens on the Black world.  Funding will support honoraria, student travel, workshops, resources and the program evaluation as it relates to understanding the cultural and personal impacts of the programming.

“This project seeks to create unity in diversity through arts education by providing access to Black narratives for the whole campus and promoting them into the mainstream of American theater,” assistant professor Mukwae Wabei Siyolwe says.

Evidence Against Intolerance: A Virtual Symposium on Teaching the Holocaust in the Digital Disinformation Era ($22,700)

In a recent nationwide poll, 63% of Millennials and Gen Z respondents did not know that 6 million Jews were murdered during the Holocaust and one in 10 respondents had never heard the term Holocaust. The grant-funded virtual symposium will be open to TU students as well as teachers throughout Maryland. Evidence Against Intolerance will bring together global Holocaust education and information literacy education experts and provide funding to select symposium participants for the creation of exemplary lesson plans. Accessible through Cook Library’s digital repository, the lesson plans will be available to teachers in Maryland and beyond.
TU students will be involved in the creation, implementation and evaluation of the symposium and lesson plan repository, and a library staff-supervised TU graduate student intern will coordinate the symposium.

“The Evidence Against Intolerance Symposium, and the resulting lesson plans, will strengthen Towson University’s position as a local, regional, and global leader in the field of Holocaust education,” notes Joyce Garczynski, assistant university librarian for development & communication.

Advancing Underrepresented Groups in Authentic STEM Research ($19,000)

The grant will expand the number of underrepresented groups who engage in STEM internships and research at TU. It will support stipends in spring and fall 2021 for students who will conduct research on three behaviors exhibited by sugar gliders: ultrasonic echolocation, biomechanics of gliding and night color vision. Students hired through this grant will partner with others already working on earlier phases of research—setting up a peer mentoring dynamic—and will be encouraged to present at national conferences and publish findings in scholarly journals.

“If we are able to foster students’ learning by providing them with steady and paid research experiences, we can recruit, retain, and train these students in authentic research,” says Harald Beck, a professor in the Department of Biological Sciences.

TU Physics & Astronomy Teaching Community ($12,900)

This project will increase the number of underrepresented students earning physics degrees and create a student–faculty teaching community centered on building and strengthening the skills necessary to succeed in upper-level courses in bachelor’s and master’s physics degree programs.

The program involves a half-day workshop for students and faculty each term, with asynchronous collaboration throughout the year using virtual tools. Funding will support undergraduate and graduate student tutoring stipends and workshops.

“Our physics program has grown and thrived in recent years, but there is an urgent need to increase the number of underrepresented minority students among our successful graduates,” physics professor Jennifer E. Scott notes.

This story is one of several related to President Kim Schatzel’s priorities for Towson University: TU Matters to Maryland, Diverse and Inclusive Campus and Culture of Philanthropy.