UND Today

University of North Dakota’s Official News Source

New grants to help faculty, students address North Dakota’s needs

UND CONNECT’s goal: Fund 10 proposals from faculty looking to improve quality of life in North Dakota

How can faculty and students at UND partner with organizations across the state to make life better for North Dakotans?

A new program from UND’s Office of the Provost hopes to answer that question in a very direct way.

Starting this spring, UND CONNECT will fund as many as 10 proposals from faculty looking to set up exactly those partnerships, said Provost Eric Link and Vice Provost for Faculty Affairs Randi Tanglen.

“Service is central to our work here at the University, and our research enterprise is multifaceted, expansive and growing both in scope and significance,” Link said. “The UND CONNECT initiative is just one aspect of this work, but its importance and potential are significant.

“This is a program designed to build connections between the work of the University and the work of the state.”

Grants through UND CONNECT are open to all faculty members at UND, including special appointment and part-time faculty, according to the program’s website.

Proposals are due April 19 to be considered for selection by May 10, and will be recommended for selection by the Senate Scholarly Activities Committee.

Up to $5,000 can be awarded to proposals that meet three objectives. They must:

  • Improve the quality of life in some fashion for communities within North Dakota.
  • Involve students and provide unique learning opportunities or experiences for these students.
  • Integrate faculty expertise, student learning and the active participation of at least one North Dakota community organization/partner.
Randi Tanglen
Randi Tanglen

“We know that our faculty care about North Dakota communities but don’t always know how to get involved,” Tanglen said. “Professors come to UND because they have a deep passion about an area of academic research, and they want to make it come alive in the classroom and the world around them.

“UND CONNECT is a way to make that possible.”

And the program is a way for UND to showcase its values as the state’s flagship university, Tanglen added, echoing Link’s emphasis on service as a core value of the UND LEADS Strategic Plan.

“State agencies, nonprofits and community organizations are working for North Dakotans in a very applied way,” Tanglen said. “And, of course, our faculty have the knowledge, expertise and research experience. UND CONNECT’s goal is to provide faculty with opportunities for more direct service and interaction with North Dakota communities.”

All shapes and sizes

For the projects, the Office of the Provost and the Senate Scholarly Activities Committee are looking for proposals that can be completed within a year of being funded. Also of note, the overall budget can include other funding sources.

Tanglen said the committee is open to proposals of all shapes and sizes. It’s not a requirement to support an ongoing research project, or something entirely new, either. Tanglen encourages faculty who have projects in different stages of development to apply, if it can be shown that the ideas match the three objectives.

“Maybe a current funding source doesn’t allow for travel expenses, for example, whereas UND CONNECT would allow for that,” she said. “So, it can plug into something ongoing or be used as seed money to get something started and let it take flight.”

And while several areas of research at UND regularly make headlines in the state, such as with energy development and autonomous systems, one angle for UND CONNECT is to diversify how the University is recognized for research – not in a way that downplays strengths, but rather brings awareness to the many fields of expertise at work daily, on campus.

“We hope UND CONNECT proposals can represent the many areas of academic inquiry represented throughout the University,” Tanglen added.

The next generation of experts

When asked by UND Today what types of projects she hopes to see spring from a program such as UND CONNECT, Assistant Professor Lavinia Iancu, chair of the Senate Scholarly Activities Committee, envisions several exciting possibilities.

Lavinia Iancu
Lavinia Iancu

Community health initiatives; rural economic development, education and outreach; cultural preservation; environmental stewardship; and technological innovation all would have a great impact on the quality of life in North Dakota, she said.

But what Iancu personally holds dear is the student involvement mandate of UND CONNECT – a topic on which she could “write pages” about its importance.

“There is nothing more important than to train the next generation of experts, practitioners and researchers by providing opportunities to work alongside faculty members and community collaborators on research,” Iancu said, adding that hands-on involvement also teaches about interdisciplinary collaboration and professional networking.

“UND CONNECT aims to ignite curiosity and inspire students to explore beyond textbooks, ask questions, seek innovative solutions and remain curious throughout their academic journey,” she said.

As Tanglen knows, high-impact educational practices such as undergraduate research and faculty mentorship make a difference for students’ outcomes.

“This is not only an opportunity for students to give back to the community but to also have a transformative educational experience at UND,” she remarked.

 

The UND CONNECT website has further information on proposal guidelines, budget requirements, timelines and reporting mechanisms. A rubric template is also available, to show how the selection committee will evaluate potential projects.

Interested faculty are welcome to reach out to the Office of the Vice Provost for Faculty Affairs for questions about proposals and applications.

Funding for UND CONNECT is provided by the North Dakota Economic Diversification Research Grant Fund.