Funded Initiatives

Initiatives Funded through University Strategic Plan Seed Grants

Last Updated: Tuesday, November 21, 2017

The Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost is making funds available through seed grants to fund strategic initiatives in support of Penn State’s strategic plan, “Our Commitment to Impact.” Proposals initiated through the RFP process are evaluated by the relevant strategic plan committees, and the Strategic Plan Oversight Committee submits recommendations for funding.

This list, which summarizes the initiatives funded thus far, will be updated as more proposals are approved for funding.

For more information about these initiatives and the funding process, please contact the Office of Planning and Assessment at strategicplan@psu.edu.

 

Title: The Public Humanities Initiative
Supports: 
Advancing the Arts and Humanities
Project Lead: John Christman, Director of the Penn State Humanities Institute
Overview: 
Spurred by the public outreach mission of the new Penn State Humanities Institute, this is a multi-platform public media initiative organized in partnership with the Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications to spur an ongoing conversation about the fundamental ideas and questions that shape our time. Interest in the kinds of reflection on the human condition that the study of the humanities provides—in fields such as history, philosophy, literature, cultural studies, and communications—has never been higher, and the affordances of media technologies to reach audiences driven by those interests have never been more numerous. Therefore, this initiative aims to produce media that include interviews, conversations, and discussions about topics related to today’s most pressing issues.
 
Title: Digital Collaboratory for Precision Health Research
Supports: Driving Digital Innovation
Project Lead:  Vasant Honavar, Professor and Edward Frymoyer Chair, Information Sciences & Technology; Professor of Computer Science & Engineering, Bioinformatics & Genomics, Neuroscience; Director, Center for Big Data Analytics and Discovery Informatics; and Associate Director, Institute for Cyberscience
Overview: 
Despite recent advances in electronic capture, storage, querying and analyses of data, the ability of researchers and clinicians to harness the power of big data is limited by the lack of means to seamlessly access, analyze, and act upon such data through integrative analysis of heterogeneous, fine-grained, richly structured, longitudinal patient data. Realizing the promise and potential of such data to significantly mitigate health risks and improve health outcomes presents major challenges. The Digital Collaboratory for Precision Health Research (DCPHR) aims to address these challenges by establishing: 1) a secure, data access and use policy (DAUP) compliant, modular, customizable, reproducible, sharable, and auditable data integration and computational data analytics software workflows for integrative analyses of disparate types of health data; and 2) a data governance group to oversee and approve access to DCHPR data and workflow components that realize specific kinds of analyses for IRB-approved projects.

 

Title: Digital Innovation through Immersive Technologies: Establishing New Paradigms for Environmental Decision Support
Supports: Driving Digital Innovation
Project Lead: Alexander Klippel, Professor of Geography and Gosnell Senior Faculty Scholar
Overview: 
Immersive technologies are positively transforming human life, from social interaction to education and research. Digital innovations ranging from augmented reality (AR) to mixed and virtual reality (VR), short xR, find applications in environmental communication and decision making, emergency management, or digital heritage. Penn State is tasked to develop a response to the global investment of billions by major technology companies—most recently Apple for AR—to promote xR, creating a central place in humanity’s digital future. Penn State is set up to globally lead developments in xR, and this initiative will ensure Penn State’s governance in this area in research, education, and outreach. This initiative will provide a platform to efficiently organize efforts across the university that are already under way in almost every college. It will facilitate securing extramural funding through basic research, philanthropy, as well as expanding world campus and residential education efforts by creating a central place for researchers to obtain, share, and advance knowledge about critical developments, workflows, and technology.

 

Title: Integrated Data Systems Solutions for Health Equity
Supports: Enhancing Health
Project Lead: Susan McHale, Director of the Social Science Research Institute and Co-Director of the Penn State Clinical and Translational Science Institute
Overview: 
Pennsylvania collects an array of administrative data from its residents that bear on health and health care. Most of these data reside at the state-level in public agencies. Although collected at a substantial cost to taxpayers, these data are not often used to guide public policy and investments. They also tend to be siloed within collecting agencies whose capacity is limited to basic data management and descriptive analyses. The goal of this initiative is to develop the capacity to access and link administrative data for inferential and predictive analysis to advance understanding of health disparities and provide direction for public policy in the Commonwealth.

 

Title: On Campus Ambulatory Intensive Care (AIC) to Improve Health and Wellness of Penn State Employees and Adult Beneficiaries with Chronic Illnesses
Supports: Enhancing Health
Project Lead: Dennis P. Scanlon, Distinguished Professor, Health Policy & Administration, and Director of the Center for Health Care and Policy Research
Overview: 
This initiative involves a unique partnership between five University Park (UP) area Penn State Health ambulatory health care clinics (PSH clinics) and the UP Employee Health and Wellness Center (EHWC) to identify overweight or obese patients with or at high risk for chronic disease and provide integrative intensive care management as part of an ambulatory intensive care (AIC) unit modeled after similar programs. Providers and their patients will have ongoing access to planned EHWC care management resources, such as education, coaching, and counseling diet, exercise, and patient well-being. In addition, the AIC intervention will incorporate intensive care management program components previously shown to be critical, including personal invitations from providers; an ongoing, close collaboration between physicians, care management specialists and lifestyle interventionists; coordinated medical care to address patients’ personal needs; and tailored care for unique patient populations.

 

Title: Energy University Partnership to Support the Commonwealth’s Oil and Gas Strategy
Supports: Stewarding Our Planet’s Resources
Project Leads: Amy Bridger, Senior Director for Corporate Strategy and External Engagement, and Ivor Knight, Associate Dean for Research and Graduate Studies
Overview: 
The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania was selected as the location for the new Shell Pennsylvania Chemical’s ethane-to-ethylene cracker plant, which will open in 2020 near the Penn State Beaver campus. The IHS Market study from March 2017 estimates a $6B investment from Shell, which will be leveraged into an additional $2.7-$3.7B from supporting efforts. The study estimated that for each job created at the Shell plant, a multiplier of 5-7 is estimated for additional indirect jobs, including utilization of the byproducts in the plastics industry. A major challenge identified is attracting an educated workforce with the right skill sets to meet the growth demand. The purpose of this initiative is two-fold: It will fund research to determine how to best meet the workforce pipeline and research and development needs of the plant, and it will establish Penn State and the Behrend College as the central point for the efforts related to the Erie region and statewide for byproduct utilization outreach efforts.

 

Title: Ecology and Design
Supports: Stewarding Our Planet’s Resources
Project Leads: 
– Charles Andrew Cole, Associate Professor of Landscape Architecture & Ecology
– Eliza Pennypacker, Professor, Head, and Stuckeman Chair in Integrative Design, Department of Landscape Architecture
– Mehrdad Hadighi, Professor, Head, and Stuckeman Chair in Integrative Design, Department of Architecture
– Kelleann Foster, Professor, Associate Dean, and Director of the Stuckeman School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture
Overview: 
This initiative supports the creation of a Penn State Center for Ecology and Design (E+D) that will house three core activities to address the need to fuse ecology and design. Research: Facilitation of funded interdisciplinary projects that demonstrate the impact of this strategy and create new collaborative norms, promote sponsorship of faculty and students for analyses of built works, and test the performance of designed projects based on ecological goals. Outreach: Annual high-profile events that rotate between lecture series and symposia, bringing innovators to Penn State and establishing the University as the locus of forward thinking in this realm, resulting annually in a digital publication of presentations. Education: Development of a graduate education option as well as a certificate in E+D available to a range of majors.

 

Title: United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE): Global Consortium for High Performance Buildings
Supports: Stewarding Our Planet’s Resources
Project Leads: 
– James Freihaut, Professor of Architectural Engineering, Director DOE Mid-Atlantic Combined Heat and Power Technical Assistance Partnership, Technical Director of Penn State at the Navy Yard, and Director of the Indoor Aerosol Laboratory
– David Riley, Professor of Architectural Engineering and Director of the GridSTAR Center
Overview: 
In June 2017 in Kazakhstan, the Energy Ministerial Conference convened by the United Nations Regional Commissions adopted the “Framework Guidelines for Energy Efficiency Standards in Buildings.” The United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) is leading efforts to implement this Framework for the global transformation of energy efficiency in the built environment. Based on Penn State’s initial contributions, collective expertise, and unique positioning, the UNECE has designated the University as the lead institution for developing and managing an integrated and globally scaled research, education, and outreach program supporting the Framework. This initiative seeks the resources to respond immediately to this unique opportunity by providing leadership and expertise in the creation of a global research consortium and developing an integrated and globally scaled education and outreach program. Responding to this unique opportunity will require Penn State to assemble an interdisciplinary team and to draw expertise from across its colleges and campuses, as well as industry partners.

 

Title: Growing Food, Leaders and Community: Expanding Sustainable Food Systems Learning Across Commonwealth Campuses
Supports: Transforming Education
Project Lead:
 
Leslie Pillen, Associate Director of Farm and Food Systems, The Sustainability Institute
Overview: 
In response to strong student demand for interdisciplinary learning opportunities in sustainable food and agriculture systems, the Sustainable Food Systems Program (SFSP) has been in development for the past three years, and a Student Farm was established at University Park (UP) in 2016. Student farm production and maintenance, marketing and sales, and educational and outreach events are managed by student interns, Student Farm club members, and course partners. Produce supplies the dining commons, contributing to campus operations goals. In addition, an accompanying curriculum comprised of three resident education courses (with a fourth on the way) were newly developed that explore not only the sustainable production of food but the social dimensions of food distribution, access, and justice and how food access and choice influence human wellness. The purpose of this initiative is to extend what we have learned through the development of our thriving UP program to other Commonwealth Campuses (CWCs) with a demonstrated interest and capacity to add an engaged scholarship thrust addressing sustainable food systems. Additional Student Farms at CWCs can be achieved through this initiative with assistance from the SFSP at UP.

 

Title: Penn State Lehigh Valley LaunchBox and Retail Services and Sales Industry Collaborative to Support Employment Pathways
Supports: Transforming Education
Project Lead:
 
David Yanoshik, Director of Business Development, Penn State Lehigh Valley
Overview: 
Penn State Lehigh Valley has developed an innovative teaching and learning model to work with various facets of business and industry through the Lehigh Valley LaunchBox that would address fundamental needs specific to certain industries  (manufacturing,  healthcare,  engineering,  human resources,  retail services and sales, etc.). Through our model, we will develop a core competencies domain curriculum that integrates classroom content with industry-informed content to enhance faculty instruction, student learning, industry collaboration, and pathways to employment opportunities. Students will be exposed to an innovative program that provides applied-learning opportunities based on real-time industry problems, the building of teamwork and problem-solving skills, professional development, and integrated internships. In this specific proposal, we offer an initiative focused on the retail and sales industry, which would allow Lehigh Valley LaunchBox to work directly with partners to support The Center for Retail and Sales, which is dedicated to being a leading authority on issues and solutions that face the retailing industry.