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UMass Lowell Awards 2020 Challenge Grants

Micro-Grants Fund Projects that Reflect University’s Mission, Build Community

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UMass Lowell has awarded 10 new 2020 Challenge Grants, which provide funding for projects on campus and in the community that reflect the university's mission.


Media contacts:  Nancy Cicco, 978-934-4944 or and Christine Gillette, 978-934-2209 or
LOWELL, Mass. – UMass Lowell today announced the first recipients of this year’s 2020 Challenge Grants, which provide funding for new projects on campus and in the community.

Launched in 2015 by UMass Lowell Chancellor Jacquie Moloney, the micro-grant program annually awards 20 grants of $1,000 each for new ideas that advance “UMass Lowell 2020,” the university’s 10-year strategic plan. Winning projects must support one or more of the five pillars of the university’s mission: to provide transformational education to students, promote global engagement and an inclusive culture, pursue innovative research and entrepreneurship opportunities, cultivate entrepreneurial stewardship of UMass Lowell resources and advance the university’s legacy and place as a top-tier public research institution.

“Initiatives awarded 2020 Challenge Grants reflect the creativity and diversity of ideas among UMass Lowell students, faculty, staff and the public that can be put to use to enrich campus and community life,” said UMass Lowell Chancellor Jacquie Moloney.

The first phase of “UMass Lowell 2020” was launched with Moloney’s leadership during her eight years as executive vice chancellor and is moving forward under her guidance as the first woman chancellor to lead the institution. Since 2010, the plan has guided UMass Lowell through the greatest period of growth in the university’s history, including a 50 percent increase in enrollment, a rise in national rankings for quality and graduates’ return on investment and a more than 100 percent increase in diversity among incoming students. The plan calls for the university to continue on its path and build even stronger ties to the community.

Those eligible to apply for the micro-grants are UMass Lowell faculty, staff and students, along with members of the community. A committee comprised of representatives of these groups chose the award-winning projects.

“It was a pleasure to serve on the 2020 Challenge Grant selection committee, particularly given the many worthy proposals,” said UMass Lowell Physics Prof. Robert Giles, who co-chaired the panel with Economics Prof. Carol McDonough.

“I am honored to help lead the selection committee again this year and look forward to seeing these initiatives unfold,” McDonough said.

Recipients of the first round of this year’s 2020 Challenge Grants are:

  • Linda Barrington, Francis College of Engineering staff, who will team with Girls Inc. of Greater Lowell to present an event at UMass Lowell during which girls age 5 to 18 will take part in a day of classes that will promote science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields as potential career paths; 
  • Diana Davis, UMass Lowell fitness and wellness staff, who has proposed the new “Exercise is Medicine” program, through which UMass Lowell students coping with health issues will be paired with classmates who work at the Campus Recreation Center as personal trainers for eight to 16 weeks of free sessions; 
  • Edward Frechette, United Teen Equality Center (UTEC), Lowell, who will work with UMass Lowell business and engineering students to find new uses for the cotton filler in mattresses to identify a potential recycling market for the material;
  • Heidi Furey, Philosophy Department faculty, who will work with the Luna Theater at Mill No. 5 in Lowell to establish a monthly event series for the public that will feature the screening of films with philosophical themes followed by  discussions led by UMass Lowell professors; 
  • Thomas Heywosz, UMass Lowell mathematics major, who will help develop a new curriculum for the International Active Astronomy Roadshow, which provides K-12 students with hands-on activities to teach them about physics and astronomy;  
  • S ue Kim, English Department faculty, who will partner with SayDarNar Community Development Center of Lowell, UMass Lowell students and community volunteers to collect and digitize the stories and photographs of Burmese refugees who live in the city for use in exhibits and a book;
  • Roger Morneau, Lowell High School teacher, who will lead an initiative enabling Lowell High students to participate in UMass Lowell’s DifferenceMaker Program, which teaches students of all majors entrepreneurship skills to solve problems in business and the community; 
  • Xiaoxia Newton, Graduate School of Education faculty, who will partner with Lowell High School’s Career Academy to establish “Community Impact Day,” bringing together city residents with students from Lowell public schools, UMass Lowell and Middlesex Community College to complete a variety of service projects to benefit the city’s neighborhoods; 
  • Michele Putko, Department of Mechanical Engineering faculty, who will create a pedal-power station that allows users to experience the torque and rotations per minute needed to create enough energy to blend a smoothie;
  • Katerin Ramirez Tejeda, UMass Lowell doctoral student, who will collaborate with Vineyards Power, a nonprofit, community-owned energy cooperative, to advance public support for offshore wind energy as a way to combat climate change.

UMass Lowell is a national research university located on a high-energy campus in the heart of a global community. The university offers its more than 17,500 students bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in business, education, engineering, fine arts, health, humanities, sciences and social sciences. UMass Lowell delivers high-quality educational programs, vigorous hands-on learning and personal attention from leading faculty and staff, all of which prepare graduates to be ready for work, for life and for all the world offers.