Micro-Grants Go to Projects on Campus and in the Community Supporting the Goals of University’s 10-Year Strategic Plan

Asst. Prof. Silas Laycock with the students
Physics Prof. Silas Laycock received one of the 2020 Community Impact Grants to support his efforts to teach schoolchildren about astronomy and space exploration through events such as the program he presented in Haiti last year.


Contacts for media: Christine Gillette, 978-934-2209 or Christine_Gillette@uml.edu and Nancy Cicco, 978-934-4944 or Nancy_Cicco@uml.edu

LOWELL, Mass. – UMass Lowell today announced the recipients of this year’s 2020 Community Impact 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 awards 10 grants of $1,000 to $3,000 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 Community Impact 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. 

“UMass Lowell 2020” was launched with Moloney’s leadership during her eight years as executive vice chancellor and has continued under her guidance since she assumed the chancellorship in 2015. Since 2010, the plan has guided UMass Lowell through the greatest period of growth in the university’s history, including a 57 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. 

Those eligible to apply for the micro-grants are UMass Lowell faculty, staff and students, along with members of the community. The Community Engagement Strategic Planning Subcommittee chose the award-winning projects. 

“It was wonderful to see how these proposals demonstrated the commitment by so many members of the UMass Lowell community to assist others at the university and in the community,” said Robin Toof, co-director of the Center for Community Research and Engagement in the College of Fine Arts Humanities, and Social Sciences.

Sabrina Noel, assistant professor of nutritional sciences and a member of the UMass Lowell Center for Population Health who co-chairs the Community Engagement Subcommittee with Toof, praised the scope of the proposals.

“The university touches so many lives in ways that extend far beyond classroom instruction,” Noel said. “I’m honored to be a part of it.”

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

  • Elissa Johnson-Green, Music Department faculty, who will continue efforts to ensure all children have access to music education regardless of socioeconomic status.
  • Urmitapa Dutta, Psychology Department faculty, who will use digital storytelling to elicit, document and disseminate local youth perspectives on community.
  • Silas Laycock, Physics Department faculty, who will continue efforts to develop models, games and other tools designed to make space exploration understandable and accessible to all audiences.
  • Sue Kim, English Department faculty, who will support the UMass Lowell 2018 Asian American Cultures Festival.
  • David Ouellette, Acre Neighborhood Group (ACTION), who will support the Acre’s ongoing Art In The Neighborhood Initiative.
  • Jessica Wilson, Mill City Grows, who will work to improve physical health, economic independence and environmental sustainability in Lowell through increased access to land, locally grown food and education.
  • Annie Ciaraldi, Student Affairs staff, who will use the grant to support the university’s Success Transition Program to help students adjust to the changes in their lives that come with starting at a university.
  • Stephen Cerand, Lowell Canalwaters Cleaners, who will use the grant to help to develop a robot to assist in the removal of floating trash and debris from waterways.
  • Ivy Ho, Psychology Department faculty, who will support the Center for Hope and Healing, a non-profit organization whose mission is to end sexual violence.
  • Robert Forrant, History Department faculty, who will work with students and the International Institute of Lowell to use its archives to create an exhibition of 100 years of the city’s history. 

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 18,000 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. www.uml.edu