By Elisabeth Wall
Five proposals out of 40 submitted by faculty at Appalachian State University have been awarded funding through Chancellor Sheri N. Everts’ Appalachian Innovation Scholars Program (AISP).
Some of the funded projects build on existing research; others are new initiatives. Each of the scholarship proposals awarded reflect one or more of the university’s strategic initiatives:
“Our first Innovation Scholars projects are stunning examples of original thinking and collaboration,” said Chancellor Sheri N. Everts. “The number and quality of applicants far exceeded our expectations – we could have funded all 40 proposals with confidence. We actively will seek additional resources in order to fund this type of creative scholarship on a regular basis.”
Here are the Innovation Scholars, the projects and their stories:
Department of Sustainable Development
Collaborator: Dr. Jeremy Ferrell, assistant professor, Department of Sustainable Technology and the Built Environment
Project: Urban farm-to-table development and technologies to extend year-round local food production
Both Fanatico’s and Ferrell’s career paths were inspired by Peace Corps experiences in Latin America. Fanatico said she first saw agriculture as an applied science for development after seeing a tropical rainforest cut to feed a family in Central America. This AISP project combines agriculture, resource management and sustainable technologies with hands-on, real world learning to advance local food production with local resources, Ferrell said. “It highlights the strength of our programs and departments with a creative and innovative approach to bolster a growing local food movement [in the High Country] and beyond.”
Senior lecturer in nutrition and dietetic internship director
Department of Nutrition and Health Care Management
Project: Innovation in health professions education: interpersonal, rural-focused primary care simulations
Thompson views the opportunity to teach nutrition at Appalachian as an opportunity to multiply her influence by training others in her field. This project extends her impact on the larger community. The education materials developed here through the project’s simulations “have the potential to be used in training health care providers across the country in best practices for providing nutrition care to underserved rural patients,” she said. “Because the simulations will be adaptable to interprofessional training, students in other healthcare disciplines will benefit from them as well.”
What drew Thompson to this field? “Nutrition impacts every aspect of life,” she explained. “A person may be healthy, or may struggle with health challenges; for both of these individuals, good nutrition can improve overall quality of life.”
Department of Leadership and Educational Studies
Collaborator: Dr. Louise Keegan, Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders
Project: Socially assistive robotics for traumatic brain injury rehabilitation, education and outreach
Both Wallace and Keegan had personal relationships with someone who suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI) and have first-hand knowledge of how assistive technologies can improve quality of life for those people. “Social robotics is a relatively new field,” Wallace said, “with a focus on developing machines to assist humans in the areas of learning, training, performance and health. Our project has the potential to put Appalachian at the forefront of social robotics research. It will support interdisciplinary faculty and student research, develop curriculum in the field of social robotics, provide outreach to community organizations, and seek external funding to support further research and development.”
Associate professor and interim assistant chair
Department of Sustainable Technology and the Built Environment
Collaborators: Hei-Young Kim, research assistant, Appalachian Energy Center, and Dr. Jeremy Ferrell, assistant professor, Department of Sustainable Technology and the Built Environment
Project: Demonstration of root zone heating supported by the biomass greenhouse heating system at local cooperative farms
Yu and the Biomass Energy Research team (NEXUS) have installed biomass- heated greenhouses on two local farms to explore ways to prolong the High Country’s growing season. This project will explore a root zone heating system that is more efficient. Yu said finding “a possible sustainable solution to benefit our entire community” inspires him. He also values the opportunity to engage with students. “For me,” he said, “teaching is not a job and a career but a way to contribute and make a positive impact on students’ futures.”
He is proud NEXUS has become a center for community and university-based education and research – farmers, local school groups and university students come to the site for demonstrations and to conduct research. “Faculty in collaboration with students and local industry and agricultural producers promote an environment of mutual instruction, investigation, learning and development among all partners,” he said.
Scholars with Diverse Abilities (SDAP) director
Collaborator: Erich Schlenker, manager, Transportation Insight Center for Entrepreneurship
Project: Interdisciplinary collaboration to create micro-business opportunities for students and alumni with intellectual and developmental disabilities
Creative Unbound (CU) “extends opportunities to a marginalized population – individuals with disabilities who have fewer opportunities for careers and financial independence,” Ward said. Showcasing and selling their art on the Internet puts “students with diverse abilities directly in the career process.” CU also reaches out to Appalachian’s traditional students, Ward said, providing them the opportunity to share their skills and expertise – web development, marketing, graphic design, apparel design, event planning and photography – with a diverse population.
“That in turn feeds a cultural shift towards inclusion. We regularly hear traditional students that work with us talk about how their view of differences has changed and become more open,” she said.
About her choice of career, Ward said, “Ideas and opportunities come and go for me and some latch on while others move on to someone else. I had no idea this is what I would end up doing in my life, but the achievements of the program, the staff I work with, and most importantly, the students we support, are a daily reminder that this is important work.”
The Appalachian Innovative Scholars Program complements other innovation initiatives at the university, including these offices and projects: