2023 Baldwin Funded Seed Project Grants

The Baldwin Wisconsin Idea Seed Project Grants are one type of grant provided through the Ira and Ineva Reilly Baldwin Wisconsin Idea Endowment. Seed Projects often seek to explore or expand new dimensions of existing translational outreach, community-based research, and public engagement activities. Seed Projects are animated by innovative ideas and are shaped by the priorities, needs, and interests of the communities they serve.

The 2023 Seed Grants, as described in their submissions, are:

Building Better Pathways for Young Moms to Achieve Educational Goals

Project Leaders:
Nicholas Hillman, Professor, Educational Leadership & Policy Analysis, School of Education
Kate Westaby, Project Assistant, Wisconsin Center For Education Research, School of Education

Young parents, those who have children while in adolescence or early adulthood, experience significant inequities in college access and completion compared to their childless peers. This project engages current young parents and alumni of the Capital High School Parenting Program to pilot-test an action and advisory board. This board will interpret college access research to inform school, college, and governmental policies. Young parents’ perspectives are often excluded in research about them and—in alignment with social justice principles—this project shares power in co-interpretation to advocate for change. The aim of this project is to create better pathways and holistic resources for young parents to achieve their educational dreams, a goal that will help them and their children, our next generation. The timing of this project is critical given the likely increase in early parenthood with the recent dismantling of reproductive rights.

Cultivating Umoja through participatory action research refugees in Madison

Project Leader:
Matthew Wolfgram, Researcher II, Wisconsin Center For Education Research, School of Education

The goal of this project is to develop a participatory action research (PAR) partnership between the Wisconsin Center for Education Research (WCER) at UW-Madison, the refugee resettlement organization Jewish Social Services (JSS) of Madison, and a grassroots refugee advocacy organization in the Congolese community in Madison, called Umoja (or “unity”) in Madison. PAR is a community partnership model of research, in which all aspects of the research—the questions, protocol, data collection, analytical strategies, and dissemination—are informed by the goals, histories, knowledge, and full participation of the community. Project personnel from WCER and JSS will provide research and advocacy mentorship to 3-4 community activists in the Umoja in Madison Organization (who are themselves Congolese refugees), to conduct qualitative research within their community about ways that JSS and the refugee resettlement community in Madison can better support the Congolese and other refugees. The data collected to address this research problem will include auto-ethnographic journaling by the Congolese refugee/researchers, participant-observation in the Congolese community in Madison, and qualitative interviews with 10-15 Congolese refugees. In addition to the training and mentorship of 3-4 refugee/researchers with qualitative research and advocacy skills, Cultivating Umoja will impact the resettlement and flourishing of the Congolese and other refugees in Madison by formulating evidence-based and actionable policy recommendations to inform the resettlement work of JSS in Madison and, through broader dissemination, refugee resettlement policy, research, and advocacy throughout the state and nation.

Evaluating potential safe drinking water sources for the Town of Campbell

Project Leaders:
Michael Cardiff, Associate Professor, Geoscience, College of Letters and Science
Christopher Zahasky, Assistant Professor, Geoscience, College of Letters and Science

The Town of Campbell resides on French Island between the Mississippi and Black Rivers, adjacent to La Crosse, Wisconsin. Due to historical operations at the La Crosse Regional airport, ground water contamination by PFAS has affected the ability of the Town of Campbell’s residents (most of whom rely on untreated groundwater extracted via private wells) to obtain safe drinking water. The Town is now investigating the possibility of major infrastructure commitments—in terms of a new, deep municipal well—to provide water to its residents. However, the ability of this new water supply to reliably provide clean water to Campbell residents will depend on several hydrologic and geologic factors, such as the capture zone of the well, the potential existence of aquitards that can help to reduce vertical movement of PFAS, and potential mixing between groundwater and surface water (the Mississippi/Black rivers). This project will engage faculty members from UW–Madison, USGS Science Center personnel living in Campbell, and members of the Town Board to collect initial data and assess potential locations for a new town water supply. Before the project starts, the project leaders will work with volunteer students from several UW–Madison courses to collect data on French Island. During the project period, the project leaders and a research assistant will work with existing data to provide groundwater models that can act as ongoing decision support tools for the Town as it investigates new water supplies.


Improv Community Academy: Building Civic Health

Project Leader:
Jessica Beckendorf, Community Development Extension Educator, Extension Waupaca County

Civic health in many Wisconsin communities is strained as a result of partisan politics, race and gender inequities, and several years of COVID-19 pandemic isolation. This project aims to bring together the civic engagement efforts of four partners and use applied theater as a strategy for building civic health, by bridging divides, building connections, and engaging around issues of importance through this unique form of participatory action research.

The skills of performance art and storytelling are increasingly being explored in community settings. Applied theatre is the practice of using theatre-based techniques as tools to discover and learn, explore issues of concern to communities, identify problems and actively rehearse solutions, and provoke and shape social change. The techniques offer the opportunity to develop new perspectives and imagine new approaches that can build civic health.

The project partners will create an Improv Community Academy (ICA). The ICA will provide a space to explore important issues and inspire leadership and action. At the same time, the ICA can deepen relationships, accelerate understanding and empathy for others, build a sense of belonging, improve communication, and open up creative solutions. The project will result in a curriculum the partners, communities, and local libraries can use as part of local strategies for building civic health.

Making the StrongPeople Strong Bodies FoodWIse Curriculum Culturally Relevant for Hmong Audiences

Project Leaders:
Beth Olson, Associate Professor, Nutritional Sciences, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences
Morgan Peaden, Nutrition Education Program Specialist, Extension – FoodWIse State Team

Hmong represent the largest Asian American subgroup in Wisconsin, with the state having the third largest population of Hmong in the U.S. Relative to other Asian Americans, Hmong have lower educational attainment, income, and English literacy, making them more likely to suffer from health inequities. In addition, having a smaller body frame and low calcium intake, older Hmong are at risk for osteoporosis, a bone-thinning disease which may result in significant disability and fractures which result in high rates of mortality. UW Extension coordinates and delivers the StrongBodies (SB) strength training program for the prevention of osteoporosis. The SB program, combined with nutrition lessons, is delivered by Extension’s FoodWIse program, a federally funded program for low income families and individuals. Cultural beliefs of Hmong concerning health may also conflict with westernized medicine, contributing further to risk of osteoporosis. FoodWIse recruits, trains and supports educators from the communities where they deliver programming, making them ideal to reach the Hmong audience, including older adults at risk of osteoporosis. However, culturally relevant curricula is severely lacking, requiring educators to translate and adapt curricula as they teach. The objective of this program is to work with Hmong educators and their community partners to adapt and translate, and then pilot and evaluate, the SB nutrition curriculum. The resulting culturally relevant curriculum will improve the ability of the bilingual FoodWIse educators to recruit participants, deliver evidence-based content, and better meet the health needs of Wisconsin’s older Hmong residents.

Supporting the Well-Being and Professional Development of Incarcerated Peer Specialists

Project Leader:
Dan Grupe, Associate Scientist, Center For Healthy Minds, College of Letters and Science

The Wisconsin Certified Peer Specialist (CPS) program trains and certifies individuals with lived experiences of mental health and substance abuse to provide professional support to others and demonstrate that recovery is possible. Among the settings in which CPSs work are Wisconsin state prisons, where they provide support for their peers and contribute to a more positive institutional climate. These individuals’ work is personally meaningful and fulfilling, but it can also be emotionally taxing and lead to burnout or vicarious trauma responses. To support the personal well-being and professional efficacy of peer specialists, this project seeks to support and expand a promising new community-driven initiative, the Peer Specialist Personal & Professional Development Book Club. In 2021, a CPS supervisor began using carefully selected books as a “key” to unlock deep, vulnerable, and healing discussions related to peer specialists’ work and their own traumatic histories. The proposed project seeks to develop and implement a process to prepare additional community based CPSs to facilitate these groups, which is critical for this initiative to continue its spread to additional prisons. Through this project we will also conduct formal evaluations to document the benefits of these groups for participants’ well-being and self-efficacy, as well as broader benefits for their work as peer specialists and institutional climate. By introducing new facilitators and measuring the impact of these book clubs, this project will allow for the sustainable and evidence-based expansion of this initiative and contribute to enhanced mental health and well-being of peer specialists and their clients.


Survey on Cancer Screening Opportunities for Incarcerated Women

Project Leader:
Grace Blitzer, Radiation Oncologist, Human Oncology, School of Medicine and Public Health

Individuals with a history of incarceration have increased cancer mortality as compared to the general population. Additionally, the rates of breast and cervical cancers (two of the most common cancers that are screening detected) are higher among women who are or have been incarcerated. We propose to conduct a survey of women currently incarcerated at Taycheedah Correctional Institution (TCI, the primary women’s prison in Wisconsin) to investigate their perception of cancer screening. Our primary objective is to create, administer, and analyze a survey of incarcerated women’s understanding of cancer screening and their perspectives of cancer screening. The information gathered with this survey will allow us to better understand what current screening practices are offered to women during incarceration and why incarcerated women opt out of certain cancer screenings. The goal is for this project to eventually result in increased screening leading to improved cancer morbidity and mortality for incarcerated and formerly incarcerated women throughout Wisconsin. We have an established relationship with the Department of Corrections (DOC) personnel at TCI, allowing us to discuss opportunities for improvement in cancer screening identified by both our research team and the DOC. We will use the survey to determine the current understanding of cancer screening and motivations to pursue cancer screening in incarcerated women, summarizing this data to share with the DOC and healthcare community at large with the goal of improving the rates of cancer screening for incarcerated women in Wisconsin.

The Textile Re-Indigenization Pilot: New Models for Community Engaged Scholarship

Project Leaders:
Sophie Pitman, Pleasant Rowland Textile Specialist And Research Director, Center For Design and Material Culture, School of Human Ecology
Carolyn Jenkinson, Collections Manager, Center For Integrative Design, School of Human Ecology

The Textile Re-Indigenization Pilot: New Models for Community Engaged Scholarship aims to build relationships between the Center for Design and Material Culture (CDMC) and Indigenous communities by facilitating conversations around textiles. As stewards of the 13,000-object Helen Louise Allen Textile Collection (HLATC), the CDMC takes seriously its role to uphold excellent standards of collection care that often cannot be separated from colonial histories. At the same time, HLATC aims to build a more representative collection and foster meaningful community connections through object-based work. Giving accurate names, locations and provenance to objects is a powerful act that not only enables more people to find them in the Collection, and activate them through close-looking, interpretative making, and research, but it is also an anti-colonial act that elevates and celebrates the cultural knowledge, stories, and languages of these diverse communities. Re-indigenization requires time and space to build strong collaborative relationships. We will host two community events in which tribal members can closely engage with objects, and CDMC staff will also visit tribal museums in order to develop mutually beneficial new collections care practices. We intend to reimagine our database and push the boundaries of how a collection may be shared and so intend for these community building initiatives to develop into long-term partnerships, through which we can develop major grant applications to extend the re-Indigenization project across the Collection.


Transgender and Nonbinary People’s Experience of Relational Trauma with Parental Figures

Project Leaders:
Stephanie Budge, Associate Professor, Counseling Psychology, School of Education
Joonwoo Lee, Teaching Assistant, Counseling Psychology, School of Education

While studies report positive parental relationships as one of the primary sources of resilience among transgender and nonbinary (TNB) individuals, many TNB people experience relational trauma with parental figures as they navigate gender transitions. The purpose of this project is to establish theories on TNB people’s experiences of relational trauma with parental figures, addressing an important gap in the literature. Findings for this project will be used to establish data-supported theories on 1) the characteristics, symptoms, and progresses of parental relational trauma among TNB people; 2) its impact on TNB people’s resilience from minority stress; 3) means and sources of recovery from trauma and post-traumatic growth; and 4) specific protocols in conducting safe trauma research with TNB population. In alignment with the Wisconsin Idea, this project will advance the academic knowledge of understudied yet important phenomena and set the ground for developing evidence-based interventions for TNB people with parental relational trauma.

Weaving Together Our Cultural Knowledge: Community Convening

Project Leaders:
Sarah Carter, Associate Professor, School of Human Ecology
Kendra Greendeer, Phd Candidate, Art History, College of Letters and Science

Traditional Indigenous arts have been impacted not only by settler colonialism, but also by land preservation and climate change. Within the Ho-Chunk Nation, these impacts have greatly affected weaving artforms of black ash, bullrush, cattails, cedar, and other traditional natural materials. While there are few artmakers that use these materials within the Ho-Chunk Nation, and Indigenous groups in Wisconsin, there are very few that know the entire process of weaving with bullrush, a material that would have been used in various forms throughout our homes. In an effort to revitalize bullrush weaving in the Ho-Chunk community and western Great Lakes region of the United States, and in partnership with the Little Eagle Arts Foundation, three Native American UW-Madison graduate students are planning a second gathering with master artist Renee “Wasson” Dillard of the Little Traverse Bay Band of Odawa Indians. Our first workshop took place in July of 2022 and this second visit (anticipated for summer 2023) will allow for our group to reconvene to perfect the weaving projects we started, and most importantly allow for us to bring more Indigenous community members to learn endangered bullrush and cedar weaving techniques. After we have completed our second visit to Wasson’s studio, we plan to offer a workshop opportunity to Indigenous community members, especially Ho-Chunk tribal members, to learn about this important pre-colonial art form and this need to restore and reincorporate Ho-Chunk bullrush weaving back into our community and practices.