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Research  Fellowships

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The HBCU Sustainable Communities Initiative (HBCU SCI) is a collaboration between INROADS, Thurgood Marshall College Fund (TMCF), and United Negro College Fund (UNCF), with support from the Southern Company Foundation. As part of HBCU SCI, the Research Fellowships program is being introduced to allow undergraduate students to address real-world sustainability issues. The program aims to cultivate the next generation of leaders dedicated to creating a more sustainable future by promoting collaboration, critical thinking, and community engagement.

Program Summary

Faculty mentors will inspire college undergraduates to participate in impactful research projects that involve community stakeholders and aim to address local and global sustainability challenges.

Program Objectives:

  • Foster a deeper understanding of sustainability issues among college undergraduates.
  • Encourage community engagement and collaboration through research.
  • Promote critical thinking, problem-solving, and research skills development.
  • Contribute to actionable solutions for community development.
  • Increase awareness of sustainability issues to a broad audience.
  • Develop a network of faculty and students focused on sustainability issues.
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Research Projects

Faculty mentors will develop a research project and engage 3 to 5 students in research-related activities.
The selected project should:
 
    • Address sustainability issues relevant to the local community or broader region.
    • Utilize a social justice perspective to tackle issues such as disparate circumstances experienced by marginalized communities.
    • Emphasize hands-on research, data collection, analysis, and interpretation.
    • Have the potential for meaningful impact and actionable outcomes.
    • Align with at least one of the 17 areas of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
    • Engage with a community partner.

Student Involvement (Research Fellows):

The project emphasizes the active participation of students, forming partnerships within the community, and receiving guidance from faculty members.
 
  • Faculty Mentors will be responsible for the selection process of Research Fellows.
  • Each team will consist of 3 to 5 undergraduates (sophomores – seniors) who are interested in the project’s goals.
  • It is expected that students will dedicate approximately 200 hours to the project, which includes participating in the Series on Sustainability & Social Justice, attending team meetings, receiving guidance from faculty members, engaging in research activities, submitting reports, taking part in conferences, and delivering presentations.

Community
Partnerships

  • Collaborate with local organizations and businesses to identify project opportunities.
  • Establish clear communication channels and expectations between students, faculty, and community partners.
  • Ensure projects address real needs and provide value to the community.
  • To the extent possible, involve community partners in the research project as it
    relates to project design. Engage community members in workshops, focus groups, or other gatherings to obtain input and to share findings.
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Faculty
Supervision

  • Each research team will be led by an experienced Faculty Mentor who provides direction on the project and guides and supports student teams.
  • The Faculty Mentor will facilitate regular check-ins, provide feedback, and ensure academic rigor.

Project
Timeline

The project cycle is determined by the Faculty Mentor and must last at least 16 weeks, starting no later than October 9 and ending no later than February 9. During a project week, faculty will be involved with Fellows, and Fellows must show progress on their project.
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Program
Evaluation

  • Faculty mentors and Research Fellows will be asked to complete questionnaires and surveys by the HBCU SCI team so that we can assess program effectiveness, student learning outcomes, and community impact.
  • Research teams are to submit a final report that includes feedback from community partners and stakeholders.

Eligibility Guidelines

Faculty Mentors

To be eligible, Faculty Mentors must be:
 
  • Employed by HBCUs in the states of Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, Virginia, and Tennessee, and PBIs in Illinois.
  • Under contract through May 2024. Full-time faculty at any rank are preferred.
  • Teaching in the disciplines of community and regional planning, ecology, energy, engineering, environmental studies, marine sciences, public administration, public policy, sustainability studies, technology, urban planning, urban studies, and related majors are preferred.

Research Fellows

  • Open to college undergraduates from various disciplines attending an HBCU in Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, Tennessee, Virginia, or PBI in Illinois.
  • GPA requirements should conform to the usual standards for undergraduate research at the Faculty Mentor’s institution. At a minimum, the GPA of the student should be 2.8.
  • Students must agree to virtually attend the HBCU SCI Series on Sustainability & Social Justice (six weekly one-hour workshops).
    Research Teams
  • Each Research Team comprises (1) Faculty Mentor and 3 – 5 Research Fellows (undergraduate students) who meet eligibility criteria.
  • Undergraduate Students majoring in the disciplines of community and regional planning, ecology, energy, engineering, environmental studies, marine sciences, public administration, public policy, sustainability studies, technology, urban planning, urban studies, and related majors are preferred; however, students majoring in any discipline who demonstrate an interest in sustainability are eligible.
  • Ideally, teams will be interdisciplinary to enhance problem-solving perspectives.
  • While students do not have to attend the same university as the Faculty Mentor, all students must meet the criteria of Research Fellows.