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UCI Awards Grants for Projects that Support and Research Socially Vulnerable Communities in Time of COVID-19 

The Urban Coast Institute (UCI) has awarded Heidi Lynn Sculthorpe Faculty Enrichment Grants for projects that will create Little Free Library installations in low-income coastal communities and study COVID-19’s impacts on the African American community in Asbury Park, New Jersey.

In light of the continuing crises of the COVID-19 pandemic and concern about systemic racism, the UCI issued a special call for proposals in August to support faculty and student research and community-based projects focused on sustainably rebuilding our coastal communities and economies while addressing disproportional impacts to and needs of our most vulnerable populations. The call noted that environmental justice communities, including those of low income, communities of color, immigrant groups, and Indigenous peoples are disproportionately vulnerable to the environmental and health impacts of climate change and COVID-19.

The following are summaries of the two grant-funded projects. Both are currently underway.

Nourishing Book Deserts: Providing Access to Authentic and Relevant Interdisciplinary and Inclusive Books for Coastal Communities

Faculty Researchers: Kenneth Kunz, Jason Fitzgerald and Michelle Schpakow, Department of Curriculum and Instruction; Kurt Wagner, Monmouth University librarian; and Lori Burns, Department of Educational Counseling and Leadership

This project aims to counter the limited availability of books in the home in low-income coastal communities, an issue which has been exacerbated by virtual schooling and children’s reduced access to school libraries. Faculty researchers and students from the School of Education will initiate a process for local school districts to apply for the installation of Little Free Libraries in their communities. The grant will cover the purchase of texts and the materials to build the physical libraries, which will be designed by Monmouth University artists. Reading materials in the libraries will be coastal-relevant, interdisciplinary and inclusive to tackle the complex challenges facing their locations.

Paradoxical Paradise: Asbury Park, an African American Oral History and Mapping Project

Faculty Researchers: Hettie V. Williams, Geoffrey Fouad and Melissa Ziobro, Department of History and Anthropology

“Paradoxical Paradise” is a multiyear and multidisciplinary research, oral history and digital mapping project that seeks to document and preserve the African American history of Asbury Park. The grant will fund a phase of the project focused on COVID-19 and the experience of African Americans in the city as it relates to health disparities. Activities will include archival research led by Williams (with an emphasis on drawing parallels between the 1918 influenza pandemic and COVID-19); student interviews with residents guided by Ziobro; and the creation of GIS map products by Fouad and students that visualize COVID-19 health statistics in the area and the pandemic’s impacts on African Americans.

About the Program

The Heidi Lynn Sculthorpe Scholars program offers grant opportunities to students and faculty of all disciplines whose work advances core elements of Monmouth’s Strategic Plan and supports the UCI’s mission. The program is funded through the generosity of many corporate and private donors. If you would like to make a tax-deductible gift to the UCI, please click here. For more information, contact UCI Associate Director Tom Herrington at therring@monmouth.edu.