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MindHandHeart Initiative announces first-round Innovation Fund grant recipients

Grants totaling over $25,000 were awarded to mental health and well-being proposals in the first Innovation Fund cycle.
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The first MindHandHeart Innovation Fund grant recipients have been chosen, a major milestone for the recently launched MindHandHeart Initiative. Nine proposals designed to help build community, reduce isolation, and support mental and emotional well-being were selected from more than 20 submitted during the first application cycle. Combined, they will receive more than $25,000 in grants.

The Innovation Fund is a centerpiece of the MindHandHeart Initiative that Chancellor Cynthia Barnhart and MIT Medical Director William Kettyle announced on Sept. 2. MindHandHeart is designed to tap into MIT’s passionate community spirit and innovative problem-solving skills to enhance mental health and well-being. Students, faculty, staff, and mental health and wellness experts are working together to launch promising new efforts to complement and enhance existing support services. Over time, MindHandHeart aims to help members of our community feel more comfortable asking for help when they need it, and to build a healthier, stronger community.

“We were impressed by the creativity, thoughtfulness, and care evident in the proposals we received,” said Barnhart, co-sponsor of the MindHandHeart Initiative. “Our community’s enthusiastic response to MindHandHeart is very encouraging — people want to help others and are excited to have a place to go to turn their ideas into actions.” The selected proposals will serve a wide range of campus populations beginning this academic year.

One of the funded proposals is for a “slow looking” art workshop series at the MIT List Center, which invites the community to take time to pause, refresh, and restore through observation, discussion, and drawing.

“Slow Looking is a movement in museums that fosters a deep engagement with a work of art through close observation and conversation — so we’ll consider one piece for a half-hour or more,” said Courtney Klemens, campus and community outreach coordinator for the List Center. “We ultimately want to create a mindful, powerful experience with art that allows students to experience their world in new and unexpected ways.”

Other proposals that received funding include a plan to bring artificial light box installations to campus to combat seasonal affective disorder (SAD); a puppy lab project, where therapy dogs exchange cuddles and listening ears for belly rubs; an effort to maximize campus-wide collaboration for LGBTQ students of color; a program for connecting graduate students for weekly platonic one-on-one lunches; and support for wellness and mindfulness curriculum for students, including one seminar program for first-year students. Funding was also awarded for proposals to extend student gardening through the winter and for “Random Acts of Kindness Week” (date to be determined).

“It is impressive seeing students, staff, and faculty willing to work across all parts of MIT to make this a better place for everyone,” said Rosalind Picard, a professor of media arts and sciences and faculty chair of MindHandHeart.  

Several of the proposals that did not receive direct funding in this cycle were paired with other like-minded projects on campus so they can continue to be developed and strengthened through collaboration with other community members.

The MindHandHeart Innovation Fund, which seeks to leverage the enthusiasm and problem-solving skills of the MIT community to find new and inventive ways of increasing awareness about mental health, building communities of support, and promoting life and wellness skills, offers grants of up to $10,000 to invest in cutting-edge ideas and grassroots solutions developed by MIT faculty, students, and staff. Proposals for consideration in the second round of funding should be submitted by Nov. 15. Please visit the MindHandHeart website for more information. 

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