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MindHandHeart announces record number of Innovation Fund winners

From indoor lawns to meditative drawing classes, the selected projects aim to make MIT a more healthy and welcoming place.
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Fall 2017 MindHandHeart Innovation Fund winners
Fall 2017 MindHandHeart Innovation Fund winners
Photo: Maisie O'Brien

The MindHandHeart Innovation Fund has awarded $50,848 to a record 17 projects developed by students, faculty, and staff to make the MIT community more healthy, welcoming, and inclusive. Sponsored by the Office of the Chancellor, the fund was promoted at a series of study breaks earlier this year and received nearly double the usual number of applications in the fall 2017 cycle.

Awarded projects address an array of topics, including life skills, wellness, community building, enhancing academic climates, and increasing help-seeking, diversity, and inclusion. Of all 17 awarded projects, 59 percent are spearheaded by students, 12 percent are driven by faculty, and 29 percent are driven by staff members.

Applications were reviewed by members of the MindHandHeart coalition and a review committee composed of past Innovation Fund winners and representatives from the Graduate Student Council, the Undergraduate Association, and MindHandHeart’s leadership team.

“I was truly moved by the creativity, problem-solving skills, and sheer number of applications,” says Maryanne Kirkbride, MindHandHeart executive administrator. “It is a testament to the strength of the MIT community and our commitment to supporting one another. The chancellor, MIT Medical, and I are excited to see these projects progress over the spring semester.”

A number of the newly funded Innovation Fund projects aim to build community and foster connectedness on campus. Spearheaded by the Office of Minority Education, The Standard is a cohort-based men of color initiative targeting first-year undergraduates. Participants will engage in workshops, guest lectures, and a range of activities designed to enhance their academic, personal, and professional success. Director of the Office of Minority Education (OME) DiOnetta Jones Crayton says of the grant, “Supporting undergraduate men of color is a priority for the OME, and we are thrilled to receive funding for The Standard from MindHandHeart to expand our efforts and reach more students in new and exciting ways.”

Organized by Mujeres Latinas, the Hermanas Unidas inaugural event will bring together Latinas from across MIT to create a supportive, enduring, and inspiring community. WiSTEM Week consists of a week of events celebrating and promoting women in STEM at MIT.

Several projects focus on building community in MIT’s academic environments. Steven G. Johnson, professor of applied mathematics, was awarded a grant to bring a Math Puzzles Pilot Event to MIT’s Department of Mathematics to create opportunities for socialization among students and faculty. Graduate student Deborah Ehrlich’s project, Continuing Conversations for Chemists, will encourage members of the Department of Chemistry to meet over lunch. And, graduate student Gabriela Serrato Marks’ Science Storytelling project will teach storytelling and science communication techniques to students in the Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences.

Three projects will use art as a vehicle to promote well-being and community. Artful Meditation/Draw What You See is a weekly drawing course incorporating meditation techniques led by MIT lecturer Mauricio Cordero. Organized by LBGTQ@MIT, Making a SPXCE to Call Home is a collaborative mural painting initiative that plans to combine canvas and digital effects in the new SPXCE Intercultural Center. Spearheaded by MIT alumna and staff member Natalia Guerrero, Studio consists of drop-in art sessions for members of the MIT community to draw, reflect, and connect with others.

Two projects bring nature to the MIT community in innovative ways. Spearheaded by first-year Sloan student Yifan Lu, Indoor Lawn brought a grass installation to the Student Center to calm and entertain passersby. And, the MacGregor House Garden aims to set up a hydroponic gardening system that will provide vegetables for residents of MacGregor House.

Other projects include Evaluation on the State of the Black Community at MIT, a survey and report organized by The Black Student Union assessing the state of the black community at MIT; Adulting 101, a series of financial literacy workshops for MIT students; America in Transition, a documentary series and social impact campaign that explores relationships, family, and social change from the perspective of transgender people of color across the U.S.; Postdoc REFS, a two-year pilot program aiming to train postdocs in conflict management and create an official group for postdocs to utilize their conflict management skills; MIT Daybreaker; and Crafternoon Sewing Circle.

To date, MindHandHeart has supported 57 Innovation Fund projects, 11 of which are now self-sustaining. Past Innovation Fund winners include the Puppy Lab, Random Acts of Kindness (RAK) Week, My Sister’s Keeper, and MIT Connect. The MindHandHeart Innovation Fund will be accepting applications from March 1-30, 2018.

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