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UM System announces strategic investments to advance humanities, fine arts, social and behavioral sciences research initiatives


Stephanie Fleming

Columbia, Mo.— In line with its mission of innovation, the University of Missouri System announced today a series of research and creative works investments in the areas of arts, humanities, and social and behavioral sciences. The strategic investments total more than $630,000, with more than $512,000 contributed in research awards from the UM System and a match of approximately $118,000 coming from the UM universities.

“As a land-grant university, research is at the very core of our mission,” UM System President and MU Chancellor Mun Choi said. “Despite the financial challenges presented by the pandemic this year, we’re proud to make these strategic investments in the kinds of projects that delve into the intellectual and cultural ideals that help us better engage in and improve our society.”

In response to the call for proposals in February, 74 applications were received, sent out for external review and deliberated on by an internal review committee made up of faculty from each university. This year, 23 innovative research projects will receive funding from the UM System and their university.

The contribution is part of the Research and Creative Works Strategic Investment and supports the UM System’s vision to advance opportunities for success and enrich the well-being for state, national and global communities through teaching, research, innovation, engagement and inclusion. 

The latest funded research proposals are:

Missouri University of Science and Technology:

  • Justin Pope, assistant professor of history and political science, is writing a book that examines the first island-wide slave insurrection in the western hemisphere in Saint John (today, Saint John is part of the U.S. Virgin Islands). The book argues that the Saint John rebels’ revolutionary ideals emerged from the Gold Coast of Africa, rather than Europe, born from the aspirations of an enslaved people who dreamed of resurrecting their Akwamu Kingdom in the Americas.

University of Missouri-Columbia:

  • Claire Altman, assistant professor of health sciences, is conducting social science research to understand characteristics of foreign-born populations by legal status and examine how this affects integration outcomes. The project uses survey data from the U.S. Census and federal administrative records.
  • Mona Botezatu, assistant professor of speech, language and hearing sciences, is leading a project to explore language processing dynamics in adults during the early stages of learning a second language. The goal is to determine how the timing of the shift away from monolingual processing patterns relates to individual differences in second-language proficiency levels, cognitive resources and language pairings.
  • Nancy Cheak-Zamora, associate professor of health sciences, is leading a project to develop and validate a caregiver-reported, human-robot interaction measure based on young adults with Autism Spectrum Disorders and caregiver input. Her goal is to ensure adequate health care transition services, and the conclusion of this study will result in a usable electronic tool that can be immediately implemented in the health care system.
  • Signe Cohen, associate professor of religious studies, is leading a project to collate, analyze and publish data about how different religions influence access to health care in Missouri. Two teams of researchers will trace connections between religious affiliation, epidemiology and attitudes toward medical professionals in order to identify obstacles to adequate health care and recommend solutions.
  • Laura Cole, assistant professor of architectural studies, is combining expertise in elementary science education and sustainable design to develop, pilot and evaluate a water literacy unit for fourth-grade science classrooms. The unit will help students build connections between the water cycle and green roof technologies.
  • Marina Folescu, associate professor of philosophy, is analyzing historical philosophy of language and mind to better understand the role of consciousness in establishing self-knowledge.
  • Hsun-Ta Hsu, assistant professor of social work, is working with a team of researchers to apply artificial intelligence and machine learning to develop efficient and fair housing prioritization tools for individuals and families experiencing homelessness. The data collection tool will be able to inform health policy development and service delivery.
  • Stephen Karian, associate professor of English, is creating a new edition of Alexander Pope’s Miscellany Poems in one volume as part of the 24-volume Oxford Edition of the Writings of Alexander Pope being published by Oxford University Press. The Miscellany Poems volume will contain about 240 edited poems and discuss about 80 attributions, explaining the political, cultural and literary contexts of the poems.
  • Detelina Marinova, the Sam M. Walton Distinguished Professor of Marketing, is leading a project that will use advanced computational methods to develop novel measures of sales communication effectiveness based on naturalistic, unstructured and conversational speech.
  • Clark Peters, associate professor of social work, is leading a project to design a culturally responsive social media campaign with the goal to improve mental health stigma and help-seeking among Black youth. The project will use Youth Participatory Action Research to develop and implement a culturally enhanced campaign with middle and high school black students in Boone County.
  • Hua Qin, associate professor of applied social sciences, is leading a project to develop general guidelines for systematic reviews and meta-analyses in environmental social science research.
  • Alexandru Radulescu, associate professor of philosophy, is leading a project using analytic philosophy methods to understand context dependent expressions and intentionalism of language.
  • Travis Shaffer, assistant professor of visual studies, is working on a project to create an extensive catalog of risograph printer profiles, and design and publish a risograph printed artist’s book. The art project will combine aspects of color theory, print media, contemporary photography and art books to create new color models for risograph printing.
  • Michelle Segovia, assistant professor of agricultural and applied economics, is leading a project to target the obesity rate among children by proposing the implementation of a four-period field experiment in the Columbia Public School district to test the effectiveness of monetary incentives in increasing the consumption of fruits and vegetables among elementary school students.
  • Nicholas Smith, assistant professor of speech, language and hearing sciences, is leading a project to examine mother-child dialogue in families who took part in the Early Head Start Research and Evaluation Program.
  • Delinda Van Garderen, professor of special education, is leading a project to extend the K-12 professional development program Linking Science and Literacy for All Learners. The study will help advance support for diverse learners and students with disabilities.

University of Missouri-Kansas City:

  • Viviana Grieco, associate professor of history, is leading a project to design and develop a software system that will enable scholars to expeditiously read and analyze 17th century Spanish American notary records and efficiently find other content.
  • Joseph Hartman, assistant professor of art and art history, is writing a book that examines the Caribbean cultures that emerged after a series of destructive hurricanes in the early 20th century. The project aims to excavate a broader transatlantic history of catastrophe, capitalism and visual culture in the region, from 1492 to the present.

University of Missouri-St. Louis:

  • Anne Austin, assistant professor of anthropology, is leading a project to study tattooing in past cultures, including mummies from ancient Egypt’s more than 3,000-year history. The project aims to reveal the practice of tattooing in ancient Egypt.
  • Lindsay Athamanah, assistant professor of education preparation and leadership, is leading a project to implement a peer mentoring program for undergraduate students and students in postsecondary education programs for students with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The project seeks to understand how student involvement in the program may influence careers, advocacy skills and collaborations with individuals with and without intellectual and developmental disabilities.
  • Bettina Casad, associate professor of psychological science, is leading a project to study empathy and neural synchrony as mechanisms of the relationship between interracial interaction and physical and mental health. The study looks to identify empathy and neural synchrony as effective methods to improve intergroup relations and decrease racial health disparities.
  • Adriano Udani, associate professor of political science, is leading a project that partners with asylum seekers to implement an innovative community-based participatory study to understand and address policies that affect them and build a collective strategy among stakeholders to address the policy demands of asylum seekers.



Reviewed 2020-11-18