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NC State University Foundation Awards Four Grants to College of Design

Brooks Hall at the College of Design on a spring day. Photo by Marc Hall.
Brooks Hall at the College of Design on a spring day. Photo by Marc Hall.

The College of Design has a lot to celebrate in 2023. Not only does this year mark the college’s 75th anniversary, but the NC State University Foundation also recently voted to accept four of its grant proposals. The new funding, totaling $80,000, will enable Design to kick off its next 75 years in several exciting and impactful ways.

Each spring, the NC State University Foundation invites the colleges and units associated with it to submit grant proposals for non-recurring funds that will be awarded for the fiscal year beginning that summer. Written submissions are accompanied by short videos explaining the importance of each grant to the enhancement of the undergraduate and graduate experiences at NC State. The foundation’s Awards and Grants Committee members then vote for their top choices at the annual board meeting, in June.

The board is made up of more than two dozen members including Mike Constantino ’84, ’85, the current chair. Vice Chancellor for University Advancement Brian Sischo serves as the board’s president. Grant proposals can be for as much as $25,000 and are intended to help the college or unit implement a new program/initiative, expand on an existing one or even relaunch a previous effort, as is the case with one of Design’s 2023 proposals.

The college’s four winning submissions include:

The mental health of its students, especially its first-year students, is of critical importance to the College of Design in post-pandemic life. One of the grants awarded to the college this year by the NC State University Foundation will enable its faculty and staff to do even more to encourage and empower freshmen as they begin their time on campus through expansion of the First Year Experience.

The First Year Experience is a foundational, interdisciplinary curriculum that prepares all incoming studio majors in the College of Design for their future disciplinary studies. Sara Queen, the program’s director, is also an associate professor of architecture in the College of Design. Queen’s work in both roles has enabled her to see firsthand the need for greater student access to even more mental health resources.

“Each of us in our respective roles have witnessed students struggling to balance the demands of design education with the extreme life stressors imposed by today’s world,” Queen said of herself and her colleagues. “As a team, we believe that emotional health is vital to all of us and that large shifts must be made within the field of design. We’re proposing to start right here in the First Year Experience, where we can reach all of our incoming freshman students.”

The proposal outlined two types of activities: new curricular components that address holistic student development by integrating wellness and emotional literacy into the freshman core curriculum, and rekindling dormant social infrastructures by supporting student groups and extracurricular activities.

The First Year Experience team had been in the process of examining these options via needs analyses and student and faculty pilot workshops when the proposal was submitted. Thanks to the grant, the team can now begin developing and implementing these important changes.

The NC State University Foundation’s annual grants are non-recurring. However, while its affiliated colleges and units aren’t guaranteed additional years of funding, that doesn’t mean they can’t submit proposals for the same program or project in subsequent application periods. 

Case in point: the College of Design’s Initiative for Community Growth and Development.

The Initiative for Community Growth and Development received $5,000 in the 2022-2023 fiscal year to support outreach and engagement activities related to its South Raleigh Placemaking program. This effort involves community service focused on several landscapes across its namesake area, with NC State students and faculty working with community partners to define and discuss specific projects or issues to be resolved to enhance each of these sites. Members of the Wolfpack then work through funded studios, independent study and sponsored research to help realize these plans.

As part of the program, the initiative is working with the Dix Park Conservancy to transform the flood plain of Dorothea Dix Park’s Rocky Branch into an urban greenway — efforts that promise to help address student health needs by linking NC State’s campus with the park. Students will be able to more easily access the park via walking, bicycling and public transportation as a result.

The foundation’s funding will also further landscape architecture grad student Nick Musarra’s work to help the City of Raleigh develop a midtown waterfront park.

Initiative leaders applied for another grant of $5,000 for 2023-2024. The new funding will support additional opportunities for connections that bring people face-to-face, deepen their bonds of community and create platforms for people to encounter new and different ideas.

NC State has long been a champion of universal design, which involves the development of buildings and related products that are accessible by everyone — especially those with disabilities. The university’s Center for Universal Design, originally known as the University Center for Accessible Housing, was founded in 1989 by famed architect and Wolfpack alumnus Ronald L. Mace. Its mission: to inspire changes in universal design policies and procedures via research, information, training and design assistance.

The center, originally formed thanks to a grant from the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research, is currently inactive due to funding challenges. That’s where the College of Design’s grant proposal comes in: The funding provided by the NC State University Foundation in 2023-2024 will allow the college to redevelop and relaunch the center as the Inclusive Design for Equity Collaborative.

“Our proposal aims to build off of the great work that once came out of the university while also reframing it for today’s climate geared toward equity,” Traci Rider, assistant professor of architecture in the College of Design, said. “We envision a new Inclusive Design for Equity Collaborative to be a collaboration of students and faculty who are focused on equity initiatives, with the potential to engage colleges across the university.”

Victoria Lanteigne is one of those students. The Ph.D. candidate focuses on operationalizing equity in the built environment and worked in the field of universal design before joining the Pack.

“One of the primary reasons I wanted to come to NC State is that it was known to me as the home of universal design, and I know this revitalization effort will continue to attract new students,” Lanteigne said.

The Design for ImpACCt program was formed in 2019 to help bring students from several Atlantic Coast Conference universities (NC State, Boston College, Virginia Tech and Clemson) and various STEAM (science, technology, engineering, the arts and mathematics) majors together to form interdisciplinary teams. These teams meet during annual design summits each fall to work toward collaborative solutions for social-justice problems such as world hunger.

“Unique aspects of this program are that we have a hybrid collaboration model, where part of the work is done in person and the other part is done online using Zoom,” said Kathryn Wozniak, an assistant teaching professor of industrial design in the College of Design. “We believe the program echoes aspects of the emerging workplace, where human-centered design is achieved through a blended in-person and online model.”

Now that the program has passed through its initial phases, the College of Design’s faculty are eager to expand and further refine it to better accommodate student needs and to improve outcomes. Foundation grant funding is helping make that possible, especially through the program’s increased ability to support student travel experiences.

“Travel is a very important part of this program because it has been cited by students as one of their greatest opportunities to grow both personally and professionally, as students need to present their final solutions to the community at a final symposium each year,” Wozniak said, “This gives them great practice in public speaking, working together in person and managing projects online throughout a busy semester.”

The foundation grant will help the program fund this fiscal year’s activities and provide time to secure more long-term funding from other organizations such as the ACC.

Additional Support

Six addditional foundation grants were awarded this year, bringing the total amount distributed in the 2023-2024 fiscal year to $224,335. These include: 

  • a veterans memorial and garden (Division of Academic and Student Affairs – $25,000)
  • a high school teacher development program (College of Education – $25,000)
  • cadet training room refurbishments (Division of Academic and Student Affairs – $24,815)
  • the building of an interdisciplinary community of entrepreneurial graduate students (College of Education – $25,000)
  • the incorporation of cutting-edge data analytics research into the classroom (Poole College of Management – $19,520)
  • education outreach and extension resource centers (College of Education – $25,000)

For more information on how the NC State University Foundation helps power the Pack, click here. Be sure to read up on the College of Design’s milestone anniversary as well, including details regarding special celebratory events and giving opportunities that you can be part of.