U of M Sustainable Development Goals Initiative Announce 2022 SDG Research Grant Awards

Publication Date
SDG Logo.

The University of Minnesota (U of M) Global Programs and Strategy Alliance (GPS Alliance) is pleased to announce the award, as part of its systemwide initiative focused on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), of approximately $160,000 to eight research projects, four of which were jointly funded by the Office of Academic Clinical Affairs (OACA), that align with the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the University’s strategic priorities and needs identified by communities.  

The awarded projects include teams from two U of M campuses, eleven departments/units and seven colleges/schools. In total,10 SDGs are represented across the eight projects. 

The projects were selected after a competitive proposal process that included an interdisciplinary committee reviewing the proposals and providing recommendations for funding. Research proposals were required to align with the SDGs, and priority was given to projects that tie into MPACT 2025 goals and incorporate partners to address local and/or global needs. 

Sustainable Development Goals: Ensuring Clean Water and Sanitation, Addressing Climate Change, and Improving Sustainable Communities via Predictive Wastewater Treatment in Rural Communities 

SDG Icons 6 ,11 and 13.

Paige Novak, Principal Investigator
Department of Civil, Environmental, and Geo-Engineering
College of Science and Engineering, U of M Twin Cities

Wastewater treatment protects the environment and human health. Conventional wastewater treatment is energy-intensive and complex, making it impractical for rural and under-resourced communities. “Low-tech” wastewater treatment technologies exist that can be leveraged globally for improved sanitation, such as wastewater treatment ponds, but unfortunately, the factors that control pond performance are poorly understood. Because the basis of operation for ponds is microbiological, studying the pond microbiome should allow us to determine the extent to which treatment performance is controlled by deterministic mechanisms, and within those factors under engineering control, which are the most important. Such an approach is far easier than performing large-scale time- and space-intensive sampling campaigns, yet should yield similar information. This research is addresses outcomes related to SDGs #6 and #11 while also touching on SDG #13. 

Novel Methods for Measuring Urban Greenspace Access

SDG Icons 3,11, and 15.

Mark Pereira, Principal Investigator
Department of Epidemiology and Community Health
School of Public Health, U of M Twin Cities

Urban greenspaces are human-made or naturally occurring areas that predominantly feature vegetation. Living near or time spent in greenspace is associated with improved health. Common methods used to assess greenspace access have limitations. The research team will develop and test a novel Urban Greenspace Access Score and examine greenspace inequities within Minneapolis/St. Paul, an urban region with growing environmental and social justice concerns. This study has the potential to be a major methodological and research contribution by producing a robust reproducible measurement that can be applied to other regions, and being the first to examine greenspace inequities by neighborhood deprivation and historical redlining. This project supports outcomes tied to SDGs #3, #11, and #15 through human health benefits, carbon and urban heat sink reductions, and protection of biodiversity conferred by greenspaces. 

Achieving Gender Equality for Women Experiencing the Deepest Vulnerability: A Focus on Gender-based Violence in the Lives of Childbearing Refugee Women in Dzaleka Refugee Camp, Malawi

SDG Icons 3, 5, 11 and 16.

Lucy Mkandawire-Valhmu, Principal Investigator
Department of Population Health and Systems Cooperative
School of Nursing, U of M Twin Cities

Gender equality is key to accomplishing all Sustainable Development Goals. Gender-based violence (GBV) is rooted in gender inequality and encompasses acts harmful to women that adversely affect their health outcomes. For refugee women of childbearing age, GBV has important implications for maternal morbidity and mortality and refugee women who flee to low-income countries like Malawi are faced with additional vulnerabilities associated with being located in a country already wrought by poor maternal health indicators related to gender inequality. This mixed methods study will provide foundational knowledge about the experiences of GBV in the lives of childbearing women living at Dzaleka refugee camp in Malawi. Findings will advance the development of future healthcare interventions and policies to promote and protect the health of childbearing women survivors of GBV in refugee camps and women resettled in states like Minnesota. The project directly supports outcomes tied to SDGs #3 and #5 while also addressing issues related to SDGs #11 and #16. 

Responding to Climate: Expressing Ourselves Through Conversation, Story, and Art

SDG Icons 3, 10, 11 and 13.

Jonna Korpi, co-Principal Investigator
Office of Sustainability 
Lisa Fitzpatrick, co-Principal Investigator
Motion + Media Across Disciplines Lab
College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, U of M Duluth

Addressing climate change begins with talking about climate change topics openly, regularly, and in community. The team will create an educational and artistic forum where individuals, students, and community members are invited to explore their personal experience with climate change and the emotional impact these changes are having. There will be three avenues employed for such exploration: 1) provide spaces/facilitation to speak, ask questions, contemplate, and reflect on climate’s current local impacts, 2) integrate climate experiences into educational opportunities, and 3) create and present artistic works that embody participants’ climate experiences. This work will add to our community’s body of climate change education, awareness raising, and increase of human and natural capacity to address climate change impacts through mitigation, adaptation and resilience. The project directly supports outcomes for SDGs #3 and #13 while also addressing issues related to SDGs #10 and #11. 

Assessment of Relevancy of Nurse Practitioner Entry-to-Practice Competencies in the Primary Health Care Systems of Sub-Saharan Africa

SDG Icons 3 & 4.

Dorcas Elisabeth Kunkel, Principal Investigator
Academic Health Center
School of Nursing, U of M Twin Cities

The purpose of this research project is to assess the relevancy of an existing set of core competencies for training and practice of advanced practice nurses in primary health care contexts, in particular family nurse practitioners (FNP) in Liberia and for additional application in Sub-Saharan Africa. The project is built upon what was learned in previous educational initiatives in Liberia and will provide information for governmental, and non-governmental organizations and boards of nursing to begin to plan for context relevant, national, graduate level family nurse practitioner curriculum for programs of nursing in universities and colleges. These advanced practice nursing roles can begin to fill the profound gap that exists in the numbers of primary care providers in Liberia and across Sub-Saharan Africa. The FNP role has been shown to increase access to quality, safe, primary care for populations that have not had this access before. The project supports outcomes for SDGs #3 and #4.

Efforts in Global Food Security Education: Catalyzing interdisciplinary educator professional development connecting global issues to local impact

SDG Icons 2 & 4.

Laura Rice, Principal Investigator
Department of Agricultural Education, Communications, and Marketing
College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences, U of M Twin Cities

Many of the most pressing agricultural challenges are global in scope and impact. Resolving such challenges requires partnership and collaboration across borders and disciplinary boundaries. Teaching complex skills necessary for collaboration must begin in the educational system with highly-trained educators modeling the behaviors, and teaching students the connection between local action and global solutions. Developing strong communities of practice, whether face-to-face or digital, is a critical component of this work. Another  key opportunity for improvement is effectively assessing the impact of interventions, offering the largest return on investment, in educator development. The funding available through this grant would enable advancement in teaching about Food Security in local contexts. In collaboration with the Global TeachAg Network, the proposed activities also foster exploration of the effectiveness of cultivated digital and face-to-face professional learning communities for educators interested in providing instruction about global food, fiber, and natural resources. The project supports outcomes for SDGs #2 and #4.

Indigenous land education for self-determination: co-designing sustainable futures in Chiapas

SDG Icons 3,4 and 15.

Katie Johnston-Goodstar, co-Principal Investigator
School of Social Work
Meixi, co-Principal Investigator
Department of Organizational Leadership, Policy, and Development
College of Education and Human Development, U of M Twin Cities

This project will support an ongoing partnership between the College of Education and Human Development (CEHD) and El Consejo Nacional de Fomento Educativo (CONAFE).  Faculty from CEHD will collaborate with CONAFE staff and two identified Indigenous community schools (El Cacao and Palenque) located in Chiapas, Mexico, to co-design a culturally-responsive evaluation tool of land-based educational practices. This co-designed project will include continued assistance in the development and pedagogy of land and family-based curriculum or temas, qualitative data collection (storymapping, educational walks and conversational field inquiry) needed for an emic design of measurement constructs, and the development and pilot of a tool to evaluate educational outcomes and practices. The team will explore Indigenous land education as a mechanism to achieve outcomes related to SDGs #3, #4 and #15.

Understanding impacts of cross-cultural interviews for eliciting needs and requirements for projects related to the sustainable development goals (SDGs)

SDG icons 3, 5, 10 and 16.

Natasha Wright, co-Principal Investigator
Department of Mechanical Engineering
College of Science and Engineering, U of M Twin Cities
Carlye Lauff, co-Principal Investigator
Product Design Program within the Department of Graphic Design, Apparel Design, Retail Merchandising, and Product Design
College of Design, U of M Twin Cities

Sustainable development work requires front end research to understand the social, political, cultural, and economic environment, and to define current problems and opportunities. This early research often involves interviews with stakeholders in the community. Historically, little to no formal interviewing training has been provided to team members or community participants. Team members trained in interviewing have been shown to produce more accurate and in-depth information, as well as drive innovative outcomes. However, there is little understanding on how the background of the interviewers and level of “readiness” to interview in the field can influence the type of information provided during field interviews. This project has two goals: 1) to locally train Afghan women and Alight personnel to conduct interviews and extract insights related to a project of interest, and 2) a more global goal of disseminating best practices to interview that can be applied to all projects in sustainable development. This project relates to outcomes tied to SDGs #3, #5, #10 and #16. 


About the UMN Sustainable Development Goals Initiative
The UMN SDG Initiative seeks to support and promote transdisciplinary research, teaching, and partnerships to advance sustainable development in Minnesota, the U.S., and the globe through grants, information, and opportunities linked to SDG targets and indicators.

The GPS Alliance is partnering with the Office of Sustainability, Office of Academic Clinical Affairs, Office for Public Engagement, MNDRIVE Environment and other University centers, institutes, and research groups across all five University of Minnesota system campuses in developing this initiative.

About the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals
The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development was adopted by all United Nations member states in 2015 as a 15-year plan for global sustainable development. The framework includes 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that provide a shared blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet, now and into the future and drive efforts at local, national, and global partnership levels. The SDGs offer an inherently integrative and interdisciplinary approach highlighting linkages between ending poverty, improving health and education, and addressing climate change and other environmental degradation.