• a2ru has given me the spirit and tools to begin that [arts-integrated interdisciplinary] work. More importantly, it brought a set of diverse people together and made it possible to forge friendships and new projects that will continue to develop in the years to come.

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Winners of the a2ru 2015 Challenge Grant Announced

  • April 7, 2015
  • By a2ru      
Winners of the a2ru 2015 Challenge Grant collectively take on interdisciplinary collaborative projects that address a social, community, or societal problem.


The Alliance for the Arts in Research Universities (a2ru) offered the a2ru 2015 Challenge Grant at the a2ru 2015 Student Summit hosted by Virginia Commonwealth University. The the grant required that teams submitting proposals consist of a minimum of three students from two a2ru partner institutions, spanning three disciplines, plus a faculty sponsor to serve as advisor. The projects selected to receive an a2ru Challenge Grant are: Dance Curating Through Community ($2735, partially funded); Awareness Finds a Cure, and Designing for Food Access ($1750, fully funded); and An Effort in Community-Based Collaboration ($515.38, fully funded). Details regarding teams and project descriptions are as follows:

Dance Curating Through Community

Team consists of four students and one faculty sponsor:

  • Charles Gushue (MA, Dance, University of Michigan)
  • Colette Krogol (MA, Dance, University of Maryland)
  • Matthew Drier (MBA, Business, University of Wisconsin-Madison)
  • Drew Barker (MA, Library Science, University of Maryland)

Dance Curating Through Community is a new approach to empowerment, education, and engagement. Dance CTC will facilitate a nine-month community organized program where a city can curate its own dance performance series, culminating in a weekend-long workshop and performance festival that will leave the community with the tools to continue this process on their own for years to come.

Awareness Finds a Cure 

Team consists of six students and two faculty sponsors:

  • Emily Rund (Sophomore, Film & Kinetic Imaging, Virginia Commonwealth University)
  • Kalee Eichelberger (Sophomore, Biology/Nutrition, University of Florida)
  • Reid Weisberg (Junior, Biology/History, University of Virginia)
  • Ty Redler (Junior, Biotech, University of Florida)
  • Jill Plevinsky (PhD, Clinical Psychology, Rosalind Franklin)
  • Laci Altman (Junior, Biology, Pennsylvania State University)

This team is compiled of six students with IBD, two documentary film making faculty mentors, and has support from the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America’s National Council of College Leaders. The project’s output will be a short film focusing on what IBD is, it’s impact on youth in American communities (specifically college campuses), and will feature steps that should betaken to improve conditions for those diagnosed within each community. The project extends to over five universities and has a growing support system with members in the IBD community. With our outreach, we have various doctors and specialists available for interviews. The film is projected to take a year and a half to complete and incorporates several functions hosted by the CCFA, including Day on the Hill, Camp Oasis, Team Challenge and Take Steps walks. Our main goal is to spread awareness throughout the country in order to improve the lives of the now six million American’s living with either Crohn’s disease or colitis.

Designing for Food Access: An Effort in Community-Based Design & Sustainability 

Team consists of 10 students and one faculty sponsor:

  • Megan Odenthal (Masters in Social Work, Washington University in St. Louis)
  • Maisie Mahoney (BS, Biomedical Engineering, Washington University in St. Louis)
  • Neena Wang (BA, International and Area Studies, Washington University in St. Louis)
  • Charlotte Spitzfaden (BA, Architecture, Washington University in St. Louis)
  • Grant Phillips (BFA, Communication Design, Washington University in St. Louis)
  • Aiden Zucker (BFA, Communication Design, Washington University in St. Louis)
  • Phongkiet Sisaikeo (BS, Electrical Engineering, Washington University in St. Louis)
  • Jeremy Goss (fourth year, St. Louis University, School of Medicine)
  • Colin Dowling (MBA, Washington University in St. Louis)
  • Tej Azad (second year, Stanford University Medical School)

This project will bring together an interdisciplinary team around the issue of food access in St. Louis. The team will work with a local non-profit organization, MetroMarkets, to design innovations around user experience rooted in participatory community research. The objective of the project is to increase user participation and satisfaction in an effort to reduce nutritional disparities.

The a2ru Challenge Grant provides transdisciplinary student teams seed monies to start or continue a collaborative project that addresses a social, community, or societal problem. Winners of the award ($500-$5000) will actively seek new and disruptive solutions to societal challenges, large and small, addressing social, community, societal or real-­world problems.

Image from the a2ru Emerging Creatives Student Summit courtesy of VCU Arts.