2012 Winners

“Confluencenter seeks out proposals for innovative scholarly and creative projects that cross disciplinary boundaries and intellectual orientations and bring together researchers and artists from diverse areas at the U of A,” said Javier Duran, the center’s director. “We hope that these grants will create and nourish synergistic environments, enable faculty to apply for external funding, and increase the impact and visibility of the research, scholarship, and creative activity at the University.”

This was the third round of Collaboration and Innovation Grants since Confluencenter was founded. The selection panel was co-chaired by Confluencenter board members Peter Beudert, Distinguished Professor, School of Theatre Film and Television; and Ken McAllister, Director and Professor of Rhetoric, Composition and the Teaching of English.

“It was so hard to choose between the many excellent applications,” McAllister said. “We were quite struck by the fact that so many faculty members on campus are already doing collaborative work. There is a lot of interest, desire and willingness to innovate and collaborate and we’re pleased that Confluencenter can step in and support this significant work.”

Six faculty members were awarded five grants averaging $25,000 each this year at the grand opening of Confluencenter for Creative Inquiry at the University of Arizona. Ranging from hip-hop culture to mortgage indebtedness, these innovative projects with partnerships across the campus reflect Confluencenter's mission to enliven academic education and invigorate life-long learning among its diverse constituents – from UA faculty and students to inquisitive Arizonans. These are the winners:

Meg Lota Brown, professor and associate head of the department of English, was awarded a grant to support this consortium of community members and more than 125 faculty and students from 17 departments—including art, history, literature, music, science and theater—in five colleges, all of whom pursue research in the early modern period (roughly 1400-1800). They will present a series of six lectures in the 2012-2013 school year.

Alain-Philippe Durand, director of the School of International Languages, Literatures and Cultures (SILLC) received funding for a symposium (Feb. 7-9, 2013), performances and a journal on the emergence and evolution of hip hop in the U.S. and in France. His collaborators are: Alex Nava, an associate professor of classics; John Melillo, a visiting assistant professor in English; Tani Sanchez, an adjunct lecturer of Africana studies; and Praise Zenenga, an associate professor of Africana studies.

Co-principal investigators Jane Zavisca, assistant professor of sociology, and Marilyn Robinson, associate director of the Drachman Institute, will examine the cultural equation of mortgage indebtedness and homeownership with three initiatives: a study of mortgagors in Tucson; a symposium for scholars, policymakers and community stakeholders on the meaning of mortgages and homeownership; and an external grant proposal to support a national research network to encourage interdisciplinary research on the topic of housing and the home.

Jennifer L. Jenkins, associate professor of English, will launch this interactive website with a collection of more than 450 films by and about Native peoples of America, representing dozens of tribes from Anasazi to Zuni. Many of the films date back to the early days of filmmaking and include government informational films, the renowned 1922 film Nanook of the North, and a series of documentaries produced by television station KYUK in Bethel, AK spotlighting life among the Yup’ik of southwestern Alaska.

Hai Ren, assistant professor of East Asian studies and Jonathan Sprinkle, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering, received a grant to study the history of the emergent class, the precariat, and to develop an interactive mobile application to inform others about their findings. They will meld innovative technologies with new knowledge in a way that is informative and engaging. The precariat are people whose lives and finances are precariously impacted by economic shifts, social insecurity and globalization.

2011 Winners

Stacie G. Widdifield, professor of art history, is director of this project to examine the role that Chapultepec Park, an historically significant site in the middle of Mexico City, has played in the relationship between humans and water in the midst of a dynamic urban milieu. The role of visual images, i.e., land- and aqua-scapes, in the development of public sensitivities to resources is a key part of the investigation. The park also is also an elegant reflection of the larger struggle—in Mexico and across the planet—to protect the global commons in the face of rapid environmental change and to create a sense of connection between people and the places that sustain them.  The project will include an on-line exhibition of the works studied in the project and those created in a new graduate seminar, “Waterworks,” as well as a week-long “think tank” during the first week of October. The team includes faculty, staff, and graduate students as well as a scholar affiliated with the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México and the Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia.

Since filming this video, Yuri had to change her proposal because Koko has arthritis and can no longer “sign.” Instead, she is working with UA faculty members Drs. Dieter and Netzin Steklis, experts on African apes, on a documentary exploring the beneficial role of play in wild gorillas. They will seek to answer the question, “In what ways may play help build skills, increase fitness, regulate emotions, and promote relationships and sexual reproduction among gorillas?” Determining the essential qualities of play and their benefits in gorillas is of particular interest in light of the recent discovery that humans and gorillas differ in only 1.75% of their DNA—much less than previously believed. Gorilla Games will feature footage of wild gorillas in Africa at play, as well as humans playing. Audiences will learn how these activities impart critical skills or experiences that are life-enhancing and life-extending. While play may seem trivial in our lives, it may define who we are and how we came to be. The film is slated to be finished in 2013.

Two researchers—Heshan Sun, assistant professor, School of Information Resources, College of Science and Mary A. Peterson, professor, department of psychology, and research social scientist, College of Social and Behavioral Sciences—tackled the question, “How can 3D effects be used effectively to enhance student engagement in the primary learning tasks?” They combined their expertise in visual science and human‐computer interaction to create a study employing more than 100 UA students. The results of the study will revolutionize the growing field of 3-D web-based learning.

Karen K. Seat, Ph.D., an associate professor in Religious Studies, was awarded the Provost’s Grand Challenges Faculty Grant for this project, which took her to such places as the Faith & Freedom Coalition Conference, a Southern Baptist convention, Pat Robertson’s Regent University, Liberty University School of Law, Phoenix Seminary and the Smart Girl Politics conference. She interviewed dozens of leading social conservative and Tea Party activists, lobbyists, professors and talk show hosts. A central piece of her research is an examination of gender in conservative Christian movements and her most prized interview was with 86-year-old anti-feminist icon Phyllis Schlafly. Karen’s expertise on evangelicals in America made her an in-demand speaker during the Republican primaries. She has or will present papers at scholarly conferences: “The Christian Worldview as a Master Narrative: Negotiating Gender and Politics in Evangelical Subculture(s),” “The Politics of Southern Baptist Complementarianism” and “Evangelicals and Women’s Leadership in the Post-Palin Era.” She also has been approached by two scholarly presses about writing a book.

Confluencenter was a principal sponsor of this international symposium on multilingualism held at the UA in April 2012. Coming from disciplines as diverse as computational linguistics, anthropology, second language acquisition, comparative literature, and translation studies, a body of prominent scholars from around the world met for a public discussion about what it means to live in more than one language in the 21st century, including all of the emotions, politics, identities, practices, pleasures, and dangers that doing so can involve. More than 200 people attended this three-day event, as well as 250 individual online viewers from around the world. The peer-reviewed journal that will emerge as a result of this conference, "Critical Multilingualism Studies," can be found at www.multilingual.arizona.edu. This publication will trace the "state of the art" of multilingualism research—across disciplines that often lack a common venue for dialogue on this burgeoning topic. The Confluencenter grantees for this project were two assistant professors in German Studies, David Gramling and Chantelle Warner, as well as an assistant professor in Turkish Studies, Aslı Iğsız.