College of Design Researchers Take On Grand Challenges

July 10, 2020

This week Executive Vice President and Provost Karen Hanson announced the launch of phase two in the University of Minnesota’s Driving Tomorrow Initiative. The second phase of the initiative targets two of the University’s five Grand Challenges focus areas: Ensuring Clean Water and Sustainable Ecosystems and Fostering Just and Equitable Communities.

As part of the work to tackle these grand challenge areas, the University has allocated $2.96 million for research over the next two years through the University’s Driving Tomorrow awards. This funding will support six interdisciplinary team projects and two six-member Grand Challenges Research Scholar Collaboratives. Participating on the teams being funded are two College of Design faculty members Kristine Miller (Landscape Architecture) and Daniela Sandler (Architecture).

Kristine Miller, a professor in the Department of Landscape Architecture, will work with faculty from the Department of Organizational Leadership, Policy, and Development and the Department of Theatre Arts and Dance on the research project “Displacement, Dispossession, Belonging, and Embodiment: Co-creating Translocal Sciences and Arts of Storytelling for Justice.”  

“Too often, researchers take on the role of expert and see community members as objects of study,” explained Miller. “Our project seeks to establish new approaches to addressing just and equitable communities based upon the experiences and expertise of community members themselves. The researchers in my group will use our longstanding cross-collegiate experiences with minoritized and refugee communities to propose a series of discussions on themes of displacement, dispossession, belonging, and embodiment.”

Miller’s interdisciplinary group received a $260,000 interdisciplinary team award to fund their research.

An assistant professor in the School of Architecture, Daniela Sandler was selected as a member for one of the two Grand Challenges Research Scholar Collaboratives. Alongside faculty from across the University, Sandler will be examining clean water and sustainable ecosystems and the impact they have on creating just and equitable communities.

“I’m looking forward to collaborating with colleagues across the University in a new format that fosters interdisciplinarity and creative, risk-taking intellectual work,” said Sandler. “I’m also excited about connecting my research on community engagement and water in Brazil to similar questions in Minnesota and elsewhere since our group has both a local and a global approach.”