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College of Arts and Sciences

2022 McCausland Innovation Fund projects to enhance learning and community

The College of Arts and Sciences is announcing 21 McCausland Innovation Fund Awards to programs that will meet the emerging needs of our students and will serve as models of interdisciplinary, interactive learning. 

"Everything we do in the College of Arts and Sciences connects to the impact we have on our students and our community, and these projects will expand that impact in important ways,” says Joel Samuels, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.  

“The McCausland Innovation Fund allows us to invest in these programs that build on community partnerships, promote teaching and research, and enhance the student experience. I look forward to seeing the success of these projects as they move forward.  

“I wish to thank Peter and Bonnie McCausland for their visionary support that enables us to invest in these creative new activities." 

The McCausland Innovation Fund is designed to inspire and support bold advances in the College of Arts and Sciences. It is one of three programs created by a gift from Peter McCausland, a 1971 graduate of UofSC’s history program, and his wife, Bonnie McCausland. 

The 2022 McCausland Innovation Fund awardees have created projects that will contribute to a culture of innovation in the college, inspire student creativity, and expand beyond-the-classroom experiences. 

The fund supports projects including creating an online course in reducing public speaking anxiety, lifting up our communities by acknowledging the Black experience at the Baruch Marine Field Laboratory, and establishing a student-run design studio that supports local businesses and gives undergraduates valuable work experience. 

“We propose to develop a Molecular Biology Lab Skills Workshop to increase the participation of first generation and underrepresented students in undergraduate research experiences,” says biological sciences professor and awardee Beth Krizek. 

“Increasing diversity is critical for scientific progress and innovation as individuals with different backgrounds and perspectives approach problems in new ways and ask different questions.” 

Anthropology instructor Kelly Goldberg proposed creating a Public Heritage Lab at the University of South Carolina, to provide a unique way for students to engage in and understand the importance of community collaboration and outreach as critical components of the research process.  

“Students participating in the lab will have the opportunity not only to create public-facing interpretations of archaeological heritage projects, but to directly contribute to collaborative networking initiatives, connecting the university, local high schools, and Columbia-based heritage groups such as the Historic Columbia Foundation,” Goldberg says. 

“By creating, contextualizing, and sharing copies of historical artifacts with educational institutions, UofSC students will help to share the stories and amplify the voices of individuals underrepresented in historical documents, while simultaneously raising an awareness of the educational value of archaeological resources.”


Eight projects receiving McCausland Innovation Fund awards were designed to enhance the student experience and, promote interdisciplinary teaching and research and build partnerships in the community.

Lead: Minuette Floyd (School of Visual Art and Design)

Team Members: Althea Counts (Director, Trio Program); Nancy Tolson (Assistant Director, African-American Studies); Sherrie Belton (Parent & Family Engagement Specialist, Richland One)

This beyond-the-classroom experience will allow underrepresented and first-generation students the opportunity to study abroad in Ghana, West Africa. Students will engage with the peoples and rich culture of the region while examining cultural misconceptions through artmaking and storytelling. Carolina students will hone their programming with Richland School District One elementary school students prior to traveling abroad.

Lead: Kelly Goldberg (Anthropology); Lana Burgess (Graduate Director, McKissick Museum)

Team Members: Laura Kissel (Director, Media Arts); Adam King (Director, SCIAA); James Spirek (SCIAA); John Sherrer (Historic Columbia Foundation)

Students, faculty and staff will collaborate with local partner institutions to increase access to cultural heritage materials using three-dimensional copies of significant archaeological and cultural artifacts. This new facility will allow collaborators, including the McKissick Museum, to spotlight and bring to life the experiences and stories that remain untold while increasing public access to historical collections and exhibits.

Lead: Beth Krizek (Biological Sciences); Charles Andy Schumpert (Biological Sciences)

Undergraduate students in their first semester will learn fundamental laboratory and research skills with the goal of increasing participation of underrepresented and first-generation students in STEM fields. Graduate students in the Department of Biological Sciences who also belong to underrepresented or first-generation groups will teach the Saturday sessions with the help of upper-level undergraduates.

Lead: William Strosnider (Baruch Institute)

Team Members: Tameria Warren (Undergraduate Studies Program Coordinator, SEOE); Bruce Pfirrmann (BMFL Research Resource Specialist); Steve Williams (Historian); Patti Burns (Archivist)

This project seeks to uncover, acknowledge, and honor the contributions that enslaved individuals made in creating the landscape that now houses the Baruch Marine Field Laboratory. In collaboration with the University of Dayton, efforts will be made to intensify engagement with local African American communities, gather primary sources concerning the Black experience on that land and integrate this new information into current and future USC courses.

Lead: Marius Valdes (School of Visual Art and Design)

Select students in the School of Visual Art and Design will lead this design studio and incubator to innovative learning opportunities beyond the classroom and bring community visibility to the work of student designers. The studio will function as a self-sustaining small agency with students collaborating with faculty directors to sell products, engage with the community, and potentially gain international recognition for their work.

Lead: August W. Fountain III (Chemistry and Biochemistry)

Team Members: Amy Taylor-Perry (Senior Instructor, Chemistry and Biochemistry); Demi Garvin (Consultant, Pharm.D., F-ABFT, Director of Forensic Services, Retired SLED)
In response to the anticipated growth of the forensic science profession over the next decade, the department will endeavor to establish a minor in Forensic Science. This project aims to redesign CHEM 107 and CHEM 622 courses to align with the requirements of the Forensic Science Education Accreditation Commission (FEPAC), making USC one of only two FEPAC certified universities in the state. Partnerships with SLED and a new lab component will further prepare graduates to enter this in-demand occupation.

Lead: Valinda Littlefield (History), Brent Morris (ISRE at USC-Beaufort)

Team members: Rhonda Carey (Director, Project Reconstruction); Melissa DeVelvis (Augusta University); Minuette Floyd (Art Education); Nicole Maskiell (Director, Public History Program); Victoria Smalls (Director, Gullah Geechee Corridor)

In this interdisciplinary project, faculty and graduate students will work closely with middle and high school students on archival research and collecting oral histories and other materials about the 1st South Carolina Volunteers. Documenting the history of African American soldiers serving in the US Armed Forces will serve local communities and partner organizations while equipping secondary students to present their work, in a variety of mediums, at a special event.

Lead: Katherine Ryker (Geoscience Education Research), Sean Yee (Mathematics Education Research)

In service of USC students and the many professional track faculty (PTF), this addresses a need for teaching-focused professional development. Using a peer-to-peer format based on the Japanese Lesson Study, this project will pilot a scalable implementation of a pedagogical training program beginning with select departments. PTFs will take an active role in the building and assessment of this program, in which teachers support one another within a community learning context.


The fund also is supporting efforts to develop online offerings for more than 17 courses, allowing greater flexibility in teaching and learning while improving students' online learning experiences. 

Leads: Rodney Taylor and Kendall Deas and Team Member: Kimberly Simmons (African American Studies)

First taught in Fall 2021, AFAM 200 has proven to be a very popular Founding Documents class that has received many requests from students to be taught online. This Carolina Core class is a study of the United States founding documents that emphasizes how the experiences of African American citizens throughout history and culture shape the country’s values, norms and ideals.

Lead: Qiana Whitted (English Language and Literature and African American Studies)

Moved online during the pandemic in a remote delivery format, this cross-listed course (with WGST 515) explores the representation of race and gender in comics with a special emphasis on the experiences of African Americans. As part of the McCausland cohort, the faculty lead will revise the course to be a completely asynchronous, high-quality online course designed to meet the flexibility of today's students and to increase access to students throughout USC.

Lead: Kimberly Simmons (Anthropology and African American Studies)

This highly engaging course explores the African American identity in popular feature films and investigates cultural representations, constructions, production and consumption. The rich resources available through University Library's educational streaming films and highly engaging technology provide an opportunity to move this course online to better reach and engage students in this field of study.

Lead: Rebecca Stern (English Language and Literature)

ENGL 280, Literature and Society, fulfills two Carolina Core requirements (both AIU and VSR) and has been popular, attracting a range of majors and minors to the College. Developing a fully online version of this course enhances flexibility for students.

Lead: Tara Remington and Team Members: Jerry Mitchell and Grayson Morgan (Geography)

Moving this GIS course online will help provide students flexibility in learning introductory principles and methods of geographic information systems including discussion of computers, spatial data, analysis and display. This course not only includes discussion of applications but also hands-on experience — all of which is enhanced through online delivery.

Lead: Grayson Morgan and Team Members: Jerry Mitchell and Tara Remington (Geography)

This 500-level GIS course introduces students to theory and application of geographic information systems including discussions of automated input, storage, analysis, integration and display of spatial data. Students will learn to use an operational geographic information system in an online format.

Lead: Derek O'Leary and Team Member: Colin Wilder (History)

HIST 201 has become a highly demanded course that will be taught each semester by multiple instructors in the History Department from a variety of specialties. Designing this course for online delivery will help provide instructional resources that will help future instructors deliver high-quality History 201 instruction in an online format to attract students who have different interests in American history and to help meet the needs of students who need an online Carolina Core Founding Documents and History option.

Lead: Saskia Coenen-Snyder and Team Members: James Risk (History)

A gateway course for history majors, this course lays the groundwork for students who wish to explore the field and craft of history. An online hybrid format will allow the program to reach more students, with greater flexibility and accessibility, and the course will utilize the many digital resources available at USC.

Lead: Neil Levens and Team Members: Sam McQuillin and Amanda Davis (Psychology)

In response to the recent growth of the psychology program, the development of this online class will provide a solution to scaling a new required course. Teaching hundreds of students each semester, a creative format will allow for instruction as well as a laboratory component.

Lead: Amit Almor and Team Members: Dawson Peterson (Ph.D. student, Linguistics) and Sarah Wilson (Ph.D. student, Linguistics)

This interdisciplinary course satisfies major requirements in psychology as well as minor and graduate requirements in linguistics. With few online offerings at the 500 level, this format will allow greater access for students and a faster path to graduation as a summer course.

Lead: Erin Roberts and Team Member: Graduate Student Assistant (Religious Studies)

A Carolina Core class, RELG 101 provides foundational knowledge on the beliefs and practices of the world's religions and the methods scholars use to study them. An online version of this course will help reach more students in a more flexible format.

Lead: Stephanie Mitchem and Team Member: Graduate Student Assistant (Religious Studies)

In a two-for-one proposal, this team will develop RELG 205 for online delivery for the first time and will revise a popular online course, RELG 270. RELG 205, another Carolina Core class, introduces students to knowledge of the values and ethics developed, contested and transmitted through a variety of religious practices. This course is highly requested by students to be taught online. As part of this cohort, RELG 270 will be revised to meet current trends within the field of Religion and the Arts and to incorporate new techniques, instructional materials and assignments for student engagement.

Lead: Stephanie Milling 

The Master of Dance Studies program is a first-of-its-kind undertaking that will provide graduate-level dance study with the goal to address the increasing need for teachers in K-12 dance education.

Lead: Hanne van der Iest

The Summer of Sociology will be a highly-collaborative, accelerated minor program that allows students to earn the minor in a single summer. 

Lead: Hanne van der Iest and Team Members: Andrea Henderson (Faculty Expert), Atticus Wolfe (Graduate Assistant), Victoria Money (Graduate Assistant), Valerie Barron (Graduate Assistant), and Morgan Koziol (Graduate Assistant)  (Sociology)

SOCY 360 is a high-demand, highly marketable sociology course that would constitute one of the three core 300-level courses in our online minor. Developing this course online through a team approach will provide a course that can meet the unit's need for increased sustainability of this core Departmental online offering.

Lead: Hanne van der Iest and Team Members: Matthew Brashears (Faculty Expert), Nicholas Heiserman (Graduate Assistant), and Nick Harder (Graduate Assistant) (Sociology)

Our Elementary Statistics course, SOCY 392, is a minor requirement with enrollment numbers capped due to space constraints in our statistics lab. Moving this course online will help the department to better serve the needs of its students and to offer a variety of courses in a more sustainable fashion.

Lead: Hanne van der Iest and Team Members: Jaclyn Wong (Faculty Expert), Meg Routh (Graduate Assistant), and Samantha Moser (Graduate Assistant) (Sociology)

A Carolina Core Integrative Course, this research course helps majors meet requirements for both the Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science degrees and provides students the skills they need to conduct research. Developing this into an online format provides flexibility for sociology students and an opportunity for non-majors as well.

Lead: Pat Gehrke (Speech Communication, English Language and Literature)

Many college students experience very high public speaking anxiety, and this online course will provide tools to help. The asynchronous format will allow the reintroduction of a course that has not been offered for nearly 20 years, with the scalability to meet student needs.


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