Goucher Grant Invests in New Ideas

This year Latino immigrants in Maryland will have a rare opportunity to record their stories for posterity; the campus community garden will flourish during the peak growing season; and students, faculty, and staff will engage with the greater Baltimore community even more—all thanks to Goucher’s Innovation Grant Program.

For 15 years the program has provided seed money from Goucher’s Office of the President to implement campus projects proposed by students, faculty, and staff.

Frances Ramos-Fontan, director of Goucher’s Futuro Latino Learning Center, said she and Florencia Cortes-Conde, associate professor in the Department of Hispanic Languages, Literatures, and Cultures, will use their $2,780 of funding for “Una Mejor Vida: Latino Voices on Survival and Transformation,” a long-term, student-driven storytelling project.

The intention of the program, according to Ramos-Fontan and Cortés-Conde, is to ensure that the stories of the people who come to Goucher’s campus be heard, understood, and respected. Each week Goucher’s Future Latino Learning Center provides on-campus educational opportunities to the Latino community of Baltimore County.

Though the Hispanic immigration wave of the past 40 years is deeply shaping the culture and identity of the country, the two do not believe statistics alone can capture the perspective of the immigrants themselves. They noticed in particular that there was little published on the Latino immigrant experience in the Mid-Atlantic region. Thus the idea for the project, led by Emily Caballero ’13, was born.

The grant will provide a stipend for researchers — including Marina Velázquez-Suárez ’15, Melina Quiroz ’16, and María Barrera ’15 — and will help cover storytelling and interview training. A video will be produced for Goucher’s Hispanic Heritage Month, and materials will be systematically archived. Organizers also hope to reach beyond Goucher and possibly connect with the Smithsonian Latino Center in Washington, DC, to develop a historical record of Latino voices in the region.

Todd Troester ’15, one of the student leaders with the Agricultural Co-op who received $4,000 for the Goucher garden, said his group also sees the money as powering an important project for the long term. The grant will pay for the living costs of members staying and working on the garden during the summer, as well as for a fence to keep out wildlife on campus.

In past years the garden has fallen into disrepair over the summer break, but now the Ag Co-op leadership hopes for a smoother transition. The students want to ensure that club members hit the ground running each fall, moving Goucher closer to its goal of food sustainability.

Troester and fellow grant applicant William Daly ’16 say they feel fortunate to attend a college that supports the initiatives of its students with both vocal encouragement and fiscal backing.

The third project that was funded by Innovation Grants this spring, “iPath: Illuminating Pathways to Vibrant Engagement,” supports community-based learning at the college. Cass Freedland, director of community-based learning, and Lindsay Johnson, associate director of community-based learning, were awarded $2,200 to create a program to provide a multifaceted, year-round experience that will catalyze inventive and interconnected community participation by faculty and students.

Wendy Belzer Litzke, vice president for government and community relations and chair of the Innovation Grant Program committee, said the group—generally composed of two students, two faculty, and two staff—typically receives 20 to 25 applications, but the numbers fluctuate. Grant projects in the past have included recycling and composting initiatives, an expansion of the college’s e-book collection, a faculty/staff yoga class, and the support and expansion of study-abroad opportunities.

“The committee members are really the decision makers … they ask the questions, and they deliberate,” Litzke said.

For more on the grant, and how to apply for the next round, click here.

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