Each year, the president of the University of Massachusetts awards research grants to faculty system-wide as part of its Creative Economy Initiative.
Colleagues in the Gerontology Department and Center for Social and Demographic Research on Aging (CRSDA) at the John W. McCormack Graduate School of Policy and Global Studies have earned awards for their proposals, Mapping Community Assets to Improve Livability for Older Adults in Massachusetts and Family Gym: A Novel Initiative to Prevent Obesity among Families with Young Children.
Professor Jan Mutchler and Senior Fellow Bernard A. Steinman of the Center for Social and Demographic Research on Aging at University of Massachusetts Boston have been awarded a $30,000 grant for a three-phased applied research protocol designed to identify individual and organizational community assets relevant to aging in the community. For example, the research team will map concrete assets like recreation centers for seniors as well as other assets like support groups and online services.
“In an asset mapping process,” Mutchler explains, “community members partner with researchers to identify and graphically depict community strengths—both the tangible and intangible resources that may be available but under-utilized for community development and social improvement.” She notes that this research project is a logical extension of past needs assessment work conducted by CSDRA. “By bringing knowledgeable people together to identify additional resources and linking them in original ways with the known network of programs and services, asset mapping as a research protocol aims to make a positive contribution to the economic and social development of communities, to inform local decision-making, and to improve quality of life of older residents and their families.”
Also, Gerontology’s Edward Miller is teaming up with professors of exercise and health sciences Ron Iannotti and Laurie Milliken and collaborators at Northeastern University on a fitness project to prevent obesity. Family Gym is a free Saturday morning play program for families with children ages 3-8 and is offered at two Boston Youth and Family Centers (BCYF).
According to Miller, “Although Family Gym has been in existence since 2009, this Creative Economy funding of nearly $40,0000 provides us the opportunity to extend this successful program to the Dorchester community.” He continued, “It also provides us with the opportunity to engage in additional research and community engagement, including linking the GoKids fitness training program (at UMass Boston) to BCYF centers and UMass Boston faculty and students to peers at Northeastern.”
Jeffrey A. Burr, chair of Department of Gerontology says, “My gerontology colleagues richly deserve these awards to demonstrate how communities in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts can maximize their resources in support of elders and families. These applied research projects are also consistent with the mission of the Gerontology Institute and the McCormack Graduate School, helping to make life better for our vulnerable populations.”
Both projects will begin in September.
The Creative Economy Fund was established in 2007 at the University of Massachusetts Boston President’s Office to support faculty initiatives in the arts, humanities and social sciences that benefit the State’s economy and improve its quality of life. Awards are granted based on high quality research, likely positive impact on economic and/or social development of community, the presence of strong project leadership, and collaboration between disciplines including cross-campus and external research partnerships.