2017 Academic Innovation Recipients

The Academic Innovation Grants support faculty and department innovation and student-centeredness in teaching and learning through the integration of technology in CLA.

In 2017, the committee awarded more than $140,000 in grants to projects in eight academic departments.

Expanding Dialogues and Digital Fluency: Engaging Students in Their Creative Process with Tangible Media

Diane Willow, Art


This project introduces new technologies to students through the eStudio, a student-centered, peer-to-peer teaching, learning, and creative research environment. The eStudio open studio space prioritizes the power of learning that occurs within an environment that is designed to catalyze and support the social interactions that occur among students during active learning with tangible media, a medium that centers on technologies that connect the digital and virtual with the physical, tangible, and embodied.


The eStudio can be characterized as low threshold-high ceiling, meaning that the intimidation factor experienced by many students is relieved and the potential of the students to fully access the capabilities of the technologies grows as students become increasingly knowledgeable and confident.

Computer Numerical Control (CNC) Plasma Cutter Tamsie Ringler, Art

The Department of Art has a very vibrant and expanding studio for digital practice in studio art: the XYZ Lab. Currently there is no equipment for digital applications in the area of metal fabrication. The introduction of a CNC plasma cutter creates the opportunity for students to develop relevant skills for working in a contemporary metalworking studio and bring the Department of Art into alignment with similar institutions.

Voc/zes, El podcast de la Universidad de Minnesota

Stephanie Hernandez and Elizabeth Lake, Spanish and Portuguese


This project expands on an earlier 20-podcast effort and turns them into 1000- and 3000-level courses. The fundings will create a website and instructional materials for U of M instructors and high school instructors who participate in the U of M’s College in the Schools (CIS) program. In addition, funding will help grow listenership, assist in making the podcast a go-to resource for the department, as well as bring diverse voices to Spanish and Portuguese learners at the U of M and the Twin Cities community at large.


Feminist Research and Learning for Social Justice in a Networked Era

Jigna Desai, Catherine Squires, Nicholas-Brie Guarriello 

Race, Indigeneity, Gender, & Sexuality Studies (RIGS)

Gender, Women and Sexuality Studies (GWSS)


GWSS, Communication Studies, and American Studies are attracting more students who look to investigate digital environments, explore the implications of audiences moving between different digital and analog environments, and the formation of online identities. This grant allows for the purchase of two more digital humanities technologies: web scraping tools and additional digital mapping equipment. Housed in the Rachel Raimist Feminist Media Center (RRFMC) within GWSS, this technology will further push students to think critically about media and social media that they encounter and to develop new uses of these technologies for social justice.


The Canoe Virtual: Fusing Advanced Visualization Technology (AVT) and Traditional Environmental Knowledge (TEK) for Advancing Academic Innovation

Vicente Diaz, American Indian Studies


This project proposes to build a module that employs specific forms of Advanced Visualization Technologies (AVT) to facilitate the teaching and learning of specific cultural skill sets that are associated with Indigenous watercraft and water-related traditional knowledge from the Pacific Islands and Great Lakes region. This project calls for data capture of activities for Virtual Reality (VR) simulation and game design of two of the course’s components, namely 1) the building of a traditional birch bark canoe, and 2) the teaching and learning of how to “shunt” a Pacific islands outrigger sailing canoe, along with the “hot mapping” of a third component that is already in Augmented Reality (AR) form.


What distinguishes this project from others that propose to use new digital technology to enhance their content is the mutually informing and beneficial relationship that the new technology will have with the “old" indigenous technology.


Wireless Communication for Rarig Center

Montana Johnson, Theater, Arts, and Dance


In live performance, communication is crucial. Typically productions have a stage manager who communicates information about lighting and sound, set moves, costume changes, house management, actor/dancer entrances, backstage support, as well as show preparation and setup. This proposal requests a wireless communication upgrade that expands the current wired system. This technology will be able to move between spaces and affect almost every student in the department as they work on larger, more flexible productions. In addition, this technology is an industry standard that will prepare students for their future careers in professional theatre and live performance venues.

Antidote French Writing Software in the Classroom and Beyond

Juliette Cherbuliez, Lydia Belatèche, Eve Raymond 

French & Italian


Initiated by a curricular overhaul of a 2-course sequence, the grant proposes to install Antidote French Writing and Correction software on select campus computers to better students’ writing, self-assessment, and independent learning. The software will be used as part of classroom curriculum, but will be taught to foster students’ independent, career-long learning, in the context of other classes and outside of coursework.

Gamification as Pedagogy: Student-Centered Design, Mobile Gameplay, and Small-Group Learning

Colin Agur, Journalism & Mass Communication


This proposal seeks to develop a set of digital games that can be deployed for use (initially) in two large courses offered by SJMC and (in subsequent years) modified and shared with other academic units across CLA. The design and development process emphasizes students as creators by hiring students as consultants, designers, and testers. The goals of this project are: (a) to use digital games as pedagogical tools in large classes, where they can foster teamwork, critical thinking, inclusion, and active participation; and (b) to strengthen the sense of identity and community students feel, both as part of a class and as part of CLA.

Learning to Listen: Interpreting Authentic Texts in the German Curriculum

Helena Ruf, Beth Kautz, and Virginia Steinhagen 

German, Scandinavian & Dutch


Participation in the PACE project shows that students in CLA’s German program would benefit from more opportunities to increase their listening proficiency. Using authentic audio and video clips, the German program plans to create new listening exercises to improve students’ proficiency and help them become more competent, self-directed learners, as well as more adept at analyzing and interpreting texts. The lessons will be accessible both in the classroom and online and thus maximizing student learning opportunities.




If you have questions, email cla-acadtech@umn.edu