Flash Funding Grant Cycle Announcement

The preservation of the Alderman card catalog is among the flash funding grant recipients

The Jefferson Trust is excited to announce our 2019–2020 Flash Funding Grant Awards, totaling $108,716. A majority of the 13 projects awarded went to student organizations.

The flash grants are:

Rotunda Planetarium Phase 2 & Preservation of Alderman Card Catalog: $10,000

Funding provides additional public nights for the Rotunda Planetarium and the publication of a book detailing the multidisciplinary history of the Rotunda. An ongoing project to preserve the historic Alderman Library card catalog for future research will also be supported.

Aboriginal Art on Grounds (Documentary): $7,000

Funding supports the production of a short documentary capturing student engagement with Aboriginal art at UVA through two recent exhibitions: “The Inside World” at the Fralin Museum and “Munguyhmunguyh (Forever)” at the Rotunda.

Native American Student Union Powwow: $3,750

NASU’s Powwow at UVA is an annual celebration of Native American culture and the biggest event the organization hosts. The powwow is open to the public and has hosted nearly 600 spectators who learn about Native traditions through engaging in a broader community.

Formula SAE Team 2019–20: $9,966

Funding will support and expand experiential learning for the fledgling Formula SAE team as they design and build a car to race in national competition.

UVA Safe and Sustainable Driving: $7,000

A team of students will analyze data collected by Facilities Management from 182 fleet vehicles to improve driving skills and sustainable driving practices. This will allow the team to generate initial results in order to secure larger funding through NSF or DOE sources.

Graduate English Students Association’s Annual Graduate Conference (UVA GradCon): $1,000

The Graduate English Students Association will present an annual graduate conference, themed “Transformation.”

Kluge-Ruhe Permanent and Summer Exhibitions 2020: $10,000

UVA students will gain significant experience in helping with two upcoming exhibitions: “From Little Things, Big Things Grow” in the permanent exhibition galleries at Kluge-Ruhe; and the summer exhibition in Kluge-Ruhe’s rotating gallery, “Bapurru (Remembering): New Yolngu Prints from Milingimbi and Yirrkala.”

Retold: Celebrating Women of the University of Virginia: $10,000

To honor the 100th anniversary of the Board of Visitors resolution allowing white women to enroll in some of the University’s graduate and professional programs and the 50th anniversary of full coeducation, the UVA Alumni Association and the Maxine Platzer Lynn Women’s Center at UVA will host Retold, a celebration of the transformational impact of women on the University of Virginia.

Modeling the Spreading of the Coronavirus: $10,000

School of Engineering faculty are creating three research groups of undergraduate students who will set up effective models for the spread of the disease and then merge the three models into a more comprehensive model.

Arctic Design Group | 2020 Venice Architecture Biennale, Italy: $10,000

Funding will support Architecture faculty and students in the production of an Arctic-focused design installation which will be exhibited at the world-renowned Venice Architecture Biennale. The group’s participation in the Biennale will provide a unique opportunity to promote UVA’s design excellence and provide an exceptional experience to UVA students on a premier global stage.

“Stepping Out” into Deeper Understandings of Marginalized Families: $10,000

Using recent research, this project will help train teachers for home visits, focusing on self-reflection, understanding systemic privilege and disadvantage, and recognizing listening techniques that are more and less effective for deepening relationships.

So Many Ways to Say “I Belong at UVA”: Documenting Linguistic Diversity among the UVA Student Body: $10,000

This project will help to train teachers for home visits, focusing on self-reflection, understanding systemic privilege and disadvantage, and recognizing listening techniques that are more and less effective for deepening relationships.

1970: May Strike in Context — Oral Histories of Alumni: $10,000

The UVA Library will host a major exhibition, “1970: May Strike in Context,” to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the May Strike and the larger cultural context that sparked student activism at UVA.

Men Behind the Masks

Gaurav “Gino” Giri and Bala Mulloth

Everyone is experiencing the changes and effects of COVID-19 at varying levels. This is true for Gaurav “Gino” Giri, Assistant Professor of Chemical Engineering, and Bala Mulloth, Assistant Professor of Public Policy. These professors are co-founders of Hava, Inc., and received a $100,000 Jefferson Trust grant in January to recruit students across Grounds to aid in researching air-filtering technologies, partnering with stakeholders to study the impact of these technologies in the U.S. and several developing countries, and working with entrepreneurially minded students interested in bringing emerging research to market. Both professors hope students will develop hands-on, practical experience, while also increasing their critical and creative thinking skills.

Since March though, the nature of their project has changed and is growing increasingly timely and impactful. Mulloth shares that “we need a three-month runway before product is ready for market, but the need is immediate.” “Science labs are closed, and not having students on Grounds to help in research is a big disadvantage” admits Giri. But Giri has kept his lab in use, volunteering his lab space and time to test the filtration strength of homemade masks and N95-like masks, making sure these masks work to filter coronavirus particles at the appropriate level. The team is hoping that students can still help with market research and design concepts for masks and potential future wearable filtration items (i.e. a scarf). To meet needs more quickly, Giri and Mulloth are also exploring sub-licensing opportunities and other options with companies to get masks manufactured as efficiently as possible.

The initial motivation for establishing Hava was to create affordable air filtration products to make life in heavily polluted areas healthier for all, as the World Health Organization labeled air pollution “a silent public health emergency” in October 2018. However, through the coronavirus outbreak, both Mulloth and Giri see a long-term increased need for their air-filtering products that they initially didn’t expect.

With the help of Scott Gwilliam (Com ’91), Keith Woodard (Col ’71, Darden ’75), trustees and the project’s mentors, the team is contacting manufacturers about how to scale production and bring more masks to market. To stay up-to-date on Hava news, follow their website.

Breaking the Sound Barrier: A Deaf Opera Workshop

Three female opera singers

What is opera without the voice? How does the story change when the lead characters are deaf?

The Breaking the Sound Barrier workshop explored these questions, and many more, and made an impressive start at integrating such seemingly disparate experiences. The creative team behind this endeavor hopes that the work done and the lessons learned will transfer into a full production opera in the next year.

The intensive weeklong workshop culminated in a performance at Old Cabell Hall which kicked off the Disabilities Studies Symposium. It was a truly inspirational event!

Three professional opera singers and three deaf actors traveled to Charlottesville to hold this workshop on Grounds, allowing UVA students to interact with, learn from and participate through the process. While the event took place at the end of February, preparations began months in advance. The creative team selected six scenes from Poulenc’s “Dialogues of the Carmelites” (an opera which focuses on the religious persecution of a group of nuns during the French Revolution) and began translating them into a stage version of American Sign Language. Via video conferencing and finally in-person, the team of actors, singers, the conductor and the director struggled with a multitude of challenges over several months. In an article from the Washington Post, director Alek Lev declined to share a vision for the event until the group came together in-person to rehearse — it was that groundbreaking.

At the performance on February 27, the audience was a mix of deaf and hearing, and the majority had little or no experience with opera. After an opening scene, director Alek Lev welcomed the audience and walked through some of the challenges the team had faced in rehearsals that week. The scene was then presented again, reimagined. Throughout the performance, Lev interjected with explanations, providing background on intervening scenes not presented and sharing anecdotes about the scene to come. In one scene, an ensemble of UVA student singers joined the actors on the stage for Ave Maria.

At the end of the performance actors, singers, directors, and interpreters gathered on stage for a Q&A session with the audience. Each shared personal stories of powerful moments during the workshop and the months of preparations leading up to it. Everyone agreed it was one of the most important things they’ve done, and there was a deep interest in continuing to explore the integration of deaf opera from all parties.

“Breaking the Sound Barrier” is the brainchild of Brenda Patterson and Miriam Gordon-Stewart of Victory Hall Opera in Charlottesville. Patterson is a faculty member at the University of Virginia Music Department. Watch for more information on their progress toward a full production of “Dialogues of the Carmelites!” For those who missed the live performance, a documentary of the workshop is also in progress.

Experience at Every (St)age

We tend to think of the word ‘experience’ in terms of time (i.e., do you have enough of it to be knowledgeable?).  But ‘experience’ can also mean perspective (i.e., what is the knowledge you gained from yours?).  Both are vital to maintaining a successful board with a diversity of backgrounds and views exercised to meet the needs of a dynamic organization.

The Jefferson Trust needs — and has — both, as both are critical to effectively evaluating grant proposals.

The trustees span six decades of UVA alumni, from 1963 to 2019.

The oldest trustee, Lee Forker, completed his MBA from Darden in 1963.  A Navy Vietnam Veteran and retired Boston-based professional investor, Forker is also the longest serving trustee, carrying a great deal of organizational memory. He brings broad knowledge of the financial sector and UVA’s philanthropic landscape.  He is a principal supporter of the annual Alumni Family Weekend, annually supports the Darden Foundation and created an endowed chair in the College of Arts and Sciences to honor his favorite Darden professor, John D. Forbes.

Forker serves on the Trust’s Grants Committee, reviewing every proposal and taking pages of copious notes on each.  He’s a stickler for financial details and the likelihood of success of each application and is laser-focused on making sure each grant has a clear and direct impact on Grounds, saying, “I only approve applications that will benefit some sector of the University.”

He loves the projects and the people, saying that “It keeps me sharp.” He quips, “It’s the surest way to stave off Alzheimer’s.” “And I love the wisdom of older people and the energy of young people.”

One of those young people is George Brown, a 2019 graduate of the College. Brown is just starting his career, working with the action and adventure sports media company Teton Gravity Research. He is well aware of the value a broad age range plays in a grant-making body.  He says, “While the younger generation may have a pulse on current students, we are all tied to the University through its traditions, which are often carried by the older generation.”

“[The trustees’] range of perspectives are tied to the same goal,” he says. That goal is advancing UVA, and Brown wants to work on that goal for the rest of his life.  “For me, the Trust is the first step in a lifetime of service to the University.”

The exact midpoint between George’s 2019 graduation year and Lee’s in 1963 is 1991, which is the year that husband and wife trustee pair Jenn and Scott Gwilliam both graduated.  Jenn and Scott are also parents to two current students, which gives them a unique perspective in reviewing grant applications. “We watch people present [their proposals] and see the impact through our kids’ eyes,” says Scott.  “One of my daughter’s favorite professors is a grantee, and I was able see the grant in action in her class.”

Scott Gwilliam is a regular mentor to grantees as well.  Most recently, he’s worked to help 2020 grantees Gaurav Giri, Assistant Professor of Chemical Engineering, and Bala Mulloth, Assistant Professor of Public Policy, in scaling their mask-filtering technology to help stop the spread of viruses such as COVID-19 and protect people in areas with bad air pollution. “It has enormous potential, and I hope I can help,” he says.

For Jen and Scott Gwilliam, this experience and these relationships — including those with fellow trustees — are what makes the Trust so special. Scott says, “There’s energy and enthusiasm from younger trustees, expertise and knowledge from people in the middle, and wisdom and warmth from the older trustees.  It’s one of the most dynamic, interesting and fun ways to give back.”