Advancing Community- Engaged (ACE) Student Scholarship Grants
DU Grand Challenges is no longer accepting ACE Grant applications for AY 20-21. Please check back later this summer for the AY 21-22 RFP.
If you plan to apply for an ACE Grant in the future, we encourage you to review the AY 20-21 Request for Proposals to help you prepare your application.
COVID-19 Update: Students who have been awarded ACE grants for work that was interrupted by COVID-19 may apply for a project extension. Please email DU.GrandChallenges@du.edu for more information.
All students are invited to submit proposals for community-engaged research or creative work that is designed to:
- Improve daily living
- Create economic opportunities in our local and/or global communities
- Facilitate deliberation and action for the public good
Community-engaged research and creative work projects are co-developed with community partners. Collaboration between students and partners should be mutually beneficial and reciprocal. For example, a project might answer a research question that is important to the student researcher while also meeting a need that is important to the community. Potential partners include nonprofits, grassroots organizations, government agencies or entrepreneurs and businesses.
ACE grant proposals are accepted on a rolling basis and reviewed once per quarter. Due dates for AY 21-22 will be available soon.
Successful applicants have up to 12 months from being notified of their award to complete their project, or until graduation (whichever comes first). Students may determine their own timeline for their project within the 12th month award period. The RFP will close when all ACE funds have been awarded for AY 2020-2021.
For questions or to schedule a consultation on your proposal, please email Katie Kleinhesselink, DUGC Program Manager, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Previously Funded Projects
Light Pollution: Community Impact and Solutions
Two undergraduate students, with supervision from Dr. Robert Stencel in the Physics & Astronomy department, partnered with the Colorado Section of the International Dark Sky Association to analyze light pollution at the DU campus and surrounding neighborhood. The students conducted a night-lighting inventory of the DU campus and created a lighting demonstration kit to educate community members on how lighting choices inform larger light pollution issues. The students created and presented a report to DU facilities with recommendations for making more campus lighting more environmentally conscious.
Aiding Metro Caring
Five undergraduate students, with supervision from Assistant Professor of the Practice, Dr. Jack Buffington in the Marketing department, commenced a community-engaged research project with Metro Caring, an anti-hunger nonprofit organization serving the Denver area. The students assessed the store’s supply chain and data management systems, and identified strategies for making those systems more efficient. In the projects’ next phase, the students installed, and trained Metro Caring staff to use a new software product to remedy ongoing issues around inventory management and donation data. Over the next several months, they monitored whether the software product increased Metro Caring’s efficiency and effectiveness in store operations and its impact on customer satisfaction.
Improving Nutrition for the Denver Rescue Mission’s Crossroads Program
A second-year Psychology student, with supervision from Dr. Barbekka Hurtt in the Biological Sciences department, partnered with the Denver Rescue Mission to pilot and evaluate a comprehensive nutrition education program at the Crossing Center, a transitional housing program for men experiencing homelessness in Denver. Program participants completed pre/post tests to measure changes in nutrition knowledge and confidence in cooking healthy meals. Results will be compared with an assessment (currently underway) of the Crossing’s general population on these same measures. This student was featured in the Impact 2025 spring newsletter, received the Outstanding Poster Presentation Award at DU Research Showcase, and the Outstanding e-Portfolio Award at the DU Crimson & Gold Awards.
County Level Needs Assessment of Preparedness for Adverse Childhood Experiences Curriculum
Two third-year students, with supervision from Dr. Sarah Watamura in the Psychology department, partnered with Growing Home, a nonprofit organization focused on early child well-being and success, and Chaffee, Fremont, and Eagle Counties to improve healthy development among underserved children and families. The students conducted a feasibility study across the three counties on implementing an evidence-based curriculum for parents on reducing factors that inform childhood adversity including family violence and abuse.
Advancing College Access for Latinx Youth
Two fourth-year students, with supervision from Dr. Elizabeth Escobedo in the History department, partnered with the Coombs Foundation to design, implement, and evaluate a weeklong college exposure experience for Latinx youth from Jackson Hole, WY who will be first-generation students. Fifteen freshman and sophomore Jackson Hole High School students traveled with college and community mentors to the University of Wyoming, the University of Denver and the Community College of Denver to engage with different college environments. Participants learned about private and public schools, as well as community colleges; the college application process; and financial aid among other topics. Attitudes toward college accessibility were assessed through a pre/post survey with a six month follow-up survey to come.
Bridge Community Garden
A second-year student in International Business, with supervision form Dr. Julie Morris in the Biology department, partnered with the Bridge Community Garden to measure the impact of garden-based art workshops on the sense of community among participating gardeners. The results will be used to design ongoing community-oriented activities in the garden that invest gardeners in their shared space and in one another.
Identifying Last Mile Transit Solutions in the Highlands
Two third year students in Computer Science and Political Science, with supervision from Dr. Drew Mueller in Real Estate Management, partnered with Highland United Neighbors Incorporated (HUNI) for this project. The projects seeks to leverage the individual opinions and organizational desires of Highlands’s neighborhood residents to develop a base of knowledge on “last mile” transit solutions that will fit sustainably in the local area. This base of knowledge can, in turn, improve academic understandings of this modern issue and support the community in future policy proposals and negotiations in this domain. The benefits afforded both of these spheres by this project will enable “last mile” solutions in the near future to be met with more success and become a seamless part of communities, improving the accessibility of mass transit for all. In May 2019, these students presented their scholarship alongside faculty, staff, and community experts at the DUGC Forum on Improving Infrastructure.
Advancing a Community Solution for Homelessness
Five first year students, with supervision from Dr. Linda Olson in the Pioneer Leadership Program, partnered with the City of Englewood and Change the Trend to conduct research on existing community initiatives of the Tri-Cities Homelessness Taskforce and compare those programs to the best practices of nationally recognized initiatives. Based on their findings, they developed a website prototype for Englewood featuring current and developing community-based initiatives and resource directories for people experiencing homelessness, service providers, and community residents. The research group presented their work to the City of Englewood at the end of May and is now soliciting input and feedback from stakeholder groups to continue to improve the website prior to launch.
Engaging Community to Build Culturally Inclusive STEM Curricula
Three Indigenous second-year students, with supervision from Dr. Sophia Cisneros in Physics and Astronomy, partnered with Sid Whiting, an Indigenous elder and member of the DU Taskforce on Native American Affairs, to conduct community-engaged research on ancestral star and plant knowledge. The students will conduct multiple qualitative interviews with leaders in their own tribes (Navajo, Lakota, Nakota, Dakota and Apache). Based on their findings and best practices in Indigenous science education, they will co-create two IndigiLabs for middle school students that are centered in Indigenous knowledge of Sky Charts and Plant Math. The labs will be designed such that DU undergrads can deliver them in afterschool programs in underserved areas and in the local community.
Grant Beacon Middle School
Three third-year students, with supervision from Dr. Brad Benz in the Writing Program, partnered with Grant Beacon Middle School to conduct research to improve participation in the WRIT Engagement Corps (WEC). To understand student reading levels and the literary genres in which students are most interested, the WEC team hosted a free book fair at Grant Beacon. WEC members inventoried books, genres, and reading levels. At the book fair, they interviewed students about their favorite books. They also documented what genres were taken by students and their grade levels. The WEC students found that a vast majority of the students prefer fantasy or fiction. The current WEC curriculum is organized around nonfiction literature. The WEC team is in the process of revising their curriculum to include high quality books from student-selected genres to provide stimulating yet challenging literacy experiences.
Community Based Conservation in Kwale County, Kenya
Two third-year students in International Studies, with supervision from Dr. Bob Uttaro in International Studies, partnered with Kwale County, Kenya to study best practices in local conservation. Local communities are often excluded in larger conservation efforts, thus devaluing indigenous knowledge of conservation. This project is a case study undertaken with Kwale County, Kenya where collaborative conservation efforts have been largely successful. This study aims to determine what sources of knowledge inform the conservation efforts in this community that make it successful. Understanding the sources of knowledge that inform the successful conservation efforts in Kwale County contribute to the creation of the most effective conservation model for efforts throughout Kenya.