Transdisciplinary Global South Community-Based Learning Programs

The following proposals have received funding to develop transdisciplinary, community-based learning programs focused on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals or other topics of importance within the Global South. Proposals are funded by the Vision 2030 Global Strategy Transdisciplinary Global South Community-Based Learning Program Development Grant.

Coffee, Chemistry, and the Community

Through this program, students will have the opportunity to meet with coffee producers and coffee farm workers. They will become acquainted with the coffee production process and assess aspects such as: risks related to climate change on coffee crops, and coffee farming working conditions. Students will record observations, and interview different members of the community, to create a strategy in which they consider the process can be improved. The team leading this initiative consists of professors and directors from five departments/units on campus: Chemistry, Biology, Food Science and Human Nutrition, Engineering’s Applied Research Institute, and Student Affairs, represented by International Education and La Casa Cultural Latina.

José Andino

José is a Chemistry Lecturer, with a deep interest in study abroad opportunities to inspire students to learn about chemistry, science in general and the world. With a passion for coffee, José wants to show the power of giving students problems that they can easily relate to, so that they can start to turn into the leaders of the future.

James W. Dalling

James W. Dalling is a tropical forest ecologist working primarily in coffee-growing regions in the mountains of Panama. Dr. Dalling’s research investigates how the species diversity of tropical montane forests is maintained through biogeochemical feedbacks with soils, and interactions with natural enemies and beneficial microbes. He is also interested in the resilience of tropical forests in the face of global change.

Elvira Demejia

Elvira Demejia is a world leader in the health benefits of bioactive compounds in plants, and she has engaged in reducing disease and promoting health and wellness as a global priority. Dr. de Mejia’s research investigates how bioactive compounds in various foods, including coffee, impact human health. She has studied whole and individual plant components for their effects on obesity, diabetes, and cancer.

Tina H. Huang

Tina Huang is the Director of General Chemistry and Senior Lecturer at Department of Chemistry. She is an analytical chemist who is interested in the chemical composition of coffee and how these are measured. She loves teaching and show students that chemistry is everywhere and in our everyday life, including the coffee we drink!

Mariana Ortega

Mariana Ortega is Director of La Casa Cultural Latina at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. Currently, a PhD student in the College of Education with a focus on Human Resources and Development. Her Bachelor’s and Masters are from The University of West Florida. She has a passion for serving the Latina/o/x community on and off campus in her various non-profit work. In her free time, Mariana loves giving back to the local community in her involvement with: Girls Go For It, as their Vice President, and also serves as a Champaign County Ambassador. Mariana’s Higher Education experience and knowledge revolve around retention, recruitment, transition, and serving underrepresented groups with an equity, inclusion and diversity focus.

Yun Shi

Yun Shi is the Director of Interational Education, with the vision to provide transformative learning experience to nurture world citizens and future leaders in local and global contexts. She has been recognized as Student Affairs Outstanding Staff Member with award winning program to support students in their journey of education and development to become global citizens.

Ann-Perry Witmer

Ann-Perry Witmer is a teaching professor in the Carle Illinois College of Medicine as well as a lecturer in Agricultural & Biological Engineering. She is the originator of the emerging discipline of Contextual Engineering, which uses the social sciences to more effectively apply technical solutions, particularly for societies outside the industrialized world. Her research has brought her into close association with communities on five continents. Witmer holds degrees in civil engineering, agricultural engineering, journalism and art history.

Place Making and Rural Tourism in China

This project invites Illinois students into a collaborative research, planning, and design process to develop coordinated architectural planning and designs, tourism development strategies, wayfinding plans and place-making activities that meet the specific needs of residents and visitors of Xihu Village in the city of Jingdezhen, China. The program will be led by Wei (Windy) Zhao (Architecture), Molly Briggs (Art & Design), and Suiwen (Sharon) Zou (Recreation, Sport & Tourism), who will facilitate an interdisciplinary, cross-listed hybrid studio-seminar course that grounds design and planning in community-engaged, human-centered design research processes. This course will enrich and diversify the existing curriculum in the three disciplines by offering diverse, underrepresented, and global perspectives on community-engaged design processes in the global south to students at home and abroad.

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Dr. Wei (Windy) Zhao

Dr. Wei (Windy) Zhao, an Assistant Professor in the School of Architecture and a licensed architecture in the United States, has over 20 years’ experience working in rural China. Zhao’s research focuses on the built environment of underrepresented social groups and issues of equity, sustainability, and diversity in the context of globalization and urbanization. Taking an interdisciplinary approach, Zhao’s work expands the body of knowledge in architectural and environmental design research by envisioning the built environment not as simply technocratic entities, but rather as contextual, relational, and cultural, and sometimes consanguineous, constructs and as systems of settings, relationships, activities, and meanings. Zhao has published two books: Historical Path of Yanxia (Tsinghua University Press, 2013) and Home beyond the House: Transformation of Life, Place, and Tradition in Rural China (Routledge, 2022).

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Dr. Sharon Suiwen Zou

Dr. Sharon Suiwen Zou, an Assistant Professor at the Department of Recreation, Sport, and Tourism, specializes in fostering sustainable communities through tourism and leisure, with a recent emphasis on rural tourism development. As a principal investigator for the “I-Rural: Reimagining Illinois Rural Tourism Through Community and Extension Collaboration” project, funded by the Illinois Extension Collaboration Grant, she collaborated with four Illinois communities and Illinois Extension to create a toolkit facilitating rural tourism development for rural communities, aiming to foster rural community and economic growth.

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Dr. Molly C. Briggs

Dr. Molly C. Briggs is a landscape historian, design theorist, visual artist, and trained printmaker who studies immersive rhetorics in printed matter in order to discern the mediated shape of built and social space. As an Assistant Professor in the School of Art & Design, she teaches core courses in visual, theory, and research for undergraduates in Graphic Design and graduate students in Design for Responsible Innovation. Professor Briggs currently serves as an Executive Editor of the Panoramic and Immersive Media Studies Yearbook (De Gruyter, Germany), was a 2023 Map Library Fellow of the MacLean Collection (Illinois) and has been represented by Zg Gallery in Chicago since 2004.

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