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University of Maryland Awards $30 Million to 50 Projects Addressing Humanity’s Grand Challenges

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University of Maryland Grand Challenges

SPP awarded four Grand Challenges grants addressing issues of educational equity, racial and social justice, democracy, and global health

The Grand Challenges Grants Program — the largest and most comprehensive program of its type ever introduced at the University of Maryland — supports projects that address emerging societal issues, including climate change, social injustice, global health, and education disparities. Our experts and thought leaders across the full spectrum of research disciplines have come together to collaborate on and evaluate sustainable solutions that address these issues.

"As a community of researchers and practitioners, our faculty are actively engaged in the policy debates and discussions that matter today," said Dean Robert Orr. "As we tackle some of the world’s grand challenges, our success depends on a comprehensive interdisciplinary approach to real-world problem solving."

The faculty-led work supported through this program will positively impact our society and help move our campus, state, nation and world fearlessly forward. Learn more about the projects being advanced by the School of Public Policy:

Grant Type: Institutional Grant
Topics: Education & Social Justice
Colleges Represented: SPPEDUCARHU, BSOSINFO
SPP Faculty Involved: Jen Littlefield, Shanna Pearson, Brandi Slaughter

The Maryland Initiative for Literacy and Equity will examine the systemic barriers faced by public school students living at or below the poverty line, widening the achievement gap and increasing segregation by race, ethnicity, and language. These barriers drive literary achievement to become an issue of equity and civil rights in addition to an academic issue. This initiative seeks to utilize cutting-edge professional development and community outreach to revolutionize educational practices and family engagement. Learn More

Grant Type: Impact Award
Topics: Threats to Democracy and Misinformation
Colleges Represented: SPPEDUC, BSOSJOUR
SPP Faculty Involved: Paul Brown, Nathan Dietz

The initiative on Democracy Research, Education, and Civic Action will catalyze interdisciplinary innovation in research, teaching and learning, and civic engagement, and work to reestablish trust in democratic institutions and remove barriers that threaten our future as a nation. A healthy democracy for all people across racial, ethnic, gender, and socioeconomic lines is urgently needed in order to address other urgent global policy issues. Learn More

Grant Type: Team Project Grant
Topics: Racial and Social Justice, Education
Colleges Represented: SPPEDUC 
SPP Faculty Involved: Apolonia Calderon, Brandi Slaughter

The Racial and Social Justice Research-Practice Partnership Collaborative will address the educational inequities in learning opportunities and outcomes for historically marginalized students. It will examine the equity of research outcomes and the research process, and design and implement research-practice partnerships that tackle racial and social justice challenges in school communities. Learn More

Grant Type: Individual Project Grant
Topics: Poverty, Global Health
College Represented: SPP
SPP Faculty Involved: David Backer

The initiative on Forecasting Acute Malnutrition for Anticipatory Action will look at the urgent global issue of acute malnutrition affecting tens of millions of children under the age of five. A host of humanitarian emergencies have intersected to exacerbate food insecurity and famine-like conditions in several countries. Using predictive analytics, the goal of this project is to develop tools that forecast when and where crises are most likely to occur and their scale of severity, and implement crisis management and preparedness as well as risk response. Learn More

Learn more about all the inspiring projects that were awarded funding through the Grand Challenges program by visiting

For Media Inquiries:
Megan Campbell
Senior Director of Strategic Communications
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