Faculty members awarded public service grants

By Collegian News Staff

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Three University of Massachusetts faculty members were awarded Public Service Endowment Grants by the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research and Engagement last week, according to a UMass News and Media Relations Release.

School of Education faculty Laura Valdiviezo, an assistant professor who focuses on the role of education in social justice, and Nelida Matos, a lecturer in Teacher Education and Curriculum Studies, and Kalidas Shetty, a food biotechnology professor in the School of Food Science, were recognized for their work in local communities and education facilities.

The grants total $40,000 and, according to the Jan. 25 release, “are intended to enhance the public service mission of the campus.”

According to the release, Matos will use her funds towards a project which seeks to bridge the so-called “achievement gap” in the struggling Springfield Public Schools, specifically in western Massachusetts’ largest city’s middle schools. She plans to consult with teachers in Springfield’s middle schools to identify what teaching methods are effective and innovative, and which are contributing to the schools’ woes.

Matos will look to see what methods “have the potential to effectively reduce the achievement gaps in the classrooms,” through researching “where promising practices appear to be emerging, with future research planned to carry out an in-depth assessment of the most effective strategies,” according to the UMass release.

Shetty, whose work focuses primarily on food-borne bacterial pathogens and phenolic phytochemicals, will also work on community building in Springfield. He will help in developing community food structures aiming to combat type 2 diabetes in minority communities in Springfield.

To accomplish this, Shetty will use his funds to make available “culture-specific and health-relevant fruits and vegetables” from local sources. Shetty will initially work to provide “high-phenolic antioxidant and fiber-enriched fruits and vegetables from a Hadley-Amherst area farmer’s network.” He will select the particular plants he’ll serve up to Springfield based on research he has conducted on the healthiest high-phenolic crops in his UMass lab. High-phenolic and high-fiber foods, Shetty has shown, are healthy as low-glycemic index foods. The antioxidants can help serve to “inhibit specific steps of carbohydrate metabolism and potentially reduce rapid glucose uptake,” according to the release.

Valdiviezo, for her part, will develop curricula seeking to give teachers a framework for understanding the linguistic and socio-cultural backgrounds of first-time English learning students. She will seek to train teachers to become researchers, giving more comprehensive across disciplines to English learners in the Amherst regional public school system.

-Collegian News Staff