Recent Grants Total More Than $215,000

December 19, 2021


  • Provost Adrienne McCormick praised the faculty members involved for going above and beyond their classroom work to find research money to help tackle a particular challenge.

ROCK HILL, SOUTH CAROLINA – Winthrop University faculty members were awarded this fall separate state and federal grants totaling more than $215,000.

Provost Adrienne McCormick praised the faculty members involved for going above and beyond their classroom work to find research money to help tackle a particular challenge.

Here is a roundup of the recent grants:

FOSSIL RESEARCH: $47,426, National Science Foundation: 

There are only a handful of events in the history of our planet that pass the threshold to be deemed a mass extinction, and while some are relatively well understood, the cause or causes of End Devonian Mass Extinctions are not well understood. A group of researchers including Winthrop Geology Professor Diana Boyer was just awarded a grant through the National Science Foundation towards untangling this mystery. 

Boyer said the Late Devonian (383-359 million years ago) was a time when the Appalachian Mountains were forming, the first multi-storied forests were taking root, oceans teeming with fish were closing as the super continent Pangea was just starting to take shape. No doubt all of this was influencing climate at this time, she added. 

Through this interval were several severe pulses of extinction, which in total combined to account for one of the five biggest mass extinctions in the history of our planet. A singular mechanism for these events has remained elusive, but one commonality through the Late Devonian is a record of repeated intervals of anoxia, or the lack of dissolved oxygen in the oceans, that can be recognized in the rock record. There is still no consensus about the mechanisms and causes of widespread ocean anoxia at this time, and there is still debate about whether ocean anoxia was a direct contributor to these extinction events or not. Clearly, the Late Devonian still represents an unsolved mystery that requires multiple approaches to untangle. 

One of the roadblocks to better understanding ocean anoxia and extinction in the Late Devonian is that most previous studies have focused on samples from relatively shallow ancient ocean settings, from a limited geographic area. Also, there are numerous ways to analyze rocks for a signal of anoxia, that may or may not be appropriate for comparison. (Can the geochemical signal of rocks collected in Vietnam be compared to the fossil signal preserved in rocks from Belgium?  How do we know if they are preserving the same signal of anoxia using different methods?) 

This funded study will evaluate samples from all over the world that represent a diversity of ancient ocean environments, using fossil data, mineralogical data, and numerous different types of geochemical data to both calibrate and validate the utility of the most commonly used methods. While developing a comprehensive set of best practices for assessing oxygen loss in marine sediments, the resulting dataset will also help inform reconstructions of Late Devonian ocean currents, climate, tectonics, ecosystems and extinctions. 

Boyer will carry out field work with students to collect samples from Utah and Nevada, and process samples in the lab from Mongolia, northwest China, Belgium, Germany, Vietnam, north Iran and the Appalachian Basin to specifically analyze the biological signal of anoxia using trace fossils. This study will be carried out in collaboration with colleagues from Appalachian State University and Williams College.  

DIGITAL HUMANITIES FOCUS: $6,000, S.C. Humanities from the National Endowment for the Humanities:

The humanities departments of the College of Arts and Sciences are planning a three-stage approach to revitalizing the humanities through investing in and integration of a digital humanities practice/focus. The digital humanities, in its most basic construct, is the field of study interested in how computational tools and digital media affect the humanities disciplines, its forms and their public application.  

The departments involved are: English, history, interdisciplinary studies, philosophy and religion, and world languages and cultures.

The first part of the proposal is a two-day workshop for Winthrop faculty, staff and students highlighted by a public presentation by the facilitator. After this introductory event, in phase two, Winthrop humanities departments plan to highlight digital humanities initiatives of Winthrop faculty and students through creation of a public website interface and public presentations surrounding their digital humanities projects. 

The third part of the proposal builds on the first two with a strategic planning retreat for all Winthrop humanities faculty. Goals of this retreat include further study and integration of contemporary humanities practices, such as public humanities as well as digital, into Winthrop humanities curricula; identification and development of faculty and faculty-student research opportunities that promote contemporary humanities practices; and identification and development of interdisciplinary research and instructional opportunities within several humanities programs. 

“We believe this focused approach will provide multiple avenues of collaboration, support and engagement for Winthrop and its surrounding region,” said Professor Robert Prickett, associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. “This will raise the awareness of and engagement with the humanities, increasing public awareness and supporting the humanities departments’ recruiting efforts. Ultimately, the three-phase approach allows for both internal and external engagement with the humanities in a new, exciting way.”

GIFTED AND TALENTED TEACHER TRAINING: $46,460, S.C. Department of Education:

This S.C. Department of Education grant will be used to provide tuition for teachers in the region, as well as across the state. They will participate in coursework to complete their endorsement for teaching gifted and talented learners in K-12 education. 

Winthrop’s Richard W. Riley College of Education will be offering four graduate, asynchronous, online courses in gifted education, according to Dennis Dotterer, assistant professor in educational leadership.

Two cohorts will participate in two courses: EDCI 594: The Nature and Needs of Gifted and Talented Students, as well as EDCI 595: Introduction to Curriculum and Instruction for Gifted and Talented Students. Both will be offered spring 2022. The first cohort will be reserved for qualifying educators from the region in the Olde English Consortium school districts.  

The second cohort is open to all other school districts across the state, given the access afforded by the online delivery platform. All courses will be offered in 8-week formats with a maximum of 25 students selected using priorities to focus support on teachers who are currently teaching gifted and talented students or will be teaching them next year.  

MACFEAT EARLY CHILDHOOD LABORATORY SCHOOL: $115,600, S.C. Department of Social Services

Winthrop’s Macfeat Early Childhood Laboratory School received five rounds of grant funding from the S.C. Department of Social Services.

The money was part of the Child Care Operating Grants which were used to help child care providers that had to close temporarily or have lost revenue due to low enrollments during the last several months as a result of COVID-19. 

Macfeat, which is housed in the Richard W. Riley College of Education, temporarily closed during spring 2020. During the 2020-21 academic year, the school enrolled 18 percent fewer children and faced increased costs related to the pandemic. 

Grant monies are being used to purchase sanitation supplies, personal protective equipment, classroom materials, outdoor learning equipment and resources, according to Erin Hamel, associate professor and director of the school. Materials purchased through the grants enabled young children to utilize outdoor spaces as learning environments and minimized the amount of materials that had to be shared by children.

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