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Home » Discover Rackham » Announcing the 2024 Rackham Public Scholarship Grants

Rackham is pleased to announce the 2024 Public Scholarship Grant awards for graduate students. These awards will enable students to apply their doctoral research to collaborative projects with community partner organizations to create a public good, making an impact in communities locally and globally.

This year’s award recipients will complete their work in the United States, South America, and Africa, from piloting mobile air conditioning systems for communities in California subjected to extreme heat due to climate change to training youth to identify and document cultural heritage sites in Nigeria. The successful student applicants demonstrated sustainable social, cultural, and environmental impact beyond the academy. Their projects stood out in a competitive application pool for their equitable partnerships, sustainability for local communities, and innovative and inclusive use of community knowledge in their doctoral research.

“In their range and importance, the projects that have been awarded Rackham Public Scholarship grants this year showcase the promise of collaboration between doctoral students and community partners to advance research in the service of the public good,” says Catherine Sanok, Rackham associate dean for academic programs and initiatives and professor in the U-M Department of English Language and Literature. “By foregrounding community knowledge and needs, these impressive students have created research projects that will have a significant impact.”

By choosing to make public engagement a part of their graduate education, this year’s cohort will be able to make distinct contributions to the community needs they serve, the practice of publicly engaged scholarship, and their research.

The Rackham Program in Public Scholarship has been supporting public scholarship on the U-M campus since 1998, when it began as the Arts of Citizenship Program. Its mission is to support collaborative scholarly and creative endeavors that engage communities and co-create public goods while enhancing students’ professional development around public engagement and community-based learning.

This year’s grant recipients and their projects are:

Noor Al-Samarrai

M.F.A. Student, Creative Writing

“From the City of Peace to Motor City: Iraqi Michigander Memories of Baghdad”

For this project, Noor will collect the oral histories of Iraqi culture bearers to preserve their memories of the nation before war. Her project will document the oral histories of key Iraqi elders residing in the Detroit metropolitan area. The local diaspora, richly diverse in religious and ethnic identities, represents a community of people who departed Iraq at different periods in time, with different memories of an evolving Baghdad. Noor’s project will preserve their stories for future generations. Upon completion, the recorded and preserved oral histories will be donated to the Arab American National Museum in Dearborn, Michigan.

Timilehin Ayelagbe

Ph.D. Student, Anthropology

“Edo Heritage and Public Archaeology Project”

Timilehin will partner with the Museum of West Africa Art (MOWAA), Edo, and its sister organization, Africa Nature Investors, to train and develop public interest in heritage and archaeological research in Edo State, Nigeria. Using previous research, Timilehin and partners will employ public outreach to educate and train high school students in heritage studies so they can identify ancient ruins and archaeological sites. These students will also learn how to upload evidence of heritage site locations into a central geographic information system to be used by archaeologists, heritage site developers, and the Ministry of Culture. This central database will not only develop cultural heritage in Edo State, but it will also provide MOWAA and affiliated researchers with data for future studies.

Richard Bachmann

Ph.D. Candidate, History

“Voices of a Neighborhood—Building the Woodbridge Oral History Archive”

The Woodbridge Oral History Archive (WOHA) is a collaborative project between Richard, the Detroit Historical Society (DHS), and the Woodbridge Neighborhood Development Corporation (WND). Since the 1960s, Woodbridge has stood out as a socially and culturally diverse Detroit neighborhood composed of ordinary working people, artists, musicians, and activists, whose collective stories have not been formally preserved. By combining WND’s deep ties in the community with DHS’s expertise in collecting oral histories and Richard’s public history training and Detroit history knowledge, WOHA aims to use storytelling and programming to build relationships between the younger and older generations of Woodbridge residents to create a sense of intergenerational community and stewardship.

Caroline Beckman

Ph.D. Student, School for Environment and Sustainability

“Designing and Implementing Mobile Climate Resilience Hubs in North Fair Oaks, California”

Together with a coalition of local activist and nonprofit organizations called the Climate Ready North Fair Oaks Team, Caroline will implement an interdisciplinary pilot project to offer rapid and efficient relief to vulnerable residents during climate emergencies. The neighborhood of North Fair Oaks (NFO), California is a majority-minority community that serves as a sanctuary for many vulnerable and underserved groups in the Bay Area. Extreme heat is an especially pressing issue in NFO, where the housing stock is old, very few homes have air conditioning, and the number of dangerously high heat days is skyrocketing. The project team will pilot a first-of-its-kind mobile “block hub” model–portable, prefabricated air conditioning systems that can be delivered to NFO homes in minutes.

Amelia Burke

Ph.D. Candidate, Anthropology and History

“Oral History Collection of Agro-Pastoralist Lifeways in the Middle Atlas Mountains of Morocco”

This public history project will aid in expanding the nascent oral history initiative at the Al Akhawayn Digital Repository and Archives (ADRAR). It centers on the collection, processing, digitization, and dissemination of oral history in the Middle Atlas Mountains of Morocco, an area of tremendous historical significance. Amelia will lead an oral history collection team to expand ADRAR’s initiative to two surrounding rural communities which represent rich nomadic histories within the region and strong oral historical traditions. The incorporation of these histories, including an option for Tamazight-language recording with Arabic and English translation, would preserve the politically and culturally important histories of these communities, much of which are not adequately captured in written historical materials.

Madeline Miller

Ph.D. Candidate, School for Environment and Sustainability

“Energy Efficiency Interventions in Low-Income Multifamily Housing: A Case Study in Detroit on Financial and Energy Savings and Lessons Learned for Best Practices”

This study focuses on the energy-related experiences of families in low-income multifamily housing in Detroit and the potential benefits of energy-conserving measures. Madeline will conduct a study to analyze the effectiveness of housing retrofits, aimed at energy efficiency and cost-saving, implemented by Walker-Miller Energy Services in the Villages of Parkside, a housing community in Detroit. The results of the study will indicate any energy and cost savings from these upgrades, recommend best practices for utility-offered energy efficiency programs, and make a case for deeper retrofits to dated multifamily housing structures.

Marcela Ortiz Guerrero

Ph.D. Candidate, Educational Studies

“Community Engagement Supporting Educational Integration: Welcome Kit for Venezuelan Immigrant Students in Colombia”

Marcela will partner with Institución Educativa Colegio Antonio Nariño (IECAN school) in the border city of Cúcuta, Colombia, to promote the integration of Venezuelan immigrant students through the co-creation of a welcome kit. While Venezuelan students are enrolled in IECAN school, there is no orientation program to support their specific needs. This project will involve creating and distributing welcome kits that provide critical information to help newcomer students familiarize themselves with the Colombian education system and the school’s culture and organizational structure. It will additionally offer a safe space for community members to learn about immigration through the first-hand experiences of Venezuelan students.