Each semester of the Pathway, students will enroll in a research teams course. During their first summer institute, they will choose a research team based on a wicked problem that interests them, and then they will research the problem throughout the next three years of their course work alongside their faculty director and community partner. The research teams are designed to provide students with one-on-one faculty mentorship from the earliest stage of their college career while engaging in the high impact practices of service learning and project-based learning.
The committee had devised several examples of the topics, readings, and outcomes of research teams.
Food Sustainability Research Team
The team tasked with addressing food sustainability in the region would read philosophical essays from Wendell Berry’s Bringing it to the Table and bell hooks’s Belonging alongside histories like William Cronon’s Nature’s Metropolis and novels like Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle. These readings will deepen their understanding of the social and cultural implications of their problem. The team will use their readings to support the informed creation of an interactive visualization about the encroachment of housing and development on farmland in the region along with digital stories about its cultural, environmental, and socioeconomic impacts. The visualization would be shared online and students would present their work in events held at the Extension Service.
Pollution Research Team
The team tasked with addressing environmental pollution in the area would use statistical analysis of public health records to compare the emergence of pollution-related ailments between communities that are adjacent to factories and those that are distant. The team will also read books (ex: When Smoke Ran Like Water by Devra Davis), read scientific journal articles (ex: Human Health Risk Assessment of 16 Priority Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons in Soils of Chattanooga, Tenessee, USA by Dr. Sean Richards et. al.) and watch biographical films (ex: Erin Brockovich Universal Pictures) to get a historical perspective of the issues surrounding environmental pollution and the tactics some businesses use to hide the detrimental effects of their byproducts. The students will participate in research with professors in chemistry and biology to analyze current digital sources to examine the pollutant concentrations found in the air, water, and soil in the surrounding area to further emphasis the importance of this topic. The team would partner with nonprofit organizations like Renew Missouri to develop a map-based website that shares pollutant data alongside digital stories about their effects designed to reach policy makers.
African American Reading Practices Research Team
The team tasked with “diverse African American reading practices” would read multiple kinds of compositions, including poetry, short stories, blog entries, comic books, and data journalism. We will cover works by poet Kevin Young, novelist Toni Morrison, legal scholar Michelle Alexander, journalist and comic book writer Ta-Nehisi Coates, and more. The readings will give us a chance to consider literacies and African American subject matter from different contexts. The materials will give us opportunities to mixed media exhibits for various communities of readers and viewers. We could partner with local schools or libraries in order to design distinct cultural programming.