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Global Pressing Issues Grants

Hunger, humanitarian crises, global warming, forced migration—these are among the most immediate challenges facing our world.

Through the Global Pressing Issues Grant program, the Nelson Institute seeks students and faculty to conduct research on these and other topics of broad public importance. Whether it is documenting the experiences of refugees in Des Moines or assessing and improving water quality in Uganda, this initiative aims to enhance Drake’s involvement in building a better future, and provide students with hands-on learning that enhances their understanding of deeply-rooted problems facing populations at home and abroad. 

Current projects:

Cross-cultural Community-based Strategies for Sustainable Urban Streams: Lessons from Des Moines and Jakarta

The research we conduct on quantifying ecosystem services of urban streams and rivers in Des Moines and Jakarta will provide a template for other communities, organizations, and scientists to apply to streams and rivers in their locales. While each community may differ, this template can potentially be applied to other streams in Des Moines and Jakarta, or entirely other metropolitan areas in the U.S. and abroad.

The awardees also proposed a community-based data collection effort within the model of citizen science using GIS. With Drake’s existing ESRI GIS subscription, the geocoded data we collect in both Jakarta and Des Moines will be available online and can be shared for public view. In general, the goal is to process this data into information that can be used by local communities and organizations to make decisions regarding stream sustainability. While the data itself is valuable, the process of engaging residents is also a novel approach that can be used as a reference by other communities globally. Additionally, the proposed joint studio/workshop engaging students from both Drake and UPJ studio will provide opportunities for cross-cultural learning and sharing of ideas based on what each group learned from the different sites. The studio will also investigate ways to engage with the various neighborhood’s resources at each site, such as school, neighborhood organizations and community leaders.

The project is led by Assistant Professor in Sustainability and Resilience Dian Nostikasari and in join collaboration with Profs. Peter Levi and Peter Levi of Drake University, select students at Drake University, Eka Permanasari Senior Lecturer, Architect Urban Designer in Jakarta, and Irwan Tamrin the founder and CEO of Wisata Sekolah.

Exploring complementary approaches to combat global non-communicable diseases with Pravara Institute of Medical Sciences in Loni, India

Drake faculty and students will explore ways of combining Western medicine with Ayurvedic practices in treating non-communicable diseases such as chronic pain.

Drake faculty member Pramod Mahajan has led the way in developing this collaboration with Pravara Institute of Medical Sciences (PIMS) and was recently featured on the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology website. Dr. Mahajan may be reached via email for questions related to this grant work.

Religions of Beijing book project with Drake partner university, Minzu University of China in Beijing

Professor of Religion, Tim Knepper, is leading this project in coordination with colleagues at the Minzu University of China to support student research and documentation of the diverse religious communities in Beijing. This project is a companion project o a publication Dr. Knepper and students published through Drake called Spectrum of Faith, documenting the religious communities of Des Moines, Iowa. Dr. Knepper can be contacted via email for questions related to this grant work.

Assessing, Collaborating, and Empowering to Improve Water Quality in Rural Uganda

Drake students and faculty aim to conduct a needs assessment and implement appropriate interventions to improve the utilization of clean water in rural Uganda.

Drake University's Presence in the Toledo District of Southern Belize: Maximizing Our Impact While Minimizing Our Footprint

A team of Drake faculty members and students will work with Belizean partners to assess and weigh benefits against costs, such as the local resources required to help facilitate the work, across a number of diverse programs Drake offers in the Toledo District of Southern Belize.

Transnational Des Moines: Reframing Des Moines Immigrant and Refugee Narratives through Collaborative Research with Youth

This qualitative research project will offer knowledge-production, collaboration, and change pertaining to the transnational immigrant and refugee experience in Des Moines.