In the Fall of 2018, the College of Natural and Social Sciences was awarded nearly one million dollars from the National Science Foundation to partner with the City of Los Angeles, Community Partners, and other local nonprofits to promote community civic engagement and big data literacy. Working with the City’s LA GeoHub, faculty and students design and implement projects in coordination with the goals of local nonprofits. The grant connects the university to the community through the work of nonprofits by mapping City-wide data relevant to three focus areas: Social Justice, Urban Environment, and the Arts.
The NSF Big Data Grant follows a cyclical pattern each year to provide a variety of ways for faculty and students to become exposed to big data, interact with non-profits, and research using city data.
Fall Exposure and Introduction: The College of Natural and Social Sciences’ Introduction to Higher Education was redesigned to introduce students to big data and civic engagement through guest speakers, webinars, applied projects, and a town hall with our partners.
Spring Experience and Integration: Faculty apply to redesign their upper division courses in alignment with the grant goals and structure. Students complete projects and display them at our annual Public Forum Day in April/May.
Summer Immersion: Students who successfully enrolled in and completed one of the redesigned Spring courses can apply to be a Social Equity Engagement geo-Data Scholar (SEEDS), which includes a paid internship at one of the participating non-profits. SEEDS interns work collaboratively with the non-profit to complete research and data mapping projects.
Through this cycle, students gain exposure to big data and civic engagement in introductory courses, experience by working directly with non-profits on community issues, and immersion as summer interns. Our overall goal is to produce agents of change committed to community engagement through big data literacy.