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Granting More Innovation
A state program that targets higher education innovators in science and technical fields has, for the second time in as many years, granted Washington College nearly $1 million for a new endowed chair, this time for the Eastern Shore Food Lab.
For the second year in a row, Washington College has been awarded a grant from the Maryland Department of Commerce as part of its Maryland E-Nnovation Initiative (MEI), a program designed to spur basic and applied research in scientific and technical fields. Coupled with gifts of $1 million from donors, the MEI grant of $944,000 will support nearly $2 million for an endowed chair in sustainable food systems for the College’s new Eastern Shore Food Lab.
The MEI Grant was made possible by a pledge of $1 million from Daryl Swanstrom ’69, a member of the College’s Board of Visitors and Governors, with transitional funding by board members Edward P. Nordberg ’82, Ann Horner ’80, and Patrick W. Allender P ’11, who helped meet the immediate grant requirements.
“Problem-solving and analytical skills are the heart of the liberal arts education. When our students bring those skills to bear on innovative opportunities like the Eastern Shore Food Lab, creative solutions to complex problems are the result,” says College President Sheila Bair. “The funds from our generous donors— Daryl Swanstrom, Ed Nordberg, Ann Horner, and Patrick Allender—and the Maryland E-Nnovation Initiative will help Washington College propel new thinking and action toward creating more sustainable food systems on the Eastern Shore and well beyond.”
The Eastern Shore Food Lab (ESFL) will be an interdisciplinary research, teaching, and innovation laboratory dedicated to studying and experimenting with sustainable food systems, using the Eastern Shore food-shed as its primary context. By studying the resources unique to the region, based on weather, climate, soil chemistry, and microbial biology—and fusing historical foodways with modern technologies—faculty, students, and collaborative researchers will re-envision our food system, from how we define food to how we grow and prepare it. The lab will address issues of food, diet, health, access, sustainability, and human and environmental relationships through innovative teaching and learning, cutting edge research, and meaningful food production. Ultimately, although the lab’s work will spring from the local, the solutions it envisions will be scalable to other food-sheds around the country and the world.
Funded through the MEI grant, the first chair of the ESFL will be Bill Schindler, chair of the Department of Anthropology and associate professor of anthropology. A behavioral science expert in primitive technologies and foodways—food production, dietary health, and cultural meanings of food—Schindler is especially interested in how the ESFL can work as a catalyst to change modern Western perceptions of food.
Created by the General Assembly in 2014, the MEI program aims to spur basic and applied research in scientific and technical fields at the state’s colleges and universities. This year, in addition to Washington College, the University of Maryland-Baltimore, Hood College, and Stevenson University were endowed a total of $8.3 million in four new research professorships. The schools raised $4.3 million in private funding for each chair, and Maryland Commerce approved matching grants of $4 million to support the endowments.
In 2016, Washington College received an MEI grant of $1 million to create a newly endowed position at the Center for Environment & Society, the chief of entrepreneurial science.