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2010 School of Communication Innovations Grants awarded

The School of Communication has announced the 2010 Innovations Grant recipients:

  • Communication studies associate professor Jennifer Light for a book-in-progress, History of Civic Simulations
  • Communication studies associate professor Pablo Boczkowski, for his book-in-progress, After the News: The History of the Demise of Print Newspapers in the United States, 1950-2010
  • Theatre associate professor David H. Bell for music for the production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream set in 1950s New Orleans

The Innovations Grant program is a small starter grants program designed to fund pilot faculty projects that, if successful, might lead to new funding from outside sources, new curriculum, or new lines of research or academic achievement for the faculty member.

Funded projects can address problems in the sciences, the humanities, or the arts. Past winners have taken on challenges of all sorts: artistic, intellectual, therapeutic, and instructional.

The grants allow faculty to fund undergraduate student assistance with their research.

“I am currently assembling materials for a new book about the creation and evolution, between the 1890s and 1940s, of programs that exposed millions of American young people to the idea of ‘playing at citizenship’ through the participation in the shared governance of ‘miniature cities,’ ‘juvenile states,’ and ‘junior republics,’ said associate professor Jennifer Light. Light says there is a move afoot in educational technology circles to construct virtual societies that bolster political engagement among U.S. youth. “What has gotten lost in all the excitement about the powers of contemporary virtual worlds is the existence of a rich American tradition of interactive, sociable simulations whose origins long predate the invention of electronic computing,” she said.

Two undergraduate research assistants, funded by the Innovations Grant, will aid Light in her research.

Associate professor Pablo Boczkowski’s research project is the first phase of a larger study that “examines the demise of print newspapers as a window into the dynamics and consequences of institutional crisis,” he said. With funds from this Innovations Grant, Boczkowski will hire undergraduates to comb newspaper industry trade publications to “place the contemporary demise of the newspaper industry in the United States in historical perspective.”

Boczkowski is a repeat Innovations Grant recipient. The research for his latest book, News at Work: Imitation in an Age of Information Abundance (due from the University of Chicago Press this year) received assistance from the school’s grant program.

Associate professor David H. Bell will work with undergraduate music theatre, acting and music students to create an entire original score to a musical version of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

“They will be writing, they will be performing, they will be orchestrating it, they will be vocally arranging it,” Bell said. “All of it in service to a very new approach to this Shakespeare show. I’m really excited about taking the energy of the kids… to interact with show that’s been around 400 years that they think they know, and together, with them, discovering this new thing, this thing that never existed before.”

Bell’s idea for the show came from a 1939 Broadway adaptation called Swinging the Dream that had Benny Goodman’s orchestra on the stage and starred Butterfly McQueen and Louis Armstrong. “It is one of those great lost productions in annals of Broadway history because it was not a success, and it and almost all of the score just disappeared,” Bell said.