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The following projects have been selected for McCausland Innovation Fund awards.

2023-2024 Awards

Lead: Rutvik Desai, Department of Psychology 

While large language models trained on natural language have shown remarkable ability to perform advanced tasks, researchers are divided on whether LLMs truly understand language. In newly developed graduate and senior level undergraduate courses critical for neuroscience, students will engage with questions surrounding AI and ‘true’ intelligence. 

Lead: Michael Gavin, Department of English 

This project will improve upon and develop a series of English courses on AI in the context of literature, writing and more, as well as a technical course (cross-listed with linguistics) on textual computing. Students will learn how AI was developed, consider ethical concerns and gain skills to use AI in practical ways. Courses to be redesigned, include the introductory course, English 280: Literature and AI.

Lead: Megan McKay, Department of Mathematics 

This new course, Mathematical Concepts for Data Analysis, Math 328, will explore today’s leading data science problems, including the application of mathematics to AI. Students will engage with complex concepts through easy-to-understand AI examples, such as creating and training Deep Neural Networks on MATLAB software. The course will be part of the new interdisciplinary data analytics major in the College of Arts and Sciences and College of engineering and Computing. 

Lead: Tad Dallas, Department of Biological Sciences 

This proposal seeks to revise an upper level undergraduate and graduate level course in Ecoinformatics, Biol 599. Students will gain a working knowledge of AI and how to use it ethically, with special emphasis on training large language models and machine learning in biology. Development will include new open-source material allowing other professors to reuse the material freely for other courses in the College of Arts & Sciences. 

Lead: Leah McClimans, Department of Philosophy

In a redesign of PHIL 323, Ethics in Science and Technology, this AI Ethics course will look at modern and future robots — from toasters to autonomous vehicles — to better understand how to solve social problems using technical solutions. Students will examine problematic computing algorithms and explore improvements, remaining aware of the technology’s potential bias and limitations. 

Lead: Meena Khalili, School of Visual Art and Design 

As artificial intelligence evolves, the design industry must evolve to capitalize on its capabilities. Khalili will lead an enhancement of the existing course, ARTS 346, Process and Systems, to incorporate AI and machine learning into the curriculum. Students will learn about training models and machine learning to incorporate AI as a co-creator for design solutions.

Lead: Charles Andy Schumpert, Department of Biological Sciences 

Biology students will learn how to integrate generative artificial intelligence into their STEM studies. Students in a variety of BIOL courses (Biol 101, 302, 423, and 620) will learn how to use AI ethically and in a way that increases access and opportunity in those courses. For example, students will use emerging technology to create practice exam questions to use as study tools and to create visuals that will help demonstrate challenging topics. 

Lead: Michael Stoeltzner, Department of Philosophy 

With a renewed set of themes and case studies, this restructuring of PHIL 325, Engineering Ethics, will modernize a popular ethics course, allowing it to reflect ongoing changes in the engineering profession over the last decade. Students will research case studies that reflect the ethical challenges of AI in various engineering fields. 

Lead: Kristin Lunz Trujillo, Department of Political Science 

AI can create false or misleading political information that appears credible. With a national survey administered in 2024, this project will investigate how AI influences American political attitudes and behavior, and how this knowledge can be used as an educational intervention to help people recognize AI-generated content. 


Lead: Chris Rorden, Department of Psychology 

With the advent of AI, neuroscientists are developing new methods to identify complex patterns in brain imaging data. The project will integrate AI-based approaches into the Honors College course ABC’s of Neuroimaging (SCHC 402), and the Psychology course Image to Inference (PSYC 589 / 888). Students will train in these cutting-edge methods through research projects using data from USC’s 3T MRI and related studies. 


2022-2023 Awards

Co-leads: Conor Harrison and David Fuente (School of the Earth, Ocean and Environment; Department of Geography) 

This new course will address energy and water equity, a critical issue stemming from the intertwined challenges of climate change and socioeconomic inequality. Students will conduct on-the-ground research to cultivate skills in problem solving, hone their analytical and quantitative abilities and develop effective written, visual and verbal communication.  

Lead: Dustin Whitehead (Department of Theatre and Dance) 

The Get on Set Initiative provides an opportunity for student filmmakers to gain real-world experience on a professional set, expanding their tools for breaking into the film industry. Additionally, this project will create economic opportunity for the state and university by bringing yearly film productions to South Carolina. This funding supplements an active grant from the South Carolina Film Commission. 

Lead: Liz Countryman (Department of English) 

Split P partners with local public schools to provide writing workshops for elementary students in English and Language Arts. Master of Fine Arts students receive stipends to teach fiction and poetry to young learners, enhancing the fellows’ educational experiences and giving children in the community the opportunity to explore creative writing and tell their own stories.

Lead: Mark Smith (Institute for Southern Studies) 

The South Carolina Department of Archives and History houses probate records from the 18th and 19th century. The SHARE project will work with partners, locally to internationally, to digitize these important records and to lay the groundwork for future management of complex primary source materials in a digital framework. The project also aims to provide funding to assist first-generation and underrepresented students. 

Lead: Joshua Meyer-Gutbrod (Department of Political Science) 

This project provides greater access to internships for political science students, particularly first-generation, underrepresented and non-traditional students. It will help students find paid internships, support them through weekly class sessions for course credit and culminate with presenting at a job fair with networking opportunities.

Lead: Stephanie Milling (Department of Theatre and Dance)

The newly designed M.A. in Dance Studies will prepare students to teach dance in K-12 schools through two years of online courses with brief, in-person residencies. The 2023 McCausland Innovation Fund award will support development of three online, asynchronous courses included in this program: DANC 725: Arts Policy, Advocacy, and Funding, DANC 750: Critical Issues in Dance Pedagogy, and DANC 790: Research Methods in Dance. 

Co-leads: Judith Kalb and Lara Ducate (Department of Languages, Literatures and Cultures)

A few new, online courses will help students develop knowledge and skills related to global cultures. FORL 360: Introduction to Intercultural Communication will give students an introduction to the connection between language and culture and prepare them to communicate well with people with different cultural backgrounds. SPAN 280: Spanish Language in Society will allow students to learn about the language's role in cultures around the world. CHIN 315: China’s Monkey King will explore Chinese literature and film.

Co-leads: Leah Lindsey and Catherine Wiskes (Department of Languages, Literatures and Cultures) 

These courses prepare students to communicate in basic Spanish and explore the cultures of the Spanish-speaking world, while meeting Carolina Core requirements. The faculty will redevelop the online delivery of these courses and provide improved instructor training, creating an enhanced experience for the many USC students who take these courses online. 

Lead: Dawn Campbell (Department of Women’s and Gender Studies) 

The women’s and gender studies major gives students a deep understanding of women and other underrepresented groups through research and community involvement. In addition to gaining skills that translate well into future employment or graduate studies, WGST students learn to think critically, communicate effectively, solve problems and interpret human experiences with empathy and insight. The online program, to be launched in fall 2024, will embody the same major course requirements and learning outcomes as the traditional B.A. program, while contributing to equitable access to higher education. 

The McCausland Visiting Scholars Fund will bring several scholars to campus in the 2023-2024 academic year. 

The Department of Psychology will host David MacKinnon, Regents and Foundation Professor of Psychology from Arizona State University, for public talks, workshops, and consultations with faculty and graduate student researchers. Amanda Fairchild is the faculty host. 

The Department of Women’s and Gender Studies will host Monica McLemore, a professor from the University of Washington Department of Child, Family and Population Health, for a talk, seminar and classes about health equity. The talks will be part of the department’s 50th anniversary celebration. Emily Mann is the faculty host. 

The Department of Sociology will host two scholars from the University of Tokyo ― Dimitri Vanoverbeke, chair in sociology of law, and Jason Karlin, chair of the Interfaculty Initiative in Information Studies, for talks and guest lectures about law and culture in Japan. Mathieu Deflem is the faculty host.

2021-2022 Awards

Tracks I-III Awards

These projects are designed to enhance the student experience and, promote interdisciplinary teaching and research and build partnerships in the community.

Lead: Minuette Floyd (School of Visual Art and Design)

Team Members: Althea Counts (Director, Trio Program); Nancy Tolson (Assistant Director, African-American Studies); Sherrie Belton (Parent & Family Engagement Specialist, Richland One)

This beyond-the-classroom experience will allow underrepresented and first-generation students the opportunity to study abroad in Ghana, West Africa. Students will engage with the peoples and rich culture of the region while examining cultural misconceptions through artmaking and storytelling. Carolina students will hone their programming with Richland School District One elementary school students prior to traveling abroad.

Lead: Kelly Goldberg (Anthropology); Lana Burgess (Graduate Director, McKissick Museum)

Team Members: Laura Kissel (Director, Media Arts); Adam King (Director, SCIAA); James Spirek (SCIAA); John Sherrer (Historic Columbia Foundation)

Students, faculty and staff will collaborate with local partner institutions to increase access to cultural heritage materials using three-dimensional copies of significant archaeological and cultural artifacts. This new facility will allow collaborators, including the McKissick Museum, to spotlight and bring to life the experiences and stories that remain untold while increasing public access to historical collections and exhibits.

Lead: Beth Krizek (Biological Sciences); Charles Andy Schumpert (Biological Sciences)

Undergraduate students in their first semester will learn fundamental laboratory and research skills with the goal of increasing participation of underrepresented and first-generation students in STEM fields. Graduate students in the Department of Biological Sciences who also belong to underrepresented or first-generation groups will teach the Saturday sessions with the help of upper-level undergraduates.

Lead: William Strosnider (Baruch Institute)

Team Members: Tameria Warren (Undergraduate Studies Program Coordinator, SEOE); Bruce Pfirrmann (BMFL Research Resource Specialist); Steve Williams (Historian); Patti Burns (Archivist)

This project seeks to uncover, acknowledge, and honor the contributions that enslaved individuals made in creating the landscape that now houses the Baruch Marine Field Laboratory. In collaboration with the University of Dayton, efforts will be made to intensify engagement with local African American communities, gather primary sources concerning the Black experience on that land and integrate this new information into current and future USC courses.

Lead: Marius Valdes (School of Visual Art and Design)

Select students in the School of Visual Art and Design will lead this design studio and incubator to innovative learning opportunities beyond the classroom and bring community visibility to the work of student designers. The studio will function as a self-sustaining small agency with students collaborating with faculty directors to sell products, engage with the community, and potentially gain international recognition for their work.

Lead: August W. Fountain III (Chemistry and Biochemistry)

Team Members: Amy Taylor-Perry (Senior Instructor, Chemistry and Biochemistry); Demi Garvin (Consultant, Pharm.D., F-ABFT, Director of Forensic Services, Retired SLED)
In response to the anticipated growth of the forensic science profession over the next decade, the department will endeavor to establish a minor in Forensic Science. This project aims to redesign CHEM 107 and CHEM 622 courses to align with the requirements of the Forensic Science Education Accreditation Commission (FEPAC), making USC one of only two FEPAC certified universities in the state. Partnerships with SLED and a new lab component will further prepare graduates to enter this in-demand occupation.

Lead: Valinda Littlefield (History), Brent Morris (ISRE at USC-Beaufort)

Team members: Rhonda Carey (Director, Project Reconstruction); Melissa DeVelvis (Augusta University); Minuette Floyd (Art Education); Nicole Maskiell (Director, Public History Program); Victoria Smalls (Director, Gullah Geechee Corridor)

In this interdisciplinary project, faculty and graduate students will work closely with middle and high school students on archival research and collecting oral histories and other materials about the 1st South Carolina Volunteers. Documenting the history of African American soldiers serving in the US Armed Forces will serve local communities and partner organizations while equipping secondary students to present their work, in a variety of mediums, at a special event.

Lead: Katherine Ryker (Geoscience Education Research), Sean Yee (Mathematics Education Research)

In service of USC students and the many professional track faculty (PTF), this addresses a need for teaching-focused professional development. Using a peer-to-peer format based on the Japanese Lesson Study, this project will pilot a scalable implementation of a pedagogical training program beginning with select departments. PTFs will take an active role in the building and assessment of this program, in which teachers support one another within a community learning context.

Track IV: Online Course Development Awards

Online offerings will be developed for the following courses, allowing greater flexibility in teaching and learning while improving students' online learning experiences. 

Leads: Rodney Taylor and Kendall Deas and Team Member: Kimberly Simmons (African American Studies)

First taught in Fall 2021, AFAM 200 has proven to be a very popular Founding Documents class that has received many requests from students to be taught online. This Carolina Core class is a study of the United States founding documents that emphasizes how the experiences of African American citizens throughout history and culture shape the country’s values, norms and ideals.

Lead: Qiana Whitted (English Language and Literature and African American Studies)

Moved online during the pandemic in a remote delivery format, this cross-listed course (with WGST 515) explores the representation of race and gender in comics with a special emphasis on the experiences of African Americans. As part of the McCausland cohort, the faculty lead will revise the course to be a completely asynchronous, high-quality online course designed to meet the flexibility of today's students and to increase access to students throughout USC.

Lead: Kimberly Simmons (Anthropology and African American Studies)

This highly engaging course explores the African American identity in popular feature films and investigates cultural representations, constructions, production and consumption. The rich resources available through University Library's educational streaming films and highly engaging technology provide an opportunity to move this course online to better reach and engage students in this field of study.

Lead: Rebecca Stern (English Language and Literature)

ENGL 280, Literature and Society, fulfills two Carolina Core requirements (both AIU and VSR) and has been popular, attracting a range of majors and minors to the College. Developing a fully online version of this course enhances flexibility for students.

Lead: Tara Remington and Team Members: Jerry Mitchell and Grayson Morgan (Geography)

Moving this GIS course online will help provide students flexibility in learning introductory principles and methods of geographic information systems including discussion of computers, spatial data, analysis and display. This course not only includes discussion of applications but also hands-on experience — all of which is enhanced through online delivery.

Lead: Grayson Morgan and Team Members: Jerry Mitchell and Tara Remington (Geography)

This 500-level GIS course introduces students to theory and application of geographic information systems including discussions of automated input, storage, analysis, integration and display of spatial data. Students will learn to use an operational geographic information system in an online format.

Lead: Derek O'Leary and Team Member: Colin Wilder (History)

HIST 201 has become a highly demanded course that will be taught each semester by multiple instructors in the History Department from a variety of specialties. Designing this course for online delivery will help provide instructional resources that will help future instructors deliver high-quality History 201 instruction in an online format to attract students who have different interests in American history and to help meet the needs of students who need an online Carolina Core Founding Documents and History option.

Lead: Saskia Coenen-Snyder and Team Members: James Risk (History)

A gateway course for history majors, this course lays the groundwork for students who wish to explore the field and craft of history. An online hybrid format will allow the program to reach more students, with greater flexibility and accessibility, and the course will utilize the many digital resources available at USC.

Lead: Neil Levens and Team Members: Sam McQuillin and Amanda Davis (Psychology)

In response to the recent growth of the psychology program, the development of this online class will provide a solution to scaling a new required course. Teaching hundreds of students each semester, a creative format will allow for instruction as well as a laboratory component.

Lead: Amit Almor and Team Members: Dawson Peterson (Ph.D. student, Linguistics) and Sarah Wilson (Ph.D. student, Linguistics)

This interdisciplinary course satisfies major requirements in psychology as well as minor and graduate requirements in linguistics. With few online offerings at the 500 level, this format will allow greater access for students and a faster path to graduation as a summer course.

Lead: Erin Roberts and Team Member: Graduate Student Assistant (Religious Studies)

A Carolina Core class, RELG 101 provides foundational knowledge on the beliefs and practices of the world's religions and the methods scholars use to study them. An online version of this course will help reach more students in a more flexible format.

Lead: Stephanie Mitchem and Team Member: Graduate Student Assistant (Religious Studies)

In a two-for-one proposal, this team will develop RELG 205 for online delivery for the first time and will revise a popular online course, RELG 270. RELG 205, another Carolina Core class, introduces students to knowledge of the values and ethics developed, contested and transmitted through a variety of religious practices. This course is highly requested by students to be taught online. As part of this cohort, RELG 270 will be revised to meet current trends within the field of Religion and the Arts and to incorporate new techniques, instructional materials and assignments for student engagement.

Lead: Stephanie Milling 

The Master of Dance Studies program is a first-of-its-kind undertaking that will provide graduate-level dance study with the goal to address the increasing need for teachers in K-12 dance education.

Lead: Hanne van der Iest

The Summer of Sociology will be a highly-collaborative, accelerated minor program that allows students to earn the minor in a single summer. 

Lead: Hanne van der Iest and Team Members: Andrea Henderson (Faculty Expert), Atticus Wolfe (Graduate Assistant), Victoria Money (Graduate Assistant), Valerie Barron (Graduate Assistant), and Morgan Koziol (Graduate Assistant)  (Sociology)

SOCY 360 is a high-demand, highly marketable sociology course that would constitute one of the three core 300-level courses in our online minor. Developing this course online through a team approach will provide a course that can meet the unit's need for increased sustainability of this core Departmental online offering.

Lead: Hanne van der Iest and Team Members: Matthew Brashears (Faculty Expert), Nicholas Heiserman (Graduate Assistant), and Nick Harder (Graduate Assistant) (Sociology)

Our Elementary Statistics course, SOCY 392, is a minor requirement with enrollment numbers capped due to space constraints in our statistics lab. Moving this course online will help the department to better serve the needs of its students and to offer a variety of courses in a more sustainable fashion.

Lead: Hanne van der Iest and Team Members: Jaclyn Wong (Faculty Expert), Meg Routh (Graduate Assistant), and Samantha Moser (Graduate Assistant) (Sociology)

A Carolina Core Integrative Course, this research course helps majors meet requirements for both the Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science degrees and provides students the skills they need to conduct research. Developing this into an online format provides flexibility for sociology students and an opportunity for non-majors as well.

Lead: Pat Gehrke (Speech Communication, English Language and Literature)

Many college students experience very high public speaking anxiety, and this online course will provide tools to help. The asynchronous format will allow the reintroduction of a course that has not been offered for nearly 20 years, with the scalability to meet student needs.

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