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CWRU receives major philanthropic grant funding for public interest technology

Funding represents a vote of confidence to fuel inclusive practices as movement expands

As more attention is paid to the role of technology on public, civic, social and psychological life in the U.S., there has been a concerted, collaborative and continued push to expand next-generation technologists, advocates and policymakers who use technology and technology expertise proactively and transparently to address the most critical problems in the public interest. 

Recently, New America announced grant awards totaling $270,000 for two Case Western Reserve University faculty teams, plus a joint project with Ohio State University and Cleveland State University. Case Western Reserve University is a member of the Public Interest Technology University Network (PIT-UN) initiative of New America.

One PIT-UN funded project is led by Brian Gran, professor in the Department of Sociology, and An Wang, assistant professor in the Department of Computer and Data Sciences, to create a new, multidisciplinary course “Socio-Technology of Cyber Security: An Experiential Learning Course.” This course will collaborate with community partners to prepare students from any undergraduate degree program to understand core technical issues as well as ethical-societal-policy implications of cyber attacks and protective technologies. This course seeks to foster PIT apprenticeships and internships with partners and students who plan careers in cyber-security technology and policy.

The second project is led by Francisca Richter, research assistant professor in the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences at Case Western Reserve University. This project aims to develop a community-academic network and data science resources for the Certificate in Data Sciences for Social Impact at CWRU, empowering students to undertake community-relevant projects that advance equity and social justice and connect with the experiences of those represented in the data. 

An additional project, led by Ohio State University in collaboration with Case Western Reserve University and Cleveland State University, supports the creation of the Ohio Public Interest Fellows program. Daniel Lacks, ​​the associate dean for academics at the Case School of Engineering, is the project lead at Case Western Reserve University. The program will provide training and fellowship opportunities at the Ohio Statehouse for students in STEM disciplines. During their fellowships, students will learn firsthand how science and technology policy is crafted, and provide their science, technology, engineering, and mathematics insights to state legislators. 

“We are delighted that these projects have been funded by the PIT-UN; they are interdisciplinary case studies, aligned to both our Think Big strategic plan and to what our students are seeking,” said Mitchell Drumm, then-interim vice president for research and technology management at Case Western Reserve University.

“The Public Interest Technology University Network is answering the call to protect our future, our communities, and the institutions that bind us together,” said Darren Walker, president of the Ford Foundation. “Through public interest technology, these academic institutions have begun to center our collective need for justice, dignity, and autonomy, embedding these values into technological progress. Their graduates will shape technological policies, tools, and organizations that will materially improve and transform the lives of all, particularly the most vulnerable.”

These projects are also supported by additional funding provided by the College of Arts and Sciences and the Institute for Smart, Secure and Connected Systems (ISSACS) at Case Western Reserve University. ISSACS coordinates PIT-UN activities at Case Western Reserve University.  

The Cleveland Foundation’s generous support of ISSACS and PIT-UN activities, through the Internet of Things (IoT) Collaborative’s Community+Technology Hub, is gratefully acknowledged.

View a full description of funded projects.