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Beloit faculty receive FaCE grant

Beloit Professors Joe Bookman, Nahir Otaño Gracia, Obioma Ohia and Joseph Derosier were recently awarded a FaCE grant for $37,598 for their Building ACM-wide partnerships project for developing virtual-/augmented-reality tools for pedagogy.

Grants offer support for a variety of different projects designed and led by faculty at ACM colleges. Some of their endeavors include collaborative events, learning and teaching.

Hopes behind the FaCE grant are that multiple departments, or ACM colleges, will work together to engage faculty at their institutions by testing new approaches that address current challenges faced by liberal arts colleges and their faculty. Each fall and spring, all those interested must go through a two-step approval process including a pre and full proposal stage.

The entire project has over 10 people in total ranging from our Beloit faculty to faculty at Carleton College, Grinnell College, Lawrence University, Luther College, Macalester College and Monmouth College.

Assistant Professor of English Nahir Otaño Gracia had the original idea to apply for a virtual reality technology grant through the ACM.

Joe Bookman writes in an email , “As it turns out, other faculty around the ACM had also applied for a VR-related grant, so at a certain point members of the funding committee contacted to us to see if we’d be interested in merging our proposal with the other proposal they had received. We said yes, and ultimately the project was approved!”

The funding approved for the grant will be used to sponsor a conference hosted at Grinnell College in July in which the group plans to attend.

This summer, Otaño Gracia will be co-teaching a class with Professor Matthew Goodwin from the University of Puerto Rico titled “Virtual Reality and Storytelling: Topics in Media and Cultural Analysis.” The course will “ponder what can be gained from the study of VR and how VR can help us create new forms of communication, storytelling, and art. This course will highlight the attempts by VR creators to help dismantle structures of bias, inequality, and oppression.”

Students enrolled will be able to work with Oculus VR goggles and discuss how the technology can guide students into “seeing” damage of mass natural disasters without actually being on the scene, and not contributing to trauma that the disaster-tourism attracts to those communities.

Otaño Gracia hopes that the learnings found from the conference  will benefit the rest of Beloit and reach throughout other disciplines at the college.

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