Seeding Change Grant Projects

Philadelphia, considered to be one of America’s poorest big cities, offers unique opportunities for community members, faculty, and students who are interested in the meaningful work of creating solutions to disparity and polarization. Working together to create change is rich terrain on which to build programs for research and learning. The Seeding Change Grant program supports an ongoing portfolio of diverse projects to unleash agency in our faculty and students as well as among numerous Philadelphia-based constituencies to transform their own lives and surroundings.

There is power in experience that is rooted in place, listening, and reflection.

—Shivaani Selvaraj, Director of Urban Engagement


  • Building a Consortium for Social Movements and Education - Adult Education faculty members Drs. Rebecca Tarlau and John Holst initiated a speakers series as a first step in organizing a consortium for scholars and community members interested in exploring how social movements educate people, how people learn and grow through involvement in social movements, and how social movements can shape public policy around education.
  • Philadelphia Participatory Research Collective - Comprised of six co-researchers, the Philadelphia Participatory Research Collective supports social movements by producing community-driven knowledge to understand and solve urban issues.
  • Resources for Immigrant Communities in the Wake of COVID-19 - Penn State Law students worked with Penn State Law’s Center for Immigrants' Rights Clinic to develop resources for organizations assisting immigrant communities in the wake of COVID-19.
  • Students Research Rising Food Insecurity in the Wake of COVID-19 - A team of students is working with Dr. Amit Sharma to conduct surveys related to individual and household levels of food access and food insecurity during the COVID-19 crisis.
  • Transforming STEM Education in Philadelphia Public Schools - Amanda Smith, STEM outreach and engagement liaison with Penn State College of Education's Center for Science and the Schools, received funding to explore new pathways for teacher professional development in Philadelphia neighborhood high schools that are preparing to redesign their STEM curriculum.
  • Virtual Internships Address COVID-19 - In facing the implications of COVID-19, the Center adjusted to create virtual placement opportunities for students who were committed to learning social justice tools needed to address the impact of the virus in Philadelphia.


  • Designing Youth Spaces for Equity and Healing - Dr. Kristen Goessling was awarded a grant to develop a multi-year research design that centers on the lives and experiences of young people who are affected by the opioid crisis in the Philadelphia area.
  • How Platform Workers Mobilize for Fairness and Justice - Dr. Michelle Rodino-Colocino received a grant to interview taxi and app-based drivers in Philadelphia regarding labor conditions and workers’ rights in the platform economy as part of a research collaboration with the Media, Inequality, and Change Center.
  • Philadelphia Food Insecurity Research - Dr. Amit Sharma received a grant to pilot a research study that explores rising food insecurity in Philadelphia by comparing data from the wealthiest and poorest local zip codes.
  • Teacher Leaders in Dialogue - Dr. Rebecca Tarlau received funding to support her ongoing research on the national teachers’ movement to improve working conditions and quality of public education, while facilitating an exchange between Philadelphia-based teacher leaders with University Park pre-service teachers.
  • Victorian Philadelphia Institutions and Their Lingering Influence - Victorian-Era Philadelphia institutions provided the context for Dr. Alisha Walters’ students to engage in place-based exploration of nineteenth-century social systems and their lingering impacts on current policies and social institutions, such as mass incarceration and scientific racialism.
  • What’s in a Recipe? Reading Early Modern Recipe Books - Penn State Abington students designed an interactive history exhibition about food, medicine, and science from their yearlong exploration of a 17th-century recipe manuscript.


  • Community Health Screenings for Philadelphia Neighborhoods - Kinesiology students addressed health inequities and honed their clinical assessment skills by performing health screenings in underserved neighborhoods.
  • Culturally Responsive Teaching through Field-Based Experience - Dr. Ann Martinelli received funding to establish a fall pre-service teaching experience at the Alexander K. McClure School in the Hunting Park neighborhood of Philadelphia.
  • Exploring Immigrant Experience - Dr. Abigail Akande received funding to incorporate outreach to immigrant communities into a new course that introduces students to Philadelphia as a sanctuary city.
  • Philadelphia as Social Laboratory - Dr. Laura Orrico received funding to create a new course that encourages students to develop their sociological imagination and sparks a desire for urban engagement in Philadelphia.
  • The Loving Project Podcast and Study Guide - Paula Smith engaged students in co-producing a study guide that accompanies The Loving Project podcast, which celebrates the 1967 Supreme Court case that ended the prohibition of mixed-race marriages by exploring what it’s like to be part of a mixed-race marriage at this time in America’s history.
  • Youth Space Makers: Designing Today the Shared Spaces of Tomorrow - Dr. Aaron Knochel received funding for a summer camp that invited high school students to participate in conversations about public space and neighborhood identity and to design and 3D print public monument maquettes.


  • Community Engaged Design and Planning - Dr. Mallika Bose’s landscape architecture graduate class supported the launch of a community garden at Horace Howard Furness High School.
  • Learning Locally, Growing Globally - Dr. Melanie Foster designed an agricultural science course highlighting the importance of Spanish language learning and the global interconnectedness of Pennsylvania agriculture.
  • Multi-Ethnic Buddhist Healing Practices in Philadelphia - Dr. Pierce Salguero engaged undergraduate students of Asian heritage in applying ethnographic methods to study Philadelphia’s unique multi-ethnic Buddhist population.
  • Public Scholarship Colloquium - Dr. Glenn Sterner organized a public scholarship colloquium that was held at the Penn State Center Philadelphia.
  • Urban Youth Making Healthy Choices - Dr. Kathleen Fadigan engaged rehabilitation and human services students in designing curriculum for a college readiness program at George Washington High School focusing on healthy choices and drug and alcohol prevention.
  • Youth Development and Social Justice Minor - Dr. Kristen Goessling was awarded a grant to develop the Youth Development and Social Justice Certificate into a minor.