Social Justice Grants

Applications are closed for 2024

Check back in January 2025.

Send questions to SJEC@wwu 


On behalf of the University Provost’s Office, the Diversity & Social Justice Grants support Western Washington University’s strategic goals for the enhancement of equity, inclusion and diversity [see footnote 1]. The grant will provide resources to actively undertake the development of educational practices that support and enhance diversity and social justice in and beyond the classroom at WWU, or to engage in social justice projects that will result in the significant advancement of their professional development and field of research, scholarly or creative work.

Diversity, conceived broadly, refers to typically underrepresented cultures, groups, or identities [see footnote 2] and their relationships to structures of power. Practices focusing on the advancement of social justice do “not merely examine difference or diversity but [pay] careful attention to the systems of power and privilege that give rise to social inequality and [encourage] the critical examination of oppression on institutional, cultural, and individual levels in search of opportunities for social action in service of social change” (Hackman, 2005, p. 104) [see footnote 3]

Collaborative projects between faculty, students, staff, community, and/or others are welcomed. Proposals rooted in a variety of disciplinary contexts that engage these questions and challenges are welcome.

This grant offers a current faculty, in concert with student and/or community member a summer grant of $7,000, or $7,000 toward a one-course release for tenured and tenure-track faculty [see footnote 4], or equivalent pay for non-tenure track faculty during one academic year for the development of educational practices, research, or initiatives that support and enhance diversity and social justice in and beyond the classroom at WWU.

All proposals should enhance diversity and social justice in the campus community, while preference will be given to those that also include impact within the broader community.  Learning Labs in which they will share their work with one another. Then each grantee will report on the experience and effects of their work in a public colloquium during the following academic year. 

Proposal Guidelines

Applications should include:

  • Title of proposal, author, department, rank, and contact information (i.e. email address and phone number).
  • Two-page narrative proposal, single-spaced (excluding citations). The narrative should address the criteria listed above and should provide a description of projected project plans and outcomes. Applicants should not assume that the reviewers are familiar with the details of their individual programs and should offer sufficient background information to assist the reviewers.
  • A brief justification for the selection of grant type ($7000 summer grant vs. $7000 toward a course release). Funding for a course release beyond $7000 will need to be covered by other means. Should a request for a course release from a Department Chair be denied, applicant agrees to accept the stipend instead.
  • A timeline for the project, including a brief statement indicating that the activity can be accomplished during the grant period or how it will be sustained past the grant period.
  • Letters of support from significant stakeholders or collaborators on the project.

Evaluation of Proposals

Proposals will be evaluated using the following criteria:

  • Is the proposed work centered around diversity and social justice, as defined above?
  • Is the proposed work transformational?
    • In making these evaluations, the committee recognizes that different applicants may have different levels of knowledge and experience with diversity and social justice work, and may work in environments with varying amounts of support for such work. Thus, what counts as “transformational” is not fixed, but depends on the context in which the work will take place.
  • Would the proposed work have broad impact on the WWU campus and/or in the community?
    • For example, a project could have broad impact by serving a large number of students from a variety of majors, through enhancing the capacity of community groups engaged in social justice work, or by changing the climate within the department for all students. The applicant should explain in what way they believe their project would have broad impact.
  • Would the proposed work lead to sustainable, structural changes?
    • This could include changes in curriculum, changes in unit policy, changes in the knowledge, attitudes, and beliefs of faculty, enhancement of on-going programs, etc.
  • Does the proposed work significantly add to existing programming and offerings at WWU?
    • Any similar programs at Western should be mentioned, and the applicant should explain how the proposed work serves a different purpose or reaches a different audience than those programs.
  • Does the proposed work go beyond what is typically expected of someone in the applicant’s position and in the applicant’s unit?
  • Is it reasonable for the applicant to accomplish the proposed work within the timeframe of the grant and with the provided resources?

When possible, the committee seeks proportional representation across the seven colleges. Applicants are reminded that committee members may not be familiar with their department or program, and are encouraged to briefly discuss this context in their proposal. Similarly, the committee recognizes that diversity and social justice work may not be specifically referenced in the applicant’s unit evaluation plan. Thus, proposals that would also contribute to the applicant’s portfolio in the recognized areas of teaching, scholarship, and/or service are welcome.


  • Collaborative projects between faculty, students, staff, community, and/or others are strongly encouraged. Yet all projects must have a Western Washington University faculty member that is the point person, sponsor, or co-author.
  • The review committee expects proposals to explain how they are informed by, and have demonstrated personal knowledge of engagement with, stakeholders. The committee urges proposers to work with stakeholders to the extent possible.
  • Previous grantees who have need of continuing funding for their projects are also encouraged to apply.
  • To be eligible, faculty applicants must be employed by WWU for the current academic year and have a contract (or reasonable expectation of employment with the university) for the academic year following the grant period.
  • If the grant would immediately follow or precede professional leave, it should be clearly clarified in the proposal what will be accomplished through this grant, as distinct from the project undertaken during the professional leave.
  • Faculty members may not hold a Summer Teaching Grant or a Summer Research Grant concurrently with an SJEC Grant.
  • Faculty members who are receiving other grant funding concurrently, or for the following year, must clearly explain how, and in what ways, the SJEC project proposal is distinctly different from those pursued in other grants.
  • No summer appointments combined may exceed 100% effort.
  • All grant writers may be asked to do a 20 minute in-person interview with members of the review committee.
  • Grant recipients must use the grant within an academic year or they will need to reapply.

Previously Funded Grants

Previously funded Social Justice Grants

Projects in 2022/2023 by name and college
Name Department / College Project

Ciao, Anna

Psychology / CHSS

Engaging student leaders in community-centered change: Creating a community learning course for psychology students

Johnston, Christine

History / CHSS Colonial Legacies and Ongoing Inequities: Archaeology and Mediterranean History

Laso, Francisco

Environmental Studies / CENV Mapping Access and Disability at Western

Montaño Nolan, Charlene

Early Childhood, Elementary, and Multilingual Education Dept. / Woodring

Developing Social and Environmental Justice-Oriented Science Programming with Kitsap Children’s Museum

Pfeiffer, Allison

Geology / CSE Unlearning Racism in the Geosciences: Building department consensus to envision and enact URGE 2.0

Sas, Mai

Geology / CSE

Unlearning Racism in the Geosciences: Sustaining the momentum of an existing, transformative, but inadequately supported organization

Schwartz-Dupre, Rae Lynn

 Women,  Gender, and Sexuality Studies / CHSS Creating a Transition Report for a Women, Gender, & Sexuality Studies Department

Stephenson, Norda

Chemistry and SMATE / CSE Exploring the Participation and Persistence of Underrepresented Women in Chemistry
COVID Research Projects by college and name
Name & Department / College Project Title Project Description

Christine Espina, Department of Health & Community Studies; Amy Rydel, Whatcom County Health Department

Healthy Whatcom and Western Washington University Partnership for Community Health Improvement This grant is intended to solidify the Healthy Whatcom and WWU Partnership.  The grant will do this  by identifying Healthy Whatcom needs and opportunities for strengthened partnership with WWU faculty and
students and by formalizing and leveraging Dr. Espina’s skills and expertise in implementing health systems change initiatives, thus contributing to Healthy Whatcom’s capacity as a more robust and sustainable entity. 
Katie Rupe, Department of Mathematics Supporting New Elementary Teachers to Challenge Inequity and Create Humanizing Mathematics Classrooms This proposal seeks to use the Social Justice Grant money for establishing a supportive professional learning community (PLC) for recent WWU graduates that are beginning their first year of teaching in elementary schools in Northwest Washington.

Norda Stephenson, Department of Chemistry and SMATE

Exploring the Participation and Persistence of Underrepresented Women in Chemistry This proposal is a two-phase qualitative research study to enquire into the experiences of undergraduate Black, Hispanic and Native American women in chemistry, with a view to understanding the complexities at the intersection of their race, gender, and other identities.

Nicole Torres, Dept. of Human Services; Maverick Tang, Northwest Youth Service

Two-Eyed Seeing:” Ecopsychology, Service Learning, and Decolonial Praxis This proposal is intended to further investigate how ecopsychological and decolonial practices can be applied in a community-based social service agency, with a goal to create a rich service-learning opportunity for both Master’s level clinicians and WWU students in Human Services.

Cameron Whitley, Dept. of Sociology & Environmental Studies Dept.

Coming Out on the Farm: Connecting WWU LGBTQ+ Students, Faculty and Staff with Animal Rescues and Sanctuaries to Enhance Community and Support Mental Health This proposal is intended to:
  • Enhance intergenerational community and mentorship among LGBTQ+ people on campus
  • Provide a service for local rescues and sanctuaries and strengthen ties with WWU.
  • Formulate a new model for how faculty can assist staff offices with programming needs.
  • Generate collaborative peer reviewed research among students, faculty, staff, and partners.

COVID Research Projects by college and name

With the onset of COVID-19 it became clear that students where suffering in serious ways and our BIPOC students were especially adversely affected by the pandemic. In Summer 2020 SJEC funded the Underrepresented Student Needs Assessment Project.

Name & Department / College Project Title Project Description

Mayer A., & Kodner R.
MBA & Arts Enterprise and Cultural Innovation/Biology

Underrepresented Student Needs Assessment Project Supervised by SJEC members Aric Mayer and Robin Kodner, four research groups that included faculty, staff and students documented the needs of minoritized populations. This work was done by almost 30 faculty and student researchers who represent marginalized communities at Western. Collectively over 3500 hours of work went into the projects. The collective results highlighted that our students from minoritized populations, and in particular our Black students, are frustrated and suffering under the current structure and culture of our university. Many of these students' basic needs are not being met and they look to the university for support that would help them achieve basic academic goals. In order to meet students' needs, dramatic changes are needed in terms of the structure and function of university programs. This report has been sent to multiple levels of WWU leadership they will use it to defend structural change. See final project.

Coleman, Brett
Human Services/Woodring

The needs of underrepresented students at Western This group focused on the need of underrepresented groups and specifically the anti-blackness mentation in WWU community. They concluded that increased resourcing for spaces and mentors that BIPOC students rely on is essential. These spaces tend to be incubators of innovation born out of struggle, and the knowledge and skills developed in such spaces can be useful for equity and inclusion initiatives that are transformative of individuals and institutions alike.

Hayes N., & Mehary E
Environmental Studies & Education/
College of the Environment and Woodring

The experience of Black students at WWU This team assessed the needs of Black, African, and/or African American students at WWU during the pandemic. Their findings determined that Western administration needs to do a better job supporting Black students (staff and faculty). Black students are exasperated from reiterating their needs again and again while university officials nod their heads, pay lip service, then take actions that are not what Black students have previously identified. A good example is that earlier in the summer, Black student leaders on campus drafted a list of demands.

Brandon, Joseph
Counseling, Health, & Wellness

Talking circles with students from underrepresented communities This research team hosted three talking circles with students from underrepresented communities concluding the following: 1) racism in Bellingham and on campus is pervasive, and causes anxiety and stress to students and they feel the university administration is unresponsive or slow to respond to their concerns for safety; 2) lines of communication from the university were not working to communicate important information to students and much of students’ knowledge and support came from their community; 3) the university has not been willing to provide broad transformative institutional support for Black students, faculty or staff; 4) there is a need for academic related support that includes a need for faculty cultural competency training for white faculty and support for BIPOC faculty and staff, especially Black faculty and staff who provide support and mentorship for BIPOC student community.

McGrew, G.
Chemistry & AMSEC/ CSE

Undocumented students, Disabled and chronically-ill students, and LGBTQIA2S+ students This team completed three distinct projects focusing on different target populations: Undocumented students, Disabled and chronically-ill students, and LGBTQIA2S+ students. This research team concluded Undocumented students report a compounding set of additional challenges that they face in pursuing an education at Western. Disabled and chronically-ill students are experiencing multiple acute health, safety and survival crises. This is amplified by the perception that they are unwelcome, unsupported, and unsafe. The move to online or remote teaching heavily disrupted campus operations and with that, disrupted LGBTQIA2S+ student communities and support systems and more campus-wide initiatives are needed to acknowledge, support and advocate for Indigenous identity, presence and positionality on Western’s occupied land. Increased mentorship is needed.
Additional projects in 2020/2021 by college and name
Name & Department / College Project Title Project Description

 Ives, Tleena

Since Time Immemorial Tribal Sovereignty Curriculum: Community Partner Development This project is intended to further (P-3) lessons to develop incorporating local tribal history and culture through videos and multimedia recordings with tribal leaders. Lessons developed through this project will focus on family engagement by using the PhotoVoice to attract a high parental involvement because it captivates parents’ interests of their willingness to share their dynamics of family, culture, traditions, and values (Dave, 2015). Additional curriculum development will focus on documenting the local boarding and day school history. The painful history of assimilation through education for local tribes impacts the high rates of disproportionality tribal children face in educational attainment. The project will center around tribal community voices, provide an anti-racist framework for additional curricula, and counter the erasure of tribal history.

Schulze-Oechtering, Michael

Introduction to Ethnic Studies and Research Justice: The Whatcom County Rebel Archive This grant is to create the Whatcom County Rebel Archive, a digital collection that will archive the freedom dreams of local activists, both past and present. He imagines the archive containing three forms of content: primary documents, oral history interviews, and student research. The Whatcom County Rebel Archive serves three important strategic goals set out by the Ethnic Studies Faculty Collective, of which I am a member. One, it will introduce students to community-engaged research methodologies. Two, it will provide an important classroom resource for teaching local social movement history, which will be linked to American Cultural Studies (AMST) 301: Comparative Cultural Studies. Third, it will provide opportunities for Western faculty, staff, and students to develop meaningful partnerships with social justice organizations in Whatcom County.

Osborne, Melissa

Research and Program Development to Better Understand and Support the Experiences and Needs of First-Generation Students at Western This grant will be used to produce data that will help communities at WWU to better understand the lived experiences of first-gen students and develop the programmatic interventions needed to meaningfully impact their trajectories through our university. Osborne will also capture a representative sample of the first-gen population on campus with an oversampling of BIPOC, first-gen students to ensure a robust representation of the intersectional experience of students within this positionality in our community.

Ruiz Guerrero, Margarita

Sustaining a ‘Grow Your Own’ (GYO) Latinx Early Childhood Teacher Pathway This grant is intended to strengthen the pathway from Skagit Valley College to Woodring’s ECE program, drawing on a study that found that once at WWU university, Latinx students struggled with increased financial strain, entrance requirements into teacher education, and commuting. Guerrero will collaborate with Skagit Valley College faculty and community field experience partners. She will align course content in two courses and add Skagit Valley schools that be accepted into the WWU-ECE professional program as transferable credit, in addition to the direct transfer degree which meets all WWU general education requirements. The reciprocal sharing of strengths will improve the aligned courses, and importantly will offer SVC transferring students an opportunity to take fewer credits in their first two quarters while them are adapting to commuting, meeting requirements, and finding a campus Latinx community at WWU.

Abel, Troy
College of the Environment

Interdisciplinary Mentoring for Environmental Justice (IM4EJ) Experience for Undergraduates This grant will be used to engage two undergraduate environmental justice minors from Huxley as mentors in the “Youth Leadership, Learning, and Stewardship for Environmental Justice” education program supported by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Abel is collaborating with four Seattle community nonprofits: 1) the Duwamish River Cleanup Coalition; 2) El Centro de La Raza; 3) the Coalition of Immigrants, Refugees, and Communities of Color; the South Park Area Redevelopment Committee; and 4) Just Health Action. Over the next two years, Troy aims to develop, deploy, and disseminate a place-based Environmental Justice curriculum for South Seattle youth that responds to community needs and enriches diversity, equity, and inclusion in environmental education.

Engebretson D., O'Hare D., & El-Glaly Y.
Internet Studies/CSE, Computer Science/CSE

Paving the Path for an Inclusive Learning Environment to Students with Disabilities This grant is intended to provide students with disabilities (SWD) a smooth transition from their Individualized Education Plan (IEP) in public school systems to Western and minimize frustration. They will conduct a study to determine accessibility problems that students with disabilities face at Western, understand the differences in support that SWD receive during their pre-college education, as compared with the accommodations they receive at Western. Their published findings will and help aid SWD at WWU as well as SWD at other colleges and universities.

Ferreras-Stone, Jessica

Teaching Inclusive Social Studies This grant is intended to help 540 elementary teachers in Skagit county retell this nation’s history in a way that does not advance a narrative that promotes settler colonialism and instead advocate a tribal sovereignty curriculum is called Since Time Immemorial (STI). Ferreras-Stone will also use the newly created units with practicing teachers as examples in her ELED 425 to deepen WWU student understanding as well as support their own creation of STI units. She will also bring together WWU student to meet with Skagit elementary schools to practice their STI training in the classroom.
Projects done in 2019/2020 by name and college
Name Department / College Project
Nicholas, Trula Woodring Black Feminist Epistemology Course
Lee S., Dahlberg L., Miner B Biology/CSE Support for Organizing Fraser Events Dedicated to Equity, Inclusion, and Diversity in STEM
Giffen A., & Lucchesi A. English/ CHSS Disability Studies: Developing Curriculum and Courses
Brown, Nicole English/ CHSS Sehome (Lummi: Six"o'm) Hill
Rivera, Lysa English/ CHSS Interstate Activisms: Tracing El Movimiento from L.A. to Seattle
Cueto, Desiree Woodring Crossing Borders through Books/Cruzando fronteras con Libros
Barber DeGraaff R., Romo L., Le CSE CSE Community Ambassador Program Evaluation - Cohort Building and Resources Sharing
Coleman, Brett Health & Community Studies/CHSS The Systemic Racism Curriculum Project
Warburton, Theresa English/ CHSS Treaty and Totem Workbook


Projects in 2018/2019 by name and college
Name Department / College Project
Kamel, Nabil Huxley

Implementing a Diversity Plan for Huxley College of the Environment (continued)

Darby, Kate J. Huxley

Create an Environmental Justice Minor

Matthews, Geoffrey Computer Science/CSE

Outreach program to the Hispanic community interested in Computer Science

Karlberg, Michael Communication Studies/CHSS

Public memory website of racial injustice

Lees, Anna Early Childhood Education/Woodring

Northwest Indian College Early Learning Center

Vélez, Verónica Secondary Education/Woodring

Education and Social Justice Minor

Varges, Chris Art/CFPA

Transgender Hirstory in 99 Objects

Projects in 2016/2017 by name and college
Name Department / College Project
Coleman, Brett Health and Community Studies/Woodring Systemic racism into three separate WWU courses
Brown, Andrew Fairhaven College Racial injustice and their continued relevance in Bellingham
Projects in 2015/2016 by name and college
Name Department / College Project

Ó Murchú, Niall

Fairhaven College

Redesigning FAIR 210A World Issues

Lee Spira, Tamara

Fairhaven College Black feminist lesbian and queer feminist interventions into US imperialism in Chile

Ceretti, Josh


Decolonizing Bellingham Tour

Friday, Chris


WWU’s curricular offerings related to Indigenous/Native American experiences

Youmans, Greg

English Department, Film Studies/CHSS Expand the frame of queer and transgender studies at WWU

Kamel, Nabil

College of the Environment

Develop a comprehensive diversity plan for Huxley

Barber-Degraaff R., Kodner R., Dahlberg L.

Physics & Astronomy, Biology, Biology/CSE Inclusiveness workshops for WWU faculty in science

Selected Sources used to inform our work

Bettez, S. C., & Hytten, K.  (2013). Community building in social justice work: A critical approach. Educational Studies, 49(1), 45-66.

Fradella, H. F., Owen, S. S., & Burke, T. W.  (2009). Integrating gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender issues into the undergraduate criminal justice curriculum.  Journal of Criminal Justice Education, 20(2), 127-156.

Hackman, H. (2005). Five essential components for social justice education.  Equity and Excellence in Education, 38, 103-109.

Laird, T. F. N. (2011).  Measuring the diversity inclusivity of college courses.  Research in Higher Education, 52(6), 572-588.

Mayhew, M. J., & Grunwald, H. E.  (2006). Factors contributing to faculty incorporation of diversity-related course content.  The Journal of Higher Education, 77(1), 148-168.


[1] See the President's Strategic Plan.

[2]  Including, but not limited to, categories of identity such as race/ethnicity, ability, religion, sexual orientation, language, gender, gender identity, national origin, socioeconomic status, age, or any other typically underrepresented group and their intersections.

[3] Hackman, H. (2005). Five essential components for social justice education. Equity and Excellence in Education, 38, 103-109.

[4] Most course releases cost more than the $7000 allocation.  Applicants applying for a course release must have additional funding identified before signing an MOU for a course release.