READ grant brings opportunities for faculty and students

Christina Abreu, NIU associate professor in the Department of History and director of the Center for Latino and Latin American Studies, was one of three professors to earn the Research, Engagement and Academic Diversity (READ) grant for the 2018-2019 academic year.

Destiny McDonald, associate director of NIU’s Office of Student Engagement and Experiential Learning, said the READ grant provides research funding for topics related to social justice, diversity, social innovation and social entrepreneurship projects. The grant provides up to $5,000 to fund undergraduate student compensation and supplies, travel or other associated costs tied to the project.

“The hope is that faculty and student recipients have the financial support needed to carry out these important research topics while increasing the diversity of students engaged in research at NIU,” McDonald said.

Christina Abreu

That proved to be the case for Abreu, who was able to continue working on a project that she began before joining the university.

“The READ grant allowed me to continue working on my next book project and keep the momentum going on my research project,” Abreu said. “But it also was about getting an undergrad student involved in research and having the opportunity to work one-on-one with a student and to be a mentor.”

Because of the READ grant, Abreu was able to mentor NIU student Sandra Puebla while providing her with a paid research opportunity.

“I was nervous about doing research for a professor, but Dr. Abreu guided me through every step of the way,” Puebla said. “It also made me want to continue to work on research projects in my graduate studies.”

Abreu’s research focuses on the role of race, nationalism and migration in the Cuban and Spanish Caribbean diasporic communities of the United States with a particular emphasis on pop culture. Puebla helped with the research for Abreu’s second book, a study of race, sport, and U.S. and Cuba relations in the 1970s and 1980s using the story of Teofilo Stevenson, an Afro-Cuban heavyweight boxer and Olympic gold medalist.

“I enjoyed being able to learn about a topic I was unfamiliar with,” Puebla said. “I did not know much about Cuban history, and I honestly never cared about sports, but this research project helped me understand the cultural significance of sports and how it ties to politics.”

Puebla said she’d suggest other Huskies be open-minded when it comes to pursuing a research project.

“I had never had much interest in Cuban history; I had always focused on Mexican Americans,” Puebla said. “However, I was able to learn so much about the island, and I now have the desire to learn more.”

The READ grant is offered in partnership with the Office of Student Engagement and Experiential Learning, the Division of Research and Innovation Partnerships and the Office of Academic Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.

Congratulations to the following 2018-2019 READ grant recipients:

Congratulations to the following 2019-2020 READ grant recipients:

Applications for the 2020-2021 academic year open in August and can be found online. If you have additional questions regarding the READ grant, contact ugresearch@niu.edu.

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