Curriculum Impact Grant

Mason Impacts Students. Students Impact the World

Curriculum Impact Grants look for teams of faculty, staff, and administrators to design innovative multidisciplinary curriculum at either the undergraduate or graduate level.  Our goal is to help you create scaffolded, intentional programs that incorporate experiential learning and build on the strengths across Mason.

Devandas James practices with Professor Samuel Bonds. Photo by Evan Cantwell/George Mason University

Devandas James practices with Professor Samuel Bonds.

Photo credit:
Photo credit
Evan Cantwell/George Mason University


Curriculum Impact Grant Submission Guidelines

Project Summary

No More than 500 words.

Describe the overall idea and scope of the project that you are proposing. This summary will be used by reviews and by the Undergraduate Education Office to promote and advertise your curriculum change.


No more than 4 pages

Please address each of the following prompts within the narrative

  1. Overview: Describe your module of two or more scaffolded courses; include the units involved, the faculty involved with their roles with the team, the scope of the curriculum project, and the goals for the year of funding this grant will provide.  Make sure to discuss any co-curricular or global initiatives that are embedded or parallel to the curriculum.
  2. Mason Impact Area: If this is an undergraduate program, how does the course module relate to one of the Mason Impact focus areas (Research and Creative Activities, Civic Engagement, or Entrepreneurship)?
  3. Global Goals: Identify the most prominent single UN Global Goals (UNGG) that is the focus of this curriculum change. Explain: How do your curriculum changes allow students to examine the questions/challenges proposed by the UNGG . How do your curriculum changes allow students to reflect on the validity of the goals themselves?
  4. Process and Sustainability: How will these modules be sustained? What is your process for piloting and then sustaining these course modules? What will be your measures of success at both stages? If these courses cross disciplines, discuss the sustainability of these collaborations after the grant.
  5. University Enhancement: How will this course module enhance graduate or undergraduate offerings at Mason? Address the need for the courses (student interest, employer or community needs, etc). What new content, new teaching format, or new collaborations are being created through this curriculum?

Letters of Support from Chairs and/or Deans

For each unit involved with the grant proposal, provide a support letter, from either the department chair or the dean of the unit, that addresses the desire for curriculum change and the sustainability of these changes in the future.

Budget and Justification (Form included in the application system)

  • Faculty stipends and professional development funds can not exceed $3,000 ($9,000 dollar limit per project).
  • Graduate Students will be stipend at $6,000 per semester.
  • Undergraduate Students can not be provided more than $4,000 per semester

Curriculum Map (Form included in the application system)

Through a set of guided questions, explain the curriculum change in terms of courses and student learning outcomes.  You will include courses that will be redesigned and courses that might be created new, highlighting the courses that engage students through experiential learning and high-impact practices.

Floating Wetlands on Mason Pond

Students from environmental professor Changwoo Ahn's class launched a 1,700-plant floating wetland on Mason Pond Tuesday afternoon. The yearlong project brings together art and science students and is designed to clean the water as well as to spur ecological awareness.

Photo credit:
Photo credit
Craig Bisacre/Creative Services/George Mason University

2021-2022 Curriculum Impact Grantees

The Faculty and Curricular Activities committee and a team of peer reviewers evaluated 20 highly competitive submissions and selected 8 curricular projects to fund. These projects represent an impressive array of collaborations across colleges and schools aiming to create high-impact learning experiences for students, by deepening their engagement and preparing them for substantive impact on the world.

Lifestyle Behavior Change Certificate Program

Debra Stroiney, Suzanne Carmack, Joel Martin (CEHD)

There are several global initiatives focused on improving health and well-being of society. Specifically, United Nations Global Goals #3 is to “Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages.” Current evidence suggest that overall health and well-being is best supported through a holistic approach, and that lifestyle medicine (i.e. healthy behaviors) can serve as a form of primary, secondary and tertiary intervention. Although many people understand that engaging in a lifestyle that is characterized by regular physical activity, healthy diet, proper sleep and positive social interactions is vital to their physical and mental health, they often fall short in engaging in these behaviors on a regular and sustainable basis. To address this societal concern and to improve patient care, there is now a national board certification in health and wellness coaching, sponsored through the National Board for Health and Wellness Coaching (NBHWC) and the National Board of Medical Examiners (NBME).


“Health and wellness coaches partner with clients seeking to enhance their well-being through self-directed, lasting changes, aligned with their values. In the course of their work, health and wellness coaches display an unconditional positive regard for their clients and a belief in their capacity for change, honoring the fact that each client is an expert on their own life, while ensuring that all interactions are respectful and non-judgmental.” – National Board for Health and Wellness Coaching website


Our interdisciplinary team is submitting this proposal to create a multidisciplinary certificate program focusing on coaching individuals through lifestyle behavior change. This proposal reflects a growth in the health and fitness fields with many new job advertisements with titles such as “health and wellness coach.” Students in this program will gain an in-depth understanding of UN global goal #3, supporting individuals in lifestyle and/or behavior change.  They will learn factors contributing to the health issues and what needs to occur for meaningful change to happen; the science of behavior change; and coaching communication strategies (including coaching, facilitating, active listening, and motivational interviewing).


Our team’s multidisciplinary approach will integrate coursework in Kinesiology (CEHD) and Global and Community Health (College of Health and Human Services) and will include the Resilience Badge offered by the Center for the Advancement of Well-Being. Our certificate program will aim to prepare students to become health and wellness coaches in general health, fitness, sport or wellness settings and to take the national board exam in health and wellness coaching. As described in this proposal, our approach will feature planning, proposal and implementation phases. During the planning phase we will gather evidence from a variety of sources to ensure the feasibility and sustainability of the certificate. Once we have sufficient data the specific curriculum will be developed and internally proposed during the Fall 2021 semester with hopes of implementing the certificate with a planned start date of Fall 2022.

Engaging Locally with Food, Energy, Water and Climate Global Goals: Adding Experiential Learning to the Energy and Sustainability Policy and Science MS Concentration

Jennifer Sklarew, Dann Sklarew, Linda Hinnov, Maction Komwa, Viviana Maggioni, Constance Gewa (CEC, CHHS, COS)

Open for enrollment since Fall 2020, the Environmental Science and Policy MS concentration in energy and sustainability policy and science (ESPS) applies a holistic, transdisciplinary educational approach. The concentration builds students’ scaffolded knowledge across diverse academic fields, including environmental science, economics, geography, geology, physics, food/nutrition and engineering. ESPS courses examine the relationships between United Nations Global Goals 2 (Zero Hunger), 6 (Clean Water and Sanitation), 7 (Affordable and Clean Energy), 11 (Sustainable Cities and Communities), and 13 (Climate Action). Adding an experiential learning component to the ESPS concentration will enable students to gain firsthand understanding of and make impactful contributions to these five Global Goals through collaboration with communities to identify and address local challenges to achieving them. This hands-on engagement will include developing integrative solutions to challenges arising from communities' efforts to concurrently achieve interlinked goals. A Curriculum Impact Grant will enable our team to design personally meaningful, inquiry-driven experiential learning options. The structure we will develop for this new component includes the following: 1) an overarching framework that scaffolds a flexible experiential learning course module and a community engagement element; 2) local, regional and international community engagement opportunities; and 3) a template for experiential learning course modules to adapt for diverse ESPS concentration courses. We will incorporate all of these into a template adaptable to other departments’ concentrations in the future.


1. Overarching framework that scaffolds course module and community engagement. This framework will provide foundational concepts across disciplines and enable students to choose local, regional, or international experiential learning community engagement options to engage with the aforementioned Global Goals.


2. Local, regional and international community engagement options. In the local option, students will engage in ongoing research across Mason’s campuses, such as the hydropower micro-turbine and green roof projects on the Fairfax campus. These projects explore integrative solutions to food-energy-water-climate challenges.  In the regional and international options, students will collaborate with communities in Northern Virginia or overseas to identify and develop solutions to these communities’ food-energy-water-climate challenges, gaining practical experience in the relevant Global Goals. We will develop timing and credit options to enable students’ participation while accommodating course schedules and financial constraints.


3.  Template for course modules to adapt for ESPS concentration courses across distinct disciplines. These modules will establish foundational learning that students can apply to the local, regional and international community engagement options. Course instructors would determine how to adapt the module to their courses.



Embedding linked course modules and local, regional and international experiential learning options in the ESPS concentration will promote transdisciplinary, inquiry-based learning framed by real-world applications of sustainability concepts learned in the classroom. Collaborating directly with communities to examine and solve challenges associated with implementation of Global Goals for hunger, water, energy, climate change, and sustainable cities and communities will enable students to develop crucial research, problem-solving, collaboration and communication skills, while deepening their understanding of the realities of achieving interlinked Global Goals. These skills and scaffolded knowledge will prepare them for leadership careers in the energy and sustainability fields.

Bridging the Divide: Preparing Graduate STEM Students to Navigate the Science Policy Interface

Lee Solomon, Karen Akerlof, James Olds, Jessica Rosenberg, Jennifer Salerno (COS, Schar)

U.S. government policies affect all parts of society, including all aspects of scientific research. Reciprocally, science can be used to inform policy in myriad ways at different levels of government. Scientists’ lack of familiarity with policy, and policymakers’ lack of familiarity with science, contributes to the longstanding gap between the production of scientific research and its perceived utility by decision-makers. The United Nations named “reconnecting science to policy” among the top sustainability challenges of the century, and there has been a recent push (Gaieck 2020, UNEP 2012) for scientists to become more active in the policy space to both advocate for their own research, and provide crucial insight into the science that influences the direction of our nation in a wide variety of policy areas.

     This project will continue our ongoing efforts to connect science to policy by developing a graduate certificate in STEM policy designed specifically for STEM students, providing foundational classroom and experiential policy opportunities. The program makes use of courses developed for the science policy minor that are also graduate-level courses. In addition, as part of this effort, we will bring in colleagues from across the university to identify additional courses that are appropriate for the certificate program. It will prepare students for roles in the federal government and increase their competitiveness for existing STEM policy pipelines such as the AAAS Science and Technology Policy Fellowship program. Mason’s proximity to Washington, D.C., makes it optimally positioned to serve as a national leader in science-policy education. The combination of experiential learning and coursework will prepare students for academic and policy-related careers.

     Drs. Salerno, Rosenberg, Solomon, and Akerlof, all of whom served as AAAS Science and Technology Policy Fellows in executive and congressional offices, and Dr. James Olds, who brings considerable science-policy expertise having served as the Assistant Director of Biology at the National Science Foundation will lead this effort. From last year the team has expanded to include Leah Nichols who currently serves as the Executive Director of George Mason’s Institute for a Sustainable Earth (ISE), as well as J.P. Singh, and Elizabeth Olchowski who joined this year from the Schar School of Policy and Government. We will also be reaching out and establishing connections with faculty from the Volgenau School of Engineering to bring in engineering-policy expertise.

     Mason has the opportunity to lead the way nationally in developing a multifaceted science policy training program for undergraduate and graduate STEM students. These programs will help STEM students understand the role of science in society as they undertake standard scientific training, making them well-rounded scientists and leaders and achieving the university’s goals for delivering educational experiences that have impact.

     The primary effort for this project will be to identify additional coursework that will be included in the certificate program and to satisfy the administrative requirements required for its creation. We will also be administering the internship component of our certificate and undergraduate minor program during the award period and these funds will, in part, go toward supporting those efforts.

Creating new pathways to success for early career biology students through computational data science

Ron Mahabir, Matthew Valko, Jason Kinser, Geraldine Grant, Andrea Weeks (COS)

The purpose of this project is to better equip and prepare early career biology students with the computational skills necessary to address new and upcoming challenges that lie at the intersection of Biology and Computational Data Science. Biological systems are directly tied to each of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs), and  is especially prominent in SDG 3,  Global Health and Well-being. Through various assessment approaches, including labs, lectures and class discussions, students will learn how computational data science is being used to address real world issues related to this goal. Students will also be provided with opportunities to work on  research projects to help contribute and further their own development and understanding of topics in this area. Our world is increasingly being tasked with new and more complex issues, which is requiring more sophisticated approaches and tools that computational data science is providing. Through their utility, new insights and perspectives of existing biological problems are being surfaced, along with also offering the exploration of new research areas. Our project is preparing students to meet these challenges, and is also contributing to global citizenship by producing students that will engage in pressing societal issues independent of sex, ethnicity or geographic location.  Other benefits of this projects includes meeting the Mason impact focus of research and creative activities, improving retention rates of early career biology students, increased graduate enrollment, and providing additional computational data science pathways for students’ success and career planning that is line with  the goals and vision of George Mason University. Our project team consists of practitioners in both Biology and Computation Data Science and is equipped to see the successful completion of the project. We already have a course that contains a strong computational foundation that we plan to build upon, and both department are already working closely together around the current theme.

Race and Ethnicity in Cultural Studies: New Courses, New Connections

Tim Gibson, Pavithra Suresh, Jessica Scarlata, Eric Ross, Alex Monea (CHSS)

In Fall 2020, the students and faculty of the Cultural Studies PhD program met in our annual Committee of the Whole and committed to pursuing a common goal: enriching the program’s intellectual engagement with race and ethnic studies. This proposal represents our collective plan for achieving this goal. With this grant, we will begin with a comprehensive review of our existing curriculum. This review will consist of (1) recruiting external reviewers with expertise in critical studies of race to provide feedback and recommendations, (2) examining curricula and policies at peer institutions, and (3) surveying our students about their views on the program’s existing curriculum and how it might be improved. We will then take steps to better integrate scholarship on race across our curriculum and also develop two new courses: a required core course on critical theories of race and ethnicity, and an elective course on race, ethnicity, and cultural studies. We will additionally work to produce recommendations for formal and informal policy changes in the program that will help us better recruit, retain, and support BIPOC students from matriculation to graduation. These new courses and policy proposals will also be reviewed by our panel of external experts. To conclude our efforts, we will build two archives for graduate students: a list of CHSS faculty with expertise in race and ethnicity, and a list of CHSS graduate courses focusing on race and ethnicity. These two archives will be annually updated and will be made available to programs across CHSS. This will allow our students and graduate students across CHSS to more easily build connections with scholars of race and ethnicity across the College. The overall goals of this proposal are simple but crucial: to build depth in our program’s engagement with critical scholarship on race and, in so doing, to better prepare our students for their careers as leaders in cultural and educational institutions worldwide.

Ethics and AI Minor

Jesse Kirkpatrick, Peng Warweg, Amarda Shedu, Rachel Jones, Alexander Monea (CEC, CHSS)

We seek to develop an interdisciplinary Ethics and AI Minor at George Mason University. The objective is to expose undergraduate students to the moral complexity of AI technologies and encourage students to think critically about the impact of AI on society and humanity. Through this minor, students will obtain a deep and critical understanding of pressing issues with which our society is grappling, such as data privacy, data and algorithmic bias, artificial intelligence, machine learning, autonomous systems, surveillance technologies, human-machine teaming, genetic engineering, biotechnology, entrepreneurial decision making, and more.

The Ethics and AI Minor responds to the United Nations Global Goal 4, Quality Education. In addition to better preparing students for a complex society, where every transaction is to be mediated by AI technologies, the proposed minor is a critical step towards positioning Mason to address the ethical implications and societal consequences of AI technologies and AI-driven scientific advances. This will be facilitated by a distinctive conjunction of expertise from computing and data sciences and approaches to critical analysis drawn from the Humanities and Social Sciences. The offering of this minor is timely, as peer Tier-1 institutions already offer curricula that explore the intersection of ethics, information, and technology. The minor allows Mason to leverage its unique and rich ecosystem, galvanize existing but fragmented curricula, build on faculty expertise across units and centers of advanced study, and be at the forefront of academic institutions in the region to provide students with a quality education.

The Ethics and AI Minor supports all three Mason impact areas of Research, Scholarly, and Creative Activities; Community Engagement and Civic Learning; and Entrepreneurship, as it contributes new knowledge to empower students to generate change in communities, society, and organizational structures and positions them to actively participate and lead in formulating solutions to ethical challenges and shortcomings of AI technologies. The minor will also directly and actively support Mason’s Anti-Racism and Inclusive Excellence Taskforce, as it will not only sensitize students to existing bias in AI technologies that disproportionately affect historically-minoritized groups through the content of its courses, but also empower them through critical thinking to seek solutions for social justice and equity.

The Ethics and AI Minor combines foundational courses in ethical reasoning with area requirements that build on a diverse set of courses offered across the university (see Appendix I, curriculum map) and a capstone course experience. The proposed curriculum facilitates three sub-goals: attract students from across the university with diverse disciplinary interests, thus broadening both student participation and the impact of the minor and enriching student experiences by exposure to diverse viewpoints; provide an inherently interdisciplinary, transformational, and experiential educational experience; and leverage existing curricula and faculty expertise across disciplines, which ensures the feasibility and sustainability of the planned effort beyond the duration of this grant. The sustainability of the minor is bolstered by Tech Talent Investment Pipeline Thematic Hires planned for 2021-23 in coordination with the units represented here and designed to recruit faculty with expertise in Ethics, AI, and Society.

Minor in Business for a Better World

Leila Austin, Elaine Viccora, Anne Lauer, Yvonne Demory, Shora Moteabbed, Karen King, Christine Landoll, Sidhartha Das, Ioannis Bellos, Niki Maria Vlastara, Anne Magro, Lisa Gring-Pemble, Robert Pierce (SBUS)


This project aims to create for the School of Business a cross-disciplinary minor, “Business for a Better World,” focused on the United Nations Global Goals. Drawing from a set of newly designed required courses, existing electives, and experiential learning opportunities, this multidisciplinary minor will offer a transformative learning experience for tomorrow’s global leaders by integrating expertise from numerous disciplines. Students will learn to diagnose problems and design solutions for some of the world’s biggest challenges.


With this minor, undergraduate students from across the university will learn to:

• Evaluate global challenges (the UN Global Goals),

• Examine the purpose of a corporation (and evaluate the competitive advantage of a purpose-driven business),

• Examine the environmental, political, and social landscape in which business operates,

• Explore how business can be a catalyst for system-level change to global challenges, and

• Examine the skills of purpose-driven leaders.


To ensure a holistic understanding of the global challenges, the project’s design team includes School of Business faculty representing numerous disciplines, including accounting, economics, history, legal studies, management, marketing, operations and supply chain management, political science, psychology, and rhetoric.


The Business for a Better World minor relates closely to Mason Impact’s focus on Civic Engagement.

The required courses will allow students to reflect on the UN Global Goals and their validity and explore the different ways that business can partner with ecosystem collaborators such as governmental institutions, the non-profit sector, and academia to promote environmental, economic, and social wellbeing focused on the UN Global Goal 17 – Partnership for the Goals.  The university-wide elective courses will allow for the application of frameworks and skills to test the engagement of business as a partner toward more effective innovative development that exploits multi-sector synergies to bring about systemic transformational change as envisioned by the UN Global Goals.


The minor in Business for a Better World will draw strength from the Mason Business for a Better World (B4BW) Center.  Though the minor would technically be distinct from B4BW, the Center will serve as a platform for the promotion of the program. B4BW’s university-wide affiliate faculty will play a central role in recruiting students for the minor, and the Center’s on-going programing will complement the minor. Between the minor and the Center, students who envision business being a positive force in the world can find kindred spirits.


Business is one of the most popular undergraduate majors and the largest existing minor at Mason. The Business for a Better World minor will be an ideal area to capture the growing interest in the student body to innovate and to drive effective change to address the global challenges.  The minor will also impart critically important business skills needed in today’s workplace.