It’s been quiet here at 427 Scotland Street for almost ten months now. This rambling old house is at its best when it's full of students, faculty, and staff. There are few substitutes for conversations around the water cooler, barbecues in the front yard, or late night coding sessions on the third floor that are fueled by peer-to-peer learning and pizza. This is where so many of our research collaborations are formed and this place reinforces our sense of community. We thrive on amazing personal and professional interactions, and there is no doubt this pandemic has taken its toll on us.
But our big ideas are still alive. From bedrooms and makeshift home offices all over Williamsburg, the country, and the world, we’ve produced high-quality research that has shaped real-world decisions, created new methods for gathering data and hosting events, and launched a new strategic plan that will guide our work going forward.
Before I describe the remarkable work of my colleagues and students, I’d like to revisit a promise I made to you back in June. I promised to follow up and share specific ways that GRI was moving from acknowledgement to action on issues of diversity and inclusion. In our strategic plan, we identify Diversity & Inclusion as a Director’s initiative for the current fiscal year and our revised, action oriented DEI plan is publicly available on our website. Our approach is multi-faceted and I welcome feedback on all elements of our plan, but I can report that we are already investing additional resources, helping campus partners to raise funds, and prioritizing sustainable funding for our own Post-Doc for Academic Diversity that will bring excellent scholars to W&M and provide additional research opportunities for students from under-represented groups. We are no longer just planning. We are acting on our promise.
As usual, this newsletter shares the results of 12 student-faculty research teams that create new knowledge to make a difference in the world. Perhaps more important than the research findings are the ripple effects this research has beyond W&M. As a result of research from Carrie Dolan’s Ignite lab, the World Pediatric Project reports being able to secure more funding for life-changing pediatric surgeries in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. With guidance from Professors Amy Oakes and Dennis Smith, white papers written by PIPS Fellows will now be presented to a broader range of policy shops around DC and will be part of GovWhitePapers, making their work more accessible to policymakers and practitioners. And Phil Roessler’s work on mobile technology is shaping decisions at the Gates Foundation about how to invest its resources to improve development outcomes in Tanzania and Malawi.
Our approach at GRI is to produce applied research that can shape decisions and outcomes. This work has never been more critical than in 2020, a time when so many awful and preventable outcomes followed directly from policies that were not informed by the best scientific evidence. We are working to help change that through more and better research that informs the decisions of our partners and other policy practitioners. As important, we continue to engage the next generation of leaders to teach them through research and provide them with the skills and the inclination to use evidence to make better decisions.
Speaking of evidence, we have almost a year’s worth that says our students and faculty can perform under the most trying conditions. Working with these highly motivated students and faculty is a daily inspiration and convinces me that we are moving in the right direction. I hope the stories below inspire you as much as they do me.
GRI is at its best when we are together, and I’m looking forward to student lightning talks, BlockchainLab dinner seminars, and long conversations in rocking chairs on our front porch. Until then, please drop me a note at [[mjtier]] if you would like to chat more about these research projects, or any others at the GRI. May you find joy and cheer this season.