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Office of the Provost Announces 2023-2024 Strategic Initiative Grant Awardees

The Office of the Provost announced eleven strategic initiative grants awarded for the 2023-2024 academic year. 

"Since its inception in 2021, the Strategic Initiative Grants have served as an internal funding source for our Palo Alto University faculty and staff, igniting research, innovation, and projects in alignment with our Strategic Plan,” said Erika Cameron, PhD, Provost and Vice President of Academic and Student Affairs. “I'm consistently impressed by the remarkable utilization of these grants by each of our awardees, who have demonstrated creative and innovative approaches in their endeavors.”

Dr. Cameron described the outcomes and impact of the grants at PAU: “From projects like the Talking Mental Health Careers podcast to initiatives like the PAU Positive Period and Plumbing Project at Calvin Campus, their work is truly inspiring. These initiatives have fostered new academic programs, advanced research and scholarly activities, enriched PAU’s culture for student-centered excellence, and promoted inclusivity within our community. I eagerly anticipate the impact this year's awardees will have on PAU and invite you to learn more about them below and on our strategic initiative grant webpage."

The Strategic Initiative grantees include:


Academic Excellence

Chatbot Lab Tech Support

Eduardo Bunge, Donna Sheperis, and Blanca Pineda

The Chatbot Lab was initiated last year thanks to a 22-23 AY Strategic Initiative Grant. It provided Masters Students (MS and MA) and Doctoral students with the opportunity to do quantitative research and user experience research. This grant will be used to continue to work on cutting-edge technology research that will focus on the development and testing of artificial intelligence-based chatbots. The funding from this grant will also support the software developers who will develop the AI bot so that students can continue to do research on it.


Psychological Test Technician Project – Curriculum Grant

Rayna Hirst and Marion Minor

In 2022, a pilot Psychological Testing Technician Certificate program previously proposed and approved intended to provide PAU bachelor’s and master’s students and alumni didactic training, with the goal of becoming Psychological Testing Technicians (PTTs) registered in California. This grant would be used to compensate psychometrists and neuropsychologists in training for time spent contributing to the curriculum of the didactic portion of the training program.


Enhancing the Study of Interpersonal Dynamics in Simulated Clinical Interviews using Eye-Tracking Technology

Shreya Vaishnav and Mikael Rubin

Drs. Vaishnav and Rubin will utilize wearable eye-tracking technology to gain insights into the dynamics surrounding the experience of microaggressions and implicit bias during training interactions. Using this technology, they will examine how these factors influence the therapeutic alliance, with the ultimate goal of devising effective methods to derive actionable insights for addressing these issues. This grant will be used to fund participants and further the study initiatives.


Advancing Equity, Belonging, and Opportunities for AANHPI Community

Darlene Chen, Carlie Belmodis, Shreya Vaishnav, Lina La, and Janessa Rozal Chin

Last year marked the establishment of the AANAHPI Task Force at PAU – now WAVES (Weaving AANAHPI Values, Education, and Services) – with the support of the 22-23 AY strategic initiative grant. This year, WAVES plans to use this grant to continue its mission by providing essential professional development opportunities, and cultural events, inviting AANAHPI speakers, academic resources, and mental health support services for the entire PAU community.


Student Success

PAU Age Inclusion Follow-Up Study

Rowena Gomez, Stephanie Storms, and Mary Haesloop

In 2020-2021, Dr. Gomez and two students from her lab, funded by the Gerontological Society of America, conducted an age-inclusion study at PAU. Now, they aim to conduct a follow-up needs assessment, focusing on perceived biases, specific needs, and potential programs to foster inclusion for older PAU members. This grant will be used to develop a strategic plan to address the needs that students, faculty, and staff have highlighted, including enhancement of ongoing communication across programs.


First Generation Peer Mentorship Program (FGPMP)

Ana Castrillo, Mary Anderson, Alaina Dunn, Robert Randolph, and Nora Marquez

The creation of a First-Generation Peer Mentorship Program (FGPMP) to support enrolled first-generation students. The program includes tailored sessions addressing common barriers and acquainting mentees with academic and community resources. The FGPMP will also aim to cultivate a strong support network, promoting a mutually beneficial relationship between mentors and mentees. This grant will fund student assistants, speakers, and operational needs.


PAU Mini Market Pop-Up Calendar

Chanel A. Ortiz and Ana Castrillo

This grant will expand on the Mini Market, facilitating 6 "pop-up" shopping events during the 2023-2024 academic year. The Mini Market functions as a cost-free resource, providing canned and shelf-stable foods to the entire PAU campus community, irrespective of financial need, for undergraduate and graduate students. This project aims to actively engage students from all academic programs and matriculations with the overarching objective of proposing a sustainable framework for this pilot resource, ensuring consistency and long-term stability in addressing food and basic needs for the student population. This grant will be used to fund the cost-free resources.


Self-Compassion for Counseling and Psychology Graduate Students: Evaluating the Impact of Post-Admission Groups for Retention

Regina Moro and Susan Branco

Drs. Moro and Branco will utilize this grant to implement an 8-week structured psychoeducational group experience focused on self-compassion for newly admitted graduate students at PAU. This group experience will be grounded in self-compassion to increase graduate students' internal self-compassion skills and support students’ successful enrollment and completion of their first quarter of graduate school at PAU.



Promoting Black Excellence and Awareness

Jammela Ali, Erika Lambert-Shelton, and Lnet Smith

This grant will fund the establishment of a comprehensive initiative aimed at promoting Black excellence and raising awareness about Black culture, history, and contributions within PAU. With a focus on empowering Black individuals, raising cultural consciousness, and building community, the initiative encompasses scholarships, cultural events, and the formation of a dedicated Black Task Force in the upcoming academic year.


Operational Excellence

Profile Enhancement Initiative: Elevating Engagement and Efficiency

Melanie Morrison, Carlie Belmodis, Jammela Ali, Amber Watkins, Lori Thomas, and Jodette Yohana

This initiative will fund the evaluation and enhancement of PAU's current employee profile software options, including Pingboard and ADP, with the aim of fostering greater engagement and establishing a shared knowledge repository outlining individual roles within the institution. The primary goal is to modernize employee profiles, merging them into a cohesive platform that integrates essential information. Moreover, the team is dedicated to maximizing the efficiency of the chosen system for improved operational performance.


Development of Licensure Search Tool

Jeff Harr, Patricia Zapf, Kelly Coker, and Genevieve Arnaut

Licensure data is essential to multiple of our mandatory annual reports. This grant will fund the development of a tool that can automatically search individual state licensure websites to confirm whether individual PAU alumni have achieved licensure, then combine that search data with other licensure data sources maintained by PAU (alumni surveys, APA Professional Activities surveys, etc.), ultimately creating a comprehensive list of all PAU alumni who have achieved licensure after graduation. This tool will increase effectiveness and reduce time consumption at PAU.