NACOGDOCHES, Texas — Stephen F. Austin State University has announced the recipients of its inaugural Center for Applied Research and Rural Innovations grants. 

The CARRI grants were created in fall 2021 as part of SFA’s infrastructure fostering innovation and entrepreneurship activity leading to a more robust and vibrant economy in SFA’s 12-county region.

“While the recipients' academic pursuits vary, they share in common the strong desire to make the world a better place through their scholarly activity,” said Dr. Lorenzo Smith, provost and vice president for academic affairs. “The CARRI grants are particularly significant because they are surgically directed toward local problems in need of local solutions. Yet, while their proposed work has a Deep East Texas focus, it is transferable to national and, in some cases, international areas of scholarly investigations. This is what makes their proposed work so impressive.”

Of the 16 proposals submitted, the CARRI Steering Committee selected 10 proposals with monies totaling slightly over $256,000. Grant recipients and their research are as follows:

Dr. Gina Fe Causin — School of Human Sciences, James I. Perkins College of Education - $20,609.44

Deep East Texas Travel and Tourism Collaborative

The COVID-19 pandemic created havoc for small businesses, which caused them to shut down and cease all economic activities, particularly in rural areas. This project will revitalize economic activities in the Deep East Texas rural communities by helping revive travel- and tourism-oriented small businesses through development of new travel packages to promote to external guests to the region. It also will improve existing travel and tourism practices and services, or strengthen and diversify the regional economy of the El Camino Real trail and routes.

Dr. Bill Forbes — Department of Anthropology, Geography and Sociology, College of Liberal and Applied Arts - $4,590

Fostering Renewable Energy Access, Efficiency, and Entrepreneurship in Deep East Texas

This project will work with regional programs to increase access, efficiency and entrepreneurship related to clean energy and energy conservation in Deep East Texas. Six graduate and undergraduate students will work with one to two faculty members and select community leaders to increase access and use of a weatherization program for low-income residents; have clean energy financing programs and a microloan small business program adopted by the Deep East Texas Council of Governments, counties or cities in the region; and create linkages between solar panel installers, weatherization contractors and students/workforce members interested in training in this field.

Dr. Jane Long — Department of Mathematics and Statistics, College of Sciences and Mathematics; JacksTeach director - $23,672

Laboratory Science Enrichment for Secondary Teachers of Deep East Texas

This project focuses on enhancing student interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields through two weeklong workshops training secondary teachers to incorporate engaging, hands-on laboratory experiences in their classrooms. We will directly support teachers by providing hands-on experience with laboratory exploration activities, funding to support their participation, laboratory supplies specific to workshop activities and Continuing Professional Education credits. These efforts will expand student interest in postsecondary STEM study, prepare students for success in STEM careers, and support economic development in the Deep East Texas region by contributing to the workforce of highly trained STEM professionals.

Dr. Dan Bruton — Department of Physics, Engineering and Astronomy, College of Sciences and Mathematics - $17,363

Rural Mobility: Engineering Design of Durable Off-Road Vehicles

The primary goal of this project is to involve undergraduate engineering students in the design and construction of a small vehicle that meets design constraints set by the Society of Automotive Engineers. The SAE Baja competition requires collegiate teams to design and construct a lightweight, off-road vehicle over the course of two semesters. The engineering faculty at SFA will select approximately 20 students interested in mechanical or electrical engineering for the first cohort for this competition. This project should result in students receiving certification through the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, as well as connections to local employers seeking engineers with practical design and manufacturing experiences.   

Dr. Alyx Frantzen — Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, College of Sciences and Mathematics - $35,000

SFASU Fermentation Laboratory

The number of craft breweries and wineries in Texas has risen exponentially during the last decade to more than 430 wineries and over 300 breweries. While shown to be robust industries, they have been impacted by the pandemic as most rely on restaurant and bar sales, taprooms and tasting rooms. These industries are regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau. Both industries are required to follow mandatory labeling requirements and procedures. Much of what is found on the label is determined by beverage alcohol laboratories. The cost of testing is quite expensive; a total chemical profile for a single beer is $350 and for a single wine $175. The development of a Fermentation Laboratory at SFA can help alleviate these costs.    

Sally Ann Swearingen — School of Human Sciences, Perkins College of Education - $51,218.75

Students in Action – Building communities one building at a time with “Building Jacks”

Construction management students will build tiny homes for individuals and families in need of shelter. Students will gain a greater understanding of the field while applying lessons learned in the classroom to real life projects using a unique mobile classroom. The goal is to teach and train leaders and managers in the field through hands-on projects. Construction management labs are set up to give large blocks of times to ensure students understand construction and have an opportunity to meet and get to know their clients. This innovative mobile classroom will change how construction management is being taught and provide numerous opportunities for students and clients throughout East Texas.

Dr. Sarah Straub — Department of Education Studies, Perkins College of Education - $21,900.50

Leadership Initiative for Supporting (Bilingual) Teacher Acquisition 

The Leadership Initiative for Supporting (Bilingual) Teacher Acquisition is the first step in a multi-year effort to empower district bilingual coordinators across East Texas, increase the number of qualified bilingual teachers, and create a pipeline through undergraduate and graduate programs to support this growth. LISTA will work to develop a community of united and informed bilingual coordinators who will, in turn, develop a pathway for success for future bilingual educators. LISTA aligns with this mission through an investment in the quality of bilingual coordinators and future educators. Phase one will focus on needs assessments, community building and planning. Future phases will result in a successful bilingual educator pipeline.

Dr. Pamela Rogers — Department of Management and Marketing, Rusche College of Business - $8,870

Training for Manufacturing Supervisors

The purpose of this proposal is to develop a manufacturing supervisor training that could be offered through the Center for Applied Research and Rural Innovation in cooperation with the East Texas Manufacturing Alliance. Participants would be new or aspiring front-line supervisors in local manufacturing organizations.

Dr. Mary Olle — School of Human Sciences, Perkins College of Education - $34,319

A Needs Assessment of Competencies for the Restaurant Industry in Deep East Texas

SFA is seeking support for a needs assessment of competencies that will inform the development of a Bachelor of Science in hospitality administration with a focus in restaurant management. This degree program seeks to reach Texans ages 25 to 34 who have some coursework toward a degree or certificate but have not competed the degree. This program focuses on competencies and marketable skills that will prepare students to enter the workforce at a managerial level. By conducting a needs assessment, we will be able to more accurately develop a CBE program that is meeting the needs of employers in East Texas. 

Dr. Anusha Shrestha — Forestry and Spatial Science, Temple College of Forestry and Agriculture - $38,697

Logging sector in Deep East Texas: Current status, issues, and future outlook

The purpose of this study will be to determine the current status of the logging sector and its economic contribution by surveying logging contractors and other industry stakeholders, and employing an economic model using IMPLAN data. The results from this study will be crucial to identify concerns and needs of the logging sector. Enhancement of this sector will ensure a continued supply of wood products to the forest products manufacturing facilities, better logging practices on forest stands ensuring appropriate management and protection of forest health, and continued employment and income for people in the region. In this project, students will learn various research methodologies and analyses and will collaborate with various forestry stakeholders.