2020-21 PDGR awards: From prevention science to wearable design

Karen LaBat, Morse Distinguished Professor Emerita, College of Design, is among 10 members of UMRA to receive 2020-21 awards from the University of Minnesota’s Professional Development Grants for Retirees program. 

UMRA members associated with the School of Statistics, Department of Political Science, Medical School, University Libraries, College of Education, Department of Art, College of Design, and Law School have been awarded 2020–21 grants from the University of Minnesota’s Professional Development Grants for Retirees (PDGR) program. 

Twenty-two applications were submitted. The grants committee approved 18 for funding totaling nearly $69,000. Ten of the winning applications were submitted by members of UMRA.

The 2020–21 awards represent a range of faculty interests and projects, including four from the coordinate campuses of Duluth and Morris. 

All fully retired employees of the University are eligible to apply for the grants for professional development or research.

2020–21 award recipient John L. Romano, professor emeritus, Department of Educational Psychology, College of Education and Human Development, is one of this year’s awardees. He applied to attend and present at the 2020 Society of Counseling Psychology Conference (held every 5 years) as a scholar who has made major contributions to the profession. Romano’s expertise is in prevention science—an interdisciplinary specialty that employs scientific methods to prevent, delay, and minimize problems, strengthen protections, and promote community health and well-being—is particularly noteworthy.

First-time PDGR grant recipient Joyce Lyon, associate professor emerita, College of Liberal Arts (CLA), plans to use her award to re-imagine and redesign Some Pages for A Book of Hours—a suite of 18 digital broadsides—as a traditionally formatted book. Inspired by the medieval Book of Hours, Some Pages is an image and text narrative about the last 18 months of Lyon’s mother’s life. Despite the difficult subject matter, the strong and positive response to the exhibit in 2018 convinced Lyon to make the work available in book format because of its potential for use in caregiving and hospice support and in community discussions of end of life.

Artist and repeat PDGR grant recipient Wayne E. Potratz, CLA professor emeritus and scholar emeritus of the college, will use his 2020–21 grant to support attendance and participation in two iron art conferences, and to hire an undergraduate research assistant to help with preparations for an exhibition of cast metal sculpture.

Joseph M. Terry, MD, an ophthalmologist, is studying modifiable factors that may affect the risk of developing age-related macular degeneration (AMD), the most common cause of blindness among older people in the developed world. His study aims to determine whether long-term vegetarians develop advanced AMD less frequently than other people at risk of AMD and reach later age for need of treatment.

Lisa Vecoli, retired librarian and curator of the Tretter Collection in Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Studies, University of Minnesota Libraries, is using oral histories to document early lesbian activism in the state. In year one of her project, funded by a 2019–20 PDGR grant, she collected interview with women involved in the creation of local spaces and organizations for lesbians. Vecoli’s goal for this year is to collect an additional 20-25 interviews to diversify the voices of the project and gather examples of less formal community formation across the state.

Karen L. LaBat, Morse Distinguished Professor Emerita, College of Design, plans to use her grant to develop a basic anatomy workshop focused on body structure, and supporting materials for wearable product designers. The workshop will be a follow-up to the book, Human Body: A wearable product designer’s guide, co-authored by LaBat and a medical doctor. 

Additional members of UMRA among this year’s awardees are:

Karen L. Sedo, retired professor, Law School
William D. Sudderth, professor emeritus, School of Statistics
John L. Sullivan, Regents Professor emeritus, Department of Political Science
Carol Urness, retired professor and curator of the James Ford Bell Library

Please visit the UMRA website at > Serving U > Grants for Retirees/Previous PDGR Awards/2020 PDGR Abstracts Retirees, where you will find all the recipients of this year’s awards listed along with descriptions of their projects. All are to be congratulated!

Funding for the annual competition is provided by the Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost and an endowment fund established by UMRA that is managed by the University of Minnesota Foundation (UMF). The Office of the Vice President for Research administers the funds and announces the awards.

The resources for this year’s awards came partly from carryover from previous years (about $26,000), when fewer grants were awarded, plus $40,000 from the Provost. We also withdrew $3,000 from our fund at UMF. The goal is to be able to fund at least 10 grants per year.

In addition to supporting the awardees with grants of up to $5,000 each, the PDGR program also provides resources to engage undergraduate students in a research project. Thus, the program enriches the educational experiences of University undergraduates as well as the reputation of the University through the professional development of its retirees.

— Dick Poppele, chair, UMRA Grants Committee 

PDGR grant recipient Wayne E. Potratz, at the 50th Annual Minnesota Iron Pour in 2019. Potratz, aka “Iron Guy,” describes an iron pour as “an athletic, aesthetic, pyrotechnic event where iron is melted in a cupola and poured into sand molds to make sculpture.” As the button on his coveralls attests, he loves his work!