SOLV Initiative

Graphic for the new SOLV initiative in CAS.

Read more about the SOLV Initiative in the St. Thomas Newsroom.

Really big ideas can't be constrained inside four walls. They need room to roam.

In this spirit of boundlessness, innovation and transformation, the University of St. Thomas College of Arts and Sciences has created SOLV. It's an agile think tank moving beyond university walls into the community we serve for the common good.

SOLV is comprised of an interdisciplinary mix of big thinkers, professors, students and community members working together to SOLV real-world problems wherever they exist. We go where our critical and creative thinking skills are needed most.

Our collaborative efforts center around three primary focus areas where we can make an impact:

This Arts and Humanities in the Public Interest focus area provides opportunities and resources for faculty and students to pursue applied research projects demonstrating how the arts and humanities create new ideas, concepts and designs improving culture, society and productivity while driving innovation. Problems and projects matching arts and humanities faculty and students with the natural sciences, social sciences, business, entrepreneurship and engineering are especially welcome, as well as projects in the digital humanities making the arts, literature and history available to the public in various contexts.

The Sustainable Communities and Ecosystems focus area addresses questions and issues of human and environmental health. This includes, but is not limited to, issues of global warming, sustainability, energy, public health, mindfulness and environmental justice. This focus area will provide opportunities and resources for faculty and students to collaborate on innovative curriculum ideations, and conduct applied research across disciplines focusing on connections between human and environmental health. Proposals matching students with faculty and/or community projects and initiatives will be encouraged.

The Civility and Public Discourse focus area is dedicated to repairing and creating new pathways for civil discourse through faculty and student applied research, community-based research, public lectures and forums, and the support of scholarship fostering conversation around critical questions of civil engagement and civic participation. Priority will be given to interdisciplinary research projects elevating civic-mindedness and promoting civic responsibility consistent with the values of civility and reasoned debate within the Catholic intellectual tradition. This focus area also provides a space for the community to respond to current events.


Current Projects

SOLV also gives students the opportunity to jump into the real world and learn by doing. SOLV brings the classroom into the community, making the learning experience truly engaging.

Our inaugural projects in the SOLV Initiative explore a variety of issues, such as the impact of sustainable literacy and connections between urban art and community identity.

Photo for SOLV project in CAS

Urban Art, Landscape, and St. Paul Community Stories

Focus area: Arts and the Humanities in the Public Interest

Students and faculty are collaborating with St. Paul community artists to explore connections between urban art and community identity in the Midway neighborhood, which is struggling to balance economic development with the disruptions of gentrification. Throughout this project, the team is creating multimedia stories highlighting Midway's urban art.

Read more in the St. Thomas Newsroom.

Midway Art project as part of the SOLV initiative in CAS. - Urban Art
Photo for the Sustainable Literacy project in the SOLV Initiative

Investigating the Impact of Innovative Pedagogies on Sustainability Literacy

Focus area: Sustainable Communities and Ecosystems

There is an urgent need for communities to rethink their approach to sustainability. Faculty and students are partnering with community partners to create novel forms of engagement teaching people about the importance of sustainability. Students and faculty will then examine how these engagement strategies impact sustainability literacy in the classroom and community.

Read more in the St. Thomas Newsroom.

Photo for the sustainable literacy project within the CAS SOLV initiative. - Sustainable Literacy
Photo of students working with Asmat artwork as part of SOLV project

Bringing Asmat to the Classroom and Beyond: Educating with the Collection of the American Museum of Asmat Art

Focus area: Arts and Humanities in the Public Interest

In collaboration with St. Peter Claver Catholic School and other St.Paul-area schools, St. Thomas faculty and students are developing and providing innovative educational resources to teachers with various objects from the American Museum of Asmat Art. By directly engaging students with these objects, they will examine important topics such as the ecological challenges facing the Asmat and how they express their cultural identity through these pieces of art.

Read more in the St. Thomas Newsroom.

Students photographing Asmat works. - Asmat Art
Photo from the Mindful Movement project as part of the SOLV Initiative

Mindful Movement: An Evidence-Based Resistance Fall Prevention Program for Older Adults

Focus area: Sustainable Communities and Ecosystems

Falls are the leading cause of fatal injury and the most common cause of nonfatal trauma-related hospital admissions among older adults. The Department of Health and Exercise Science is teaming up with the YWCA to develop a cost-effective and evidence-based fall prevention program for its members and the community. This project supports the YWCA by providing education and increased community awareness in St. Paul about fall prevention.

Read more in the St. Thomas Newsroom.

Research specialist Cynthia Conner (right) and student Mary Grace Knoll (left) guide a participant through a balancing exercise. - Mindful Movement
Photo representing a project in SOLV Initiative.

Fatigue Assessment and Sleep Patterns in Minneapolis Police and Fire Department Employees

Focus area: Sustainable Communities and Ecosystems

Emergency personnel are charged with responsibilities that are fundamentally at odds with human physiology, working around the clock at high levels of functionality, sometimes with 48 hours or more of continuous on-call shifts when the natural biological state for a third of this time is to be asleep. Police officers and firefighters who have higher levels of sleepiness have been shown to have a number of adverse health outcomes, including an increased risk for motor vehicle accidents. This project brings together faculty and students from Psychology, Neuroscience, and Sociology and Criminal Justice Departments to compare different measures of fatigue in first responders while helping emergency departments better detect and manage fatigue at the same time.

A piece of equipment used for tracking eye movement on a table. - Fatigue Assessment
Photo of the Mendota Mdweakanton Dakota Tribal Community logo.

Cultivating a Relationship between Dakota Communities and the University of St. Thomas

Focus area: Sustainable Communities and Ecosystems

This project will support university engagement with the Mendota Mdewakanton Dakota Tribal Community (MMDTC), and focuses on student research toward federal recognition of the tribal community and developing institutional capacity to grow in relationship with Dakota and other Indigenous Communities. The primary focus of the project is action research by students to collaborate with the MMDTC self-identified goal of federal recognition. It also supports initial steps in capacity building for the university to ethically and effectively step forward from a fraught and historically grounded relationship. Some of the proposal activities will provide context for student researchers to better understand this history from the perspective of Dakota and other Indigenous voices. Other components will help students, staff, and faculty to develop the capacity of the university for ongoing work - in community engagement, truth-telling, and a search for justice - that will extend far beyond the grant period.

Woman holding "I Voted" sticker. - Cultivating a Relationship
Group photo of students and faculty in Peru.

Continued Sustainable Water Use in Adaptation to Rapid Climate Change in Peruvian Andes

Focus area: Sustainable Communities and Ecosystems

This project will allow students to examine water resource availability and quality for high-altitude Andean communities in Peru. Students will live and work in Calca, Peru for 8 weeks to obtain data and collaborate with local stakeholders. Working directly with Andean community partners and farmers, students will obtain background information via targeted one-on-one interviews with community members, collect field data regarding past and current water resource-related features and human infrastructure, and compile and analyze data using appropriate methods and ArcGIS software. The work is a pioneering project that will set the foundation for future work.

Woman holding "I Voted" sticker. - Water Resources in Peru

Quote from Dean Williams about the SOLV initiative.