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Expanding our Horizons

A new signature initiative broadens opportunities for interdisciplinary research and creative collaboration


Even before Dean Joy K. Ward, PhD, took the helm of the College of Arts and Sciences in June 2020, she had decided on one of her top priorities: raising more funds to support the best ideas of faculty who had the knowledge, passion and ingenuity to meet the moment—and tackle society’s most pressing challenges.

And the first wave of a pandemic that shut down the country wasn’t going to stop her. In October 2020, four months into her tenure, Ward launched the Expanding Horizons Initiative (EHI). In just two years, she helped raise more than $7 million in philanthropic support toward her goal of $12 million.

The program funds innovative research, scholarship and creative endeavors that enable faculty across the sciences, arts and humanities to nurture their intellectual curiosity, create new curriculum and foster collaborations across disciplines that span the college and even extend across the university.

Ward also believes EHI will raise the profile of the college across the nation and around the world and give both undergraduates and graduate students the opportunity to learn and work alongside faculty mentors, whether in science labs, performance spaces or Cleveland neighborhoods. More than 115 students have already worked on EHI-funded projects. 

And the program helps faculty awardees—18 during the inaugural cycle in 2021 and 17 last year—attract additional grants from external sources by enabling them to develop preliminary data and proof of concept work. 

EHI has quickly drawn the enthusiastic support of donors inspired by creative projects and scholarly research that align with their passions, from advancing public health and curing diseases to promoting social justice and building more equitable communities. Their donations are key to seeding the initiative in perpetuity and enabling the college to award more than $250,000 in grants per year.

Awardees work in all parts of the college, from sciences to humanities to the performing arts. Read on to learn about the innovative work of some of the inaugural EHI grantees.

dramatically lit young woman at table

Senior Mikayla Heinrich-Wong recently performed in the Department of Dance’s premiere production of “In Another Place and Time.” Mapping technology partly purchased with an Expanding Horizons Initiative grant followed her movement and encircled her in light. Photo by Gary Galbraith



Dean Joy K. Ward, PhD, recently spoke with art/sci about her vision for the Expanding Horizons Initiative (EHI) and why supporting the best research ideas in the college is among her top priorities.

Smiling woman in blue blazer

Joy K. Ward Photo by Angelo Merendino

What was the impetus for EHI?

We aspire to be innovative in our research and our scholarly and creative work, and EHI seeds the best ideas of our faculty in perpetuity. Secondly, mentoring and support from faculty members to students are key in the development of their careers. And, finally, EHI enables our donors with deep passions to take part in what we do and to make a difference on critical ideas that will have impacts on society.

You launched EHI amid the pandemic when other universities were paring down. Why was that the right time for a bold new initiative?

I’m not someone who likes to wait out hard times. Rather, I like to be bold and do the work needed to help our faculty and students be the best that they can be. As a new dean, I met with faculty to find out where they needed support. They had great ideas, but often, to be funded through a federal agency or a private foundation, they need to have preliminary data or show why theirs is the best model. Faculty expressed that seed funds would go a long way in attracting more funding. There wasn’t time to waste. It was critical that we provide resources for our faculty to use their talents to make a difference in the world. Our societal challenges are great, and our faculty and students, in working together, can make a difference, and this is why I worked alongside our donors to provide these supports.

Why is interdisciplinary collaboration critical to tackling pressing societal issues?

Our challenges today are immense and complex, and it’s impossible to solve them in siloed disciplines. Climate change, disease, energy use—the solutions to all of these problems must include the scientific, the social, the behavioral and even the artistic.

EHI also creates opportunities for students. Why is that important?

Working alongside faculty, our students learn how to solve real-world problems, how to communicate and how to think critically. They also learn what resiliency is all about, and this serves them well in the world. But EHI does more than that. Some of our students who have never been out of the country might get to travel as part of EHI. They may have never been around others who are deeply interested in the same things they are until they go to a national conference to present their work, which is made possible by EHI funding.They realize there’s this whole world that’s engaged in what they’re passionate about.


1 Create opportunities for students at all levels in the college to be involved in or benefit from the research, scholarship and creative endeavors of faculty

2 Elevate the college’s national and international reputation and stature

3 Strengthen the college’s research enterprise by increasing external funding, scholarly productivity and creative activity

4 Support the development of teaching innovations that include research in the classroom, with an emphasis on interdisciplinary approaches that can lead to enhanced learning outcomes



Justin Creary spent his first summer as a Case Western Reserve undergraduate in campus labs, working on projects related to Ebola and antibiotic resistance—and gaining skills as a scientist.

student at white board

CWRU students Yongshan Mei and Justin Creary spent the 2021 summer in the Interdisciplinary Research at the Interface of Health Science and the Environment program. Among their projects: Using mathematical modeling to explore diseases that cross to humans from other species. Mei examined ways COVID-19 might spread, and Creary focused on how Ebola moves from wildlife to humans. Photo by Matt Shiffler

“I learned how to conduct good research, ask smart questions and collaborate,” said Creary, a junior majoring in biology, about his experience in a pilot summer program that exposed undergraduates from diverse or historically underrepresented backgrounds to campus research.

Chemistry Professor Blanton Tolbert, PhD, co-created the program—Interdisciplinary Research at the Interface of Health Science and the Environment or IRIHSE—after years spent pursuing research discoveries and seeking to rectify major gaps in racial representation and diversity in the fields of STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics).

Funded in part by an Expanding Horizons Initiative grant, IRIHSE also fostered community among the inclusive cohort of budding scientists through discussions, hiking trips and more. 

Tolbert, the Rudolph and Susan Rense Professor in chemistry, collaborated on the program with Biology Professor Karen Abbott, PhD, and faculty from the Case School of Engineering and the School of Medicine.

“Diversity creates rigor,” said Tolbert, who in September was named inaugural vice president of science leadership and culture at Howard Hughes Medical Institute and will oversee a new Center for the Advancement of Science Leadership and Culture that will work across the institute.

“When you have different people with different identities and perspectives asking questions,” he said, “it challenges paradigms in ways that homogenous groups never could.”

“We have a periodic table of elements— not a periodic table of element. As scientists, we see the benefit of diversity in the most fundamental aspects of the natural world.” 

Blanton Tolbert, chemistry professor 


people in a lab

From left: Assistant Professors Lydia Kisley and Christine Duval and PhD candidate Ricardo Monge Neria are assessing the performance of different polymer films developed in Duval’s lab using a specialized microscope constructed in Kisley’s lab. The goal: To understand which films can quickly and effectively create a chemical separation process. Photo by Matt Shiffler

Rare radiochemical elements harnessed to treat cancer must first be purified—a tedious, expensive process to extract a single element from a soup of metals. But a new understanding of the separation process being developed by Christine Duval, PhD, an assistant professor of chemical engineering, and Lydia Kisley, PhD, the Warren E. Rupp Assistant Professor of Physics, could help revolutionize and speed up the chemical separation process.

Kisley, in the College of Arts and Sciences, and Duval, in the Case School of Engineering, met by chance at a campus faculty event. They later discovered they were doing similar work on separations— but on vastly different scales and from different academic perspectives.

An Expanding Horizons Initiative grant funded a partnership that gave the two faculty members, both relatively early in their careers, the opportunity to collaborate and learn from each other through observation and informal peer mentoring.

“I got to see how Lydia interacts with her students,” said Duval, “how she manages a project, how she sets expectations. In addition to the scientific impact of this project, it’s also been incredible professional development— and a lot of fun working with different students and faculty across campus.”

The grant also allowed the pair to bring on an undergraduate in chemical engineering—first Spencer Schmidt (CWR ’22), and then senior Christopher Chaeyoung Yoon—as well as Ricardo Monge Neria, a doctoral candidate in physics.

Monge Neria already has presented the research at a meeting of the American Physical Society and appreciates the opportunity to spend time in Kisley’s lab and gain new technical skills. “Collaborating with a different department [in engineering] has allowed me to spend more time learning about and participating in a whole other area of research,” he said.

“We work as a team, and it’s very rewarding to watch students become more independent and take the lead.” —Lydia Kisley, assistant professor of physics


a violinist on stage with wired music stand and man at mixing board

Student Lilyanne Dorilas performed a solo accompanied by Associate Professor Jesse Berezovsky during the “Crystals of Sound” concert in April. During the concert, students played previously composed music as well as music written in real time by a software program called The Composer. photo by Gabe Schaffer

In front of a packed concert hall last April, Lilyanne Dorilas placed her violin under her chin, raised her bow and gazed at a computer screen atop her music stand. The Case Western Reserve undergraduate then played the notes of an original piece she was seeing for the first time—a composition being written in real time by a software program a physics professor created.

“It was a good exercise in how to go with the flow as a musician,” said Dorilas, now a junior double majoring in music and cognitive science. “And it allowed my intuitive sense of music-making to really shine through amidst the unpredictability of computer- generated notes.”

For Jesse Berezovsky, PhD, an associate professor of physics, it was an opportunity to test new forms of composition, after pondering the relationship between physics and musical structures for more than a decade. He created the software, called The Composer, used to produce the notes Dorilas played.

Berezovsky’s curiosity had built to a crescendo that culminated in April with “Crystals of Sound,” a concert funded with an Expanding Horizons Initiative grant. Berezovsky’s partner on the musical adventure was Alex Cooke, DMA (CWR ’11; GRS ’17, mathematics), a composer and theorist on the faculty of the Cleveland Institute of Music (CIM). After a mutual student introduced the two, they realized they could create algorithms together to develop music-composing software, Berezovsky said, “exploring the human-computer connection and enabling new creative explorations.”

The concert showcased student musicians from CWRU and CIM.

“We are always looking for new tools to help us make music,” Berezovsky said. “To make an analogy to visual art, you have a camera and then you have Photoshop. That doesn’t remove the human aspect of making art, but it enables people to make art in new ways.”


Three female students working in a science lab in lab coats and masks

During an introductory biology lab last year, undergraduates Aryahi Deorukhkar (right) and Jin Kim (center) recorded data to track the ability of particular bacteria to resist infection. Working with them was Oindrila De, PhD (GRS ’23, biology), then a graduate teaching assistant.
Photo by Matt Shiffler

A small piece of lab equipment used to incubate bacteria has spawned a vibrant undergraduate research culture in the Department of Biology.

But that’s only happening because of crucial funding to buy the incubator.

“This was a critical need,” said Robert Ward, PhD, associate professor of biology, “and Expanding Horizons sped up the process so we could get students in the lab right away.”

The need arose after Case Western Reserve joined about 180 other research institutions that constitute the Science Education Alliance (SEA).

The partnership has led to the isolation, sequencing and categorization of more than 3,000 unique phages—that is, viruses that can effectively fight and destroy multi- drug-resistant bacteria—through its SEA-PHAGES (Phage Hunters Advancing Genomic and Evolutionary Science) program.

But for college undergraduates to participate in SEA-PHAGES, Ward’s teaching lab needed a critical piece of equipment to grow the organisms.

During the last academic year, Ward piloted two introductory biology labs for about 30 students using the SEA-PHAGES curriculum and had students isolate a virus that infects bacteria. “When you talk to students, it’s their project, their phage—they even officially name it,” he said. “And the fruits of those discoveries are important because they give people running the program information about the evolution of viral species.”

Ward hopes to eventually include a modified version of the program in all introductory biology labs, in part because national SEA-PHAGES data indicates that students exposed to the curriculum are retained and graduate at higher rates than their peers.

“We were venturing into uncharted territory. Few phages [viruses] have been fully sequenced, and about 60% of their genes have unknown functions. SEA-PHAGES emphasized hands-on learning while advancing scientific literature. I learned new laboratory techniques, accessed a diverse range of bioinformatic databases, and even discovered and named a new phage: Sensa.” 

Aryahi Deorukhkar, a sophomore majoring in biology


man on belly on grid decorated floor

As Joel Linebach slid across the stage in the fall Department of Dance premiere, “In Another Place and Time,” his movement triggered the changing light patterns under and around him. Linebach (CWR ’21; GRS ’22, macromolecular science) is in the department’s MFA program in contemporary dance. Photo by Gary Galbraith

For more than two decades, Gary Galbraith, a pioneering dance professor, has woven ever more advanced technology into his choreography, stretching bodies and boundaries. But his philosophy on blending the two has never changed.

“I use technology to support the art; I don’t use the art as a means to showcase the technology,” said Galbraith, MFA (CIT ’86; GRS ’88, dance). “It’s easy to be wowed by the technology, but if it doesn’t enhance the audience experience, I know the idea is off the rails.”

His latest groundbreaking dance endeavor, “In Another Place and Time,” was mounted in the fall in collaboration with physics professor Michael Martens, PhD, (CIT ’87; GRS ’91, physics), and Jared Bendis, MFA (CWR ’02; GRS ’04, art education; GRS ’16, contemporary dance), creative new media officer at CWRU’s Freedman Center for Digital Scholarship.

The piece incorporated surround sound, lighting, and projection using LiDAR tracking technology—all controlled by the five student dancers’ movements. Dancers’ completed leaps, for example, were punctuated by an inkblot-like splash of colored light on the stage where they landed, while dancers’ movements across the stage controlled where music was heard within the theater. Galbraith believes this is the first performing arts application of LiDAR, which is more commonly used in autonomous vehicles and robotics. Galbraith purchased the technology with funding from the Expanding Horizons Initiative and donor Meredith Seikel.

“Using a technology for something it wasn’t designed for is always a risk,” Galbraith said. “But I’ve learned that the risk comes from not doing it. Because then what did you miss? What did you not figure out?”


Colorful linoleum block prints

Cleveland teens participating in the summer Pressing Matters workshop created art on a range of social issues by carving images into linoleum blocks and printing their work on paper. Photo by Erin Benay

Erin Benay is putting art history to work to help Cleveland teenagers advocate on issues that affect their everyday lives, from mental health to education.

The associate professor of art history partnered with colleague Steve Ciampaglia to create Pressing Matters, a project that takes place in classrooms and the community—and is focused on printmaking as art and “as an act of revolution,” she said.

Benay, PhD, taught a class last spring for a dozen students from the college on printmaking as an inexpensive and easily distributed tool for social activism, particularly in the United States, from the 1940s to the 1980s. Students split their time between campus and Zygote Press, a nonprofit printmaking studio in Cleveland.

Throughout the course, they worked with Ciampaglia, EdD, the Champney Family Associate Professor of Art at Case Western Reserve and the Cleveland Institute of Art, to help design a summer workshop for teenagers. It focused on the history of Latinx and Chicanx printmaking and was held in Clark-Fulton, a Cleveland community with a large portion of Hispanic and Latinx residents.

Woman making prints

Junior Hannah Deedy making linoleum block prints at Zygote Press, a nonprofit printmaking studio in Cleveland. Photo by Erin Benay

Both the course and seven-week summer program were funded with an Expanding Horizons Initiative grant. During the summer session—led by a graduate student in art history and a working artist from Zygote Press—eight neighborhood teens created art projects that included 11-by-17-inch prints advocating for mental health awareness, education reform and environmental sustainability. They sold the prints to benefit the ACLU of Ohio,Ohio Pollinator Habitat Initiative and other nonprofits 

Benay plans to expand the program to other city neighborhoods. “This is an important new methodological frontier for the discipline of art history,” she said. “Our knowledge doesn’t have be confined to the ivory tower—it can be put to use for the civic good.”

“By studying printmaking as a vehicle for social justice, I was able to look at art through a democratic lens… [and teens in a workshop] were able to take advantage of the communicative power of prints to shape their communities.”

Hannah Deedy, a junior majoring in biology and art history




Can improvisational theater techniques help children manage anxiety and depressive symptoms? 

Two College of Arts and Sciences faculty members have teamed up to find out. And their innovative a

Two theatre students on a bench in front of a dramatically lit red curtain.

From left: Daishanay Williams and Lehlabile Davhana (theater undergraduate and graduate students, respectively) practiced one of the improvisation exercises they’ll use with 8- to 17-year-olds in the Project Drama program: strangers meeting at a bus stop. The aim of the exercise and others is to help participants gain ease in anxiety-provoking situations and develop wellness skills. Photo by Matt Shiffler

pproach has gained the interest of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA).

Amy Przeworski, PhD, an associate professor in the Department of Psychological Sciences, with an expertise that includes anxiety and depression, and Chris Bohan, MFA, an acting instructor in the Department of Theater, created Project DRAMA: Using Theatrical Techniques to Develop Resilience and Anxiety Management in Adolescents.

The project is particularly geared to bring wellness techniques and access to theater to youth in non-stigmatizing and fun ways.

Przeworski developed the wellness curriculum based on cognitive behavioral therapy techniques for anxiety and depression, while Bohan incorporated improvisational theater games.

The 12-week after-school program is slated to be led by CWRU students and is designed to create a safe space for 8- to 17-year-olds to “master” their anxiety by training their bodies to push through the physical manifestations of their mental discomfort, from sweaty palms to a racing heart.

“Anxious people think, ‘These anxiety symptoms will last forever if I stay in this situation.’ But that’s not how it works, biologically,” Przeworski said. “Once the anxiety peaks, the body’s braking system kicks in, anxiety tapers off and you calm down.” Last year, Przeworski and Bohan received a $75,000 NEA grant for their program, which they aim to launch with some area schools this academic year.

“There’s no question that Expanding Horizons helped us land the NEA grant,” Bohan said. “We think this program will be a game-changer for kids with anxiety or depression symptoms; with funding, the possibilities are endless.”


Sometimes the final obstacle to bringing scholarly research, manuscripts or creative works to completion is financial. That’s why the Expanding Horizons Initiative (EHI) includes a Finish Line Fund. Cognitive Science Professor Yasuhiro Shirai, PhD, received such a grant in 2021 to publish an article he coauthored in Frontiers in Psychology. In 2022, he received a different type of EHI grant to focus on the way people learn particular elements of grammar when acquiring a second language. “What I’m doing is quite labor intensive, and I think I wouldn’t have pursued this project if it were not for Expanding Horizons [enabling] us to hire undergraduate researchers to help,” he said.



A broad range of innovative projects received Expanding Horizons Initiative grants during the last two years. To read more about funded projects and the faculty collaborators, visit these sites for the 2021 and 2022 awards: initiative/2021-awardees and


Gifts from alumni and friends catalyze Expanding Horizons Initiative


An old man and younger woman smile at a restaurant

The late alumnus L. David Baldwin and Dean Joy K. Ward

The late L. David Baldwin (CIT ’49) wanted to fuel innovation and scientific exploration. Tzipor Ulman (CWR ’94) and her husband, Y. Dan Rubinstein, are eager to support collaborations. And alumni couple Edward Hemmelgarn (WRC ’76, MGT ’80) and Janice Hammond (WRC ’75; GRS ’98, social welfare) aim to empower students and faculty to dream big.

Inspired by the vision of the Expanding Horizons Initiative (EHI), they are all in the founding group who collectively committed $6.8 million through 10 endowed gifts, bringing EHI more than halfway to the $12 million endowment goal in just two years. 

College of Arts and Sciences Dean Joy K. Ward, PhD, in turn is inspired by the generosity and passion of the college’s donor community. “They believe in the quality of our faculty and see the value in their ideas,” she said. “Many of our donors are also frustrated with silos and believe strongly, as our faculty do, that the connection points across fields create true innovation.”

Bridging research endeavors is a driving attraction for Ulman, PhD, and Rubinstein, PhD, as is the chance to provide undergraduates with the kind of practical work and research experiences that helped shape their own careers.

“Many students have to choose between pursuing research or working a part-time job,” Ulman said. “This initiative really opens doors, [particularly] for first-generation college students and groups who are underrepresented in the fields of science and engineering. The funding can be used to pay students, allowing them to do the work they love while furthering their careers.”

Both need- and merit-based financial aid made it possible for Ulman to attend Case Western Reserve. “It’s because of the generosity of alumni before me that I could attend CWRU,” said the alumna, whose son, Ben, is a CWRU sophomore. “I feel a responsibility to pass it on.”

Longtime university supporters Hemmelgarn and Hammond, PhD, expressed similar sentiments. Case Western Reserve has “done a wonderful job educating tens of thousands of students over the years, and good works should be rewarded,” Hemmelgarn said. “Maybe 50 years from now, our gifts will have funded Nobel Prize-winning research.” 

Baldwin was among the first to see— and act on—EHI’s potential, directing $4 million from an earlier university commitment to the initiative.

After he died in March 2021, Ward said Baldwin’s support will have lasting impact and “allow generations of students and faculty to work together to help solve some of society’s greatest challenges.”

In addition to the donors who provided endowed funding, other supporters gave 75 gifts to a current-use fund, enabling Expanding Horizons to launch less than a year after Ward became dean in the summer of 2020.

“Our donors at every level are passionate about strengthening research at the college and promoting mentorship among faculty and students,” said Paul Wolansky, associate dean of development and external relations at the college. “It has been really gratifying to see alumni take this project to heart and invest in the future of the college, and in our faculty and students.” 

two older people outdoors

Alumnus Stuart L. Schnider and his wife, Elizabeth

“I wouldn’t be who I am today without the opportunities I was given at Case Western Reserve. As an undergraduate, my professors took the time to teach me how to think and think well. They made that commitment to me, so I don’t mind making a commitment back.” 

—Stuart Schnider, MD, PhD
(WRC ’76; GRS ’81, pathology; MED ’83)

Smiling couple in front of brick wall

Alumna Tzipor Ulman and her husband, Y. Dan Rubinstein

“This initiative really opens doors, [particularly] for first-generation college students and groups who are underrepresented in the fields of science and engineering.”

—Tzipor Ulman, PhD (CWR ’94)

“I hear over and over [from alumni donors] how the kindness of a faculty member who mentored them and helped them grow as a person was crucial to their success in life. Their hope is that students who benefit from EHI will then give back and on and on—it’s an investment in the cycle of mentoring.”

—Dean Joy K. Ward




L. David Baldwin (CIT ’49)

Estate of Francis E. Drury and Julia R. Drury

Meera Srinivasan Garcia, MD (CWR ’93) and Paul A. Garcia, MD, PhD

Edward P. Hemmelgarn (WRC ’76, MGT ’80) and Janice Lynne Hammond, PhD (WRC ’75; GRS ’98, social welfare)

Alexander J. Ho (CIT ’67) and Pauline Y. Ho (FSM ’69)

Robert (WRC ’73) and Judith Mann

Richard C. Mohs, PhD

Stuart L. Schnider, MD, PhD (WRC ’76; GRS ’81, pathology;

MED ’83) and Elizabeth Schnider

Tzipor Ulman, PhD (CWR ’94) and Y. Dan Rubinstein, PhD



$6.8 million + 

85 total gifts committed to the endowed fund—57% of the goal

$540,597+ donated to the current-use fund


21 grants in 2021

18 grants in 2022


45+ college faculty

22+ graduate students

93+ undergraduates

To learn more about giving to the Expanding Horizons Initiative, contact or 216.368.0097

Page last modified: March 17, 2023