Past Projects & Recipients

First awarded in 2004, the Janet McKinley '74 Family Grant program is designed to encourage the pursuit of creative, entreprenurial projects that have an impact on the grant recipient and the community at large.

Below are brief descriptions of past projects. Hopefully these will serve to spark your ideas!


  • Impact of Tourism in Cuba, a Research Project, 2017
    The McKinley recipient worked on an independent research project analyzing the impact of increasing tourism and U.S. tourism policy on the people of Cuba. Through secondary research from Miami and from primary research in Havana, Cuba, they interviewed people working in the hospitality industry. This research serves as a case study to understand the impacts of tourism worldwide and to help create a tourism industry that is more environmentally, socially, and economically sustainable.
  • Cornell Minds Matter, 2017
    This project evaluated the use of psychological frameworks as applied to the organization Cornell Minds Matter (CMM). The first section of the project evaluates how CMM effectively uses the frameworks of psychoeducation, support groups, peer-to-peer support, and narrative and story-telling. The second part of the project includes a Logic Model Portfolio for individual CMM programs, as well as a table outlining the assumptions and long term objectives of every program. The research concludes with an analysis of the logic models and a proposal for further research.
  • Goat Farming Initiative in Rural Nepal, 2016
    After an earthquake hit Nepal on April 2015, the McKinley grant recipient started an impact investment organization called Utthan to create income generating opportunities for the earthquake victims in rural Nepal. Through the McKinley Family Grant, a goat farming project was expanded in the Magar community– a marginalized group– in Syangjha Nepal. The grant also subsidized the cost of a transmitter for a local radio station, allowing the station to broadcast weekly interviews with the Magar community.  
  • Mountain Resiliency Project, 2016
    The Mountain Resiliency Project coordinates women’s health circles in the Tibetan Refugee Community. The McKinley recipient specifically worked with Tashiling Tibetan Refugee Camp and Tashi-Palkhiel Tibetan Refugee Camp in Kaski District, Nepal. The project increased awareness and education around women’s health issues, minimizing fear and misunderstanding around women’s health concerns, and increased safe spaces for women. To reach these goals, hour-long women’s peer health circles occurred three times a week. Throughout the program, Tibetan refugee women made various insights on the importance of community and individual health.
  • The Ranga Rao Memorial School, 2015
    Ranga Rao Memorial School is a free residential school for visually challenged girls from economically disadvantaged backgrounds. The school is located in Mysore, India, and is recognized by both state and central governments. The goal of the project was to collect information through observation of the institution. Additionally, individualized health reports were created for each of the students as well as a compiled report of recommendations and suggestions tailored to the needs of the school. The overarching theme was the question of accessibility of education and resources among the disadvantaged community that fall under the Persons With Disability Act of India of 1995 (PWD).
  • Live Life Liberia, 2014
    The Liberia STEM Project is an initiative based in Monrovia and its surrounding counties to advance and reinvent science education in Liberia. Over the course of two months, workshops were established for students and teachers in order to stimulate interest in the sciences and develop critical thinking skills. The curriculum integrated interactive experiments that utilized local materials in Monrovia and promoted careers related to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). A local nonprofit, Live Life Liberia, will carry on the program through yearly teacher conferences and after-school clubs for students.
  • Ubuntu Blox, 2013
    The Ubuntu Blox project is an innovative approach to converting Styrofoam waste into earthquake resistant construction blocks. Using an all-local labor force, the Ubuntu factory produces these blocks from collected Styrofoam waste. The goal of this project was to ultimately expand the use of these blocks in the market by growing it from the developmental stages to more practical use and to make production more efficient to meet growing demands.
  • HumEnergy Social Enterprise, 2012
    HumEnergy is a social enterprise that aims to provide a source of income and electricity in off-grid villages in India by the implementation of human powered electricity generators. The goal of this project was to do preliminary fieldwork and carry out initial pilot tests to gauge the viability of HumEnergy in these areas and see how best to move forward.
  • Investigation into Degenerative Mitral Valve Disease in Canines, 2012
    The purpose of this project is to investigate and understand Canine Degenerative Mitral Valve Disease (DMVD) in small breed dogs. Current approaches to the disease reduce and minimize symptoms, offering no cure or way to stop the disease. This project aimed to better understand how DMVD develops so that it can be stopped before symptoms even occur. Little is known about DMVD, which affects about one-third of small breed dogs. This project increased awareness of this disease in the research community and will promote research in the future.
  • Expansion of a non-profit organization into Ghanaian markets, 2010
    The objective of this project was to facilitate the expansion of Energy In Common, a start-up Ithaca-based non-profit, into the Ghanaian market. Primary market research was collected through such means as personal interviews, organizational shadowing, field work, and short surveys to evaluate opportunities and constraints and help the social venture produce a sustainable operation in Ghana.
  • Health Media communication in Bangladesh, 2010
    This project focused on the design national mass media health communication campaigns with Dhansiri Communications, Ltd. Campaigns included World Food Program’s “Walk the World” event; Dhansiri’s Baby Zinc campaign and Safe Labor Migration campaign. The final project was a proposal to UNICEF’s national safe water, sanitation, and hygiene campaign.
  • Healthcare education through the SOS Children's village and SOS Medical Clinic in Uganda, 2010
    At the SOS Medical Clinic a variety of health care activities were provided to individuals and to the community. Activities were geared toward education and prevention and dealt with the diseases that most affect Ugandans such as HIV/AIDS, malaria, and respiratory infections. Additional opportunities to serve the community included presentations on college preparation, and language and math instruction.
  • Faceless: Homeless in America, 2009
    There are countless outreach projects that focus on aiding the homeless in the United States.  However, very few of them allow young students to help and even fewer focus on breaking down the stereotypes of poverty. This project aims to show the humanity in the homeless and the poor, in an attempt to show a generation of people the first step in the stand against the dehumanization of the homeless by the greater society. This will be done by creating a short documentary that will focus on giving a face to the faceless.
  • Rural Tibetan Education Development, 2009
    The purpose of this project was to provide educational opportunities to less privileged students from rural Tibetan villages. The recipient initiated a collaboration between Cornell’s Operation D.E.E.P. and a nonprofit organization called Machik and organized a group of six diverse Cornell students, who, along with her, spent the summer in Chengdu, China. They taught classes and lead programs in the inaugurate year of the world’s only summer education program for Tibetan students on the Tibetan Plateau and had the opportunity to travel to the students’ mountain village home. The recipient was involved in creating a report and manual to form a foundation for the program’s growth in future years.
  • Exploration of the flora and faunda of New Guinea, 2008
    New Guinea is a tremendously faunal rich region, housing a perhaps unrivaled megadiversity of animal forms.  There is a general dearth of ecological information available for the region’s herpetofauna, which is among the most diverse and least studied of any temperate or tropical region.  In recognition of this lack of information, I and others carried out an ecological study of the herpetofauna along an elevational transect in Morobe Province, Papua New Guinea, investigating the natural history of the fauna and collecting preliminary data on how elevational gradients structure patterns of species diversity and richness.  Important discoveries include significant species’ range extensions, derived modes of habitat use and foraging tactics, and the discovery of a frog species new to science.  These data are essential for the implementation of effective and comprehensive biodiversity conservation strategies.  This project was successful in bringing together young local and foreign researchers with the local people of PNG to study an abundant component of the region’s biodiversity with the aim of advancing scientific knowledge and fostering a community conservation ethic.  This project provides a scientific foundation to local conservation efforts and forges long-lasting connections between researchers and local New Guineans, which both aid in the development village communities and provide incentives for continued preservation of rainforest diversity.
  • Organizing transnational communities, 2007
    The purpose of this project was to make connections through working with the Mexico Solidarity Network. Areas explored included realities of immigration, the long historical social networks, economic motivations, and crucial predicaments for migrants themselves. As part of this project connections with local communities in Central and Northern Mexico, and Washington, DC were forged. In addition, serving as a student delegate with United Students Against Sweatshops, allowed the recipient to meet labor organizations and workers who have been involved in union organizing independent of state created federations. This afforded the opportunity to receive hands-on experience and education on local communities’ initiative to build transnational solidarity networks. While economic globalization is interlocking national economies, these local communities are creating transnational citizens. Dialogue with individuals from the both the Mexico Solidarity Network and United Students Against Sweatshops is still continuing. This was a grand opportunity to witness the process of organizing transnational communities.
  • Mathematical modeling of Salmonella infection dynamics, 2006
    Salmonellosis is a major cause of human food-borne morbidity and mortality, and the emergence and spread of multi-drug resistant (MDR) Salmonella is a concern.  It is crucial to understand the transmission dynamics in order to implement effective on-farm control programs.  Previous mathematical models of Salmonella transmission did not address how sub-clinical shedders and carriers impact on infection dynamics.  A study was conducted to present four deterministic mathematical models, each of increasing complexity, to illustrate the effects on Salmonella transmission with sub-clinical shedders and carriers incorporated.  Findings indicated that heterogeneity in shedding plays an important role in the Salmonella infection dynamic.
  • Ornithopter, 2006
    Imagine a flock of tiny mechanical insects, each hovering in a precise location, performing their assigned duty.  They could explore new terrain, gather information in remote locations, or help with a rescue mission.   This project was a continuation of work completed previously to design and build a flapping-based hovering machine.  The goal of un-tethered flapping hovering flight was achieved. The project is on-going.
  • RFID, 2005
    The purpose of this project is to design and implement a technological service which provides visually-impaired users with information about the physical world around them, including their location and surrounding objects, in real-time while in the environment. This information comes in the form of a synthesized artificial voice, vocalized through a Pocket PC mobile computer or cellophane, which gets information from the user's environment by the use of radio-frequency identification tags (RFID), an emerging technology which has many possible applications. It is the hope of this project to demonstrate how RFID technology can be used to provide relevant information to the visually impaired and can aid them in everyday tasks.
  • Cooperative Coffee Farm Internship, 2005
    J'Amteletic is a cooperative, non-profit organization that was founded about fifteen years ago as structure for small, organic coffee producers to enter the market independent of corporate coffee vendors. The organization currently consists of 109 socios, or producers, hwo, along with their families grow coffee in compliance with international organic and labor standards.
    • Proposal
    • Selected photographs
  • Ending Chronic Homelessness, 2004
    Work with the Department of Health and Human Services, Bureau of Human and Social Services on their groundbreaking plan to develop a ten-year strategic plan to end chronic homelessness in the City of Long Beach, California.


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