A core objective of this initiative is to fund and support projects focused on problems caused by environmental threats, be they climate related (e.g., diluvial rains) or epidemiological (e.g., SARS-CoV-2) and that are dedicated to five areas of social engagement, which together form the research core of this initiative. These areas consist of archive recovery, mapping environmental histories, transmedia storytelling, infrastructure studies and resilient futures, and immigrants and refugees. The initiative’s steering committee will select project proposals to award with preference given to proposals that promise to spark collaborations with local partners; have tangible benefits to the city; cultivate new scholarly paradigms; or engage multiple faculty or staff members at Rice University and other local universities and colleges.
- Archive Recovery: This cluster will support archival efforts that are of importance to the city, preserve histories, and require the collaboration of scholars and cultural institutions. The goal is to preserve materials that demonstrate Houston’s evolution with special emphasis on the relationship between the built environment and the growth of urban disasters.
- Mapping Environmental Histories: This cluster will focus on documenting and studying environmental histories such as Houston’s long history of flooding, considering that it was developed in the wake of the Great Galveston Flood of 1900 that forced industries to an inland location still accessible to waterways.
- Transmedia Storytelling: This cluster will focus on easy-to-use software such as "Prezi" or more complex platforms such as ESRI’s "Storymaps" to enable the public at large to design, share, and participate in a cohesive story experience across multiple traditional and digital delivery platforms. Such narratives can describe or even visually investigate the effects of storms and pandemics and their uneven distribution across the city.
- Infrastructure Studies and Resilient Futures: Projects funded under this category would be those that look, for example, at Houston’s grey infrastructure (i.e., freeways, strip malls, and parking lots) that have been built over the city’s intricate watershed complex and public health infrastructure and that have progressively destabilized this city’s social and environmental context. The goal is to support projects that can imagine a city able to survive periodic flooding and epidemiological events with limited disruption and no injustice.
- Immigrants and Refugees: This cluster will focus on developing resources for the expansive immigrant and refugee population in Houston, giving them platforms to share their experiences in the wake of climate change, viral threats, and industrial accidents, while bringing awareness of their challenges to the city.