News & Announcements

CSU Teams Awarded $225,000 for Tech-based Public Interest Initiatives

Cleveland State University Teams Awarded $225,000 for Technology-based Initiatives for Public Interest


CLEVELAND (November 9, 2021) – The New America Foundation has selected three faculty-led teams at Cleveland State University (CSU) to fund projects totaling nearly $225,000. These projects will expand next-generation technologists, advocates and policymakers using technology and related expertise to proactively and transparently address critical problems in the public interest. The CSU group is among 31 teams to receive funding in the 2021 Public Interest Technology University Network (PIT-UN) Challenge.

“I am delighted that CSU has received this recognition and opportunity to broaden our public service work in significant and meaningful ways,” said Laura Bloomberg, Ph.D., CSU provost and senior vice president of academic affairs. “Being part of the PIT University Network is an honor. It is also a reflection of our commitment to building nationwide connections aligned with our mission and vision.”

The CSU teams reflect a multidisciplinary approach and were developed with support of the CSU T.E.C.H Hub, a center focused on research and education related to advanced technology, and an extension of the Internet of Things Collaborative (IOTC) between CSU and Case Western Reserve University.

“This is significant national funding for important community-based technology projects,” said Shilpa Kedar, CSU T.E.C.H Hub executive director and co-executive director of the IOTC. “Membership in the PIT-UN has galvanized our efforts to use technology, for and in, the public good.”

CSU-led teams were awarded funding as follows:

Privacy Assessment/Public Surveillance: Brian Ray, JD (CSU Cleveland-Marshall College of Law Center for Cybersecurity and Privacy Protection); Patricia Stoddard-Dare, Ph.D. (College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Social Work); and Chansu Yu, Ph.D. (Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, Washkewicz College of Engineering) received $90,000 to create the first comprehensive training program and student clinic to empower communities to understand and assess privacy and equity impacts of public technology and insure smart cities do not become surveillance cities.

“This project will pioneer a new kind of privacy assessment that extends to the structural inequities in public surveillance tools and empower communities to participate in smart city planning,” said Ray, a founding member of the IOTC who also serves on the CSU T.E.C.H. Hub advisory board. The project is in collaboration with Kelsey Finch, CIPP/US (Future of Privacy Forum), Brian Hofer (Secure Justice) and Lydia de la Torre, LLM (Golden Data Law).

Community-Led Public Interest Technology: Kelle Kathleen DeBoth, Ph.D. (College of Sciences and Health Professions); Nicholas Zingale, Ph.D. (Maxine Goodman Levin College of Urban Affairs); Molly Schnoke (Center for Community Planning and Development, Maxine Goodman Levin College of Urban Affairs) and Ronald Fry, Ph.D. (Weatherhead School of Management, Case Western Reserve University) received $89,178 for a multi-university collaboration that will create an Internet of Things community advisory board with residents of Hough, an under-resourced Cleveland neighborhood near both universities. The aim of the project is to develop a structure for long-term engagement with faculty to address community-identified problems with PIT solutions and support related pilot initiatives with small startup project grants.

“This project will finally give us the means to involve community members at the ground floor, where we begin to conceptualize needs and technological solutions, Dr. DeBoth said. “Rather than offering community technological solutions and advances that they feel no connection to or ownership with, we can approach chronic community issues as equal partners and make a significant difference.”

Advanced Technology in Society and the Public Interest: Drs. Zingale and DeBoth also received $44,840 for a transdisciplinary program focused on technology, equity and the creation of a student-led interdisciplinary graduate certificate – the Student Innovation Fellowship – and equal partnership community engagement offerings for graduate students in different programs across campus. The effort involves teaching collaborations across CSU programs as well as national and international universities “Advanced Technology in Society prepares students to take on the greatest humanistic, societal, and technological challenges of a human-technology fused world,” Dr. Zingale said.  


In addition, Ohio State University was awarded $76,000 for the Ohio Public Interest Fellows Program, which will provide training for students in STEM majors so that they gain experience working in the public policy sphere. Nigamanth Sridhar, Ph.D. (Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, Washkewicz College of Engineering) is a partner on this team, which also includes CWRU. The students will be placed in internship positions with government and non-profit entities engaged in designing and implementing policy that interfaces with technology solutions.

“This project will allow us to create a new model of education in public interest technology, enabling students to not only understand the technology solutions they are building, but also seeing how such technology interacts with society,” Dr. Sridhar said


About Cleveland State University
Founded in 1964, Cleveland State University is a public research institution that provides a dynamic setting for Engaged Learning. With nearly 16,000 students, ten colleges and schools and more than 175 academic programs, CSU was again chosen for 2021 as one of America’s best universities by U.S. News & World Report, including the #1 public university in Ohio for social mobility. Find more information at