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Student Selected for Innovative Digital Media and Learning Project

A project co-created by Duquesne University student Laura Staniland is one of only 19 selected from around the world to be awarded funding by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation to explore digital media’s ability to help people learn. 

Staniland’s winning project, which she submitted as co-founder of CivicsLab, was Your Place, USA, a web-based video game that teaches sustainable practices by exposing young people to civic decision-making and regional planning. Your Place is being developed for children ages nine to 13 and focuses on demographic, fiscal and political conditions in Southwestern Pennsylvania.

“We are honored to be recognized by the MacArthur Foundation,” said Staniland, age 22. “We hope to build something to help Southwestern Pennsylvania—and other regions of the country—as we head into the 21st Century.”

A digital media arts major from Pittsburgh, Staniland was one of only five awardees selected in the Young Innovator grouping, a U.S.-only category for this year, which accepted applications from individuals aged 18-25 to bring novel participatory learning ideas from the “garage” stage to full implementation and to think boldly about what comes next.

In Your Place, players assume positions of power in the community from an urban, suburban or rural perspective and explore how decisions—based on social need and demand, proper planning, political pressure and most importantly, their imaginations—might impact the community. Through manipulation of real mapping information and current data sets, students navigate social and political pressure to explore the cause and effect of civic investment and public policy as they attempt to create a sustainable future for their region.

“This open competition makes an important contribution to the emerging field of digital media and learning by seeking out and embracing the freshest of ideas and the most innovative thinking,” said MacArthur President Jonathan Fanton.  “The competition demonstrates that pioneering work often takes place at the edges and sometimes between the most unlikely of collaborators. These projects are true exemplars of how digital media are transforming the way we think and learn, and perhaps even how we participate in our democracy.”

CivicsLab, which is based in both Pittsburgh and Denver, is dedicated to making games that both entertain and teach about civic planning.

The Competition is funded by a MacArthur grant to the University of California, Irvine, and to Duke University and is administered by the Humanities, Arts, Science and Technology Advanced Collaboratory (HASTAC), a virtual network of learning institutions.

Duquesne University

Founded in 1878, Duquesne is consistently ranked among the nation's top Catholic universities for its award-winning faculty and tradition of academic excellence. Duquesne, a campus of nearly 9,500 graduate and undergraduate students, has been nationally recognized for its academic programs, community service and commitment to sustainability. Follow Duquesne University on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.