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K-State Today

April 18, 2018

Associate professor Jani presents at K-State Engagement Symposium

Submitted by Thom Jackson

Vibhavari Jani, associate professor in the interior architecture and product design department within the College of Architecture, Planning & Design, presented her community-engaged work for the SAVE organization at the K-State Engagement Symposium, "Powerful Dialogue: Engaging Community Issues in Polarizing Times" on April 12.

This symposium is organized by the Center for Engagement and Community Development, and is part of the Living Democracy season of events. 

At the symposium, Jani presented "Engaging the Design Students in Developing An Agricultural Training Facility Prototype to Assist the Veterans." This project was selected for the Engagement Incentive Grant in 2016. This competitive grant is awarded by Kansas State University's Center for Community Engagement and Community Design. Jani worked with her fifth-year Capstone Studio students to develop an educational campus for SAVE. The campus included a healing center for the veterans, a welcome center and gardens, a honey processing center and metal and wood workshops. It also had teaching, dining, residential, mechanical shop and training, and crop development facilities. The campus was designed on 450 acres of land. The grant afforded running this project for two consecutive years for the fall semester, which provided the ability to revise the program based on the SAVE Board and veterans' feedback.

Since 2010, Jani has been working with veterans and Fort Riley medical staff to understand how designers can assist and facilitate the veterans' rehabilitation process. In 2014, Jani met retired Col. Gary LaGrange who established Service Members Agricultural Vocation Education, or SAVE, organization to assist the service members requiring wellness and vocational assistance. SAVE is a 503C nonprofit organization established to assist veterans transitioning to a civilian life. SAVE organization proposes to train service members and veterans who are interested in farming to overcome the shortfall of 100,000 farmers our nation faces today. Thus this project bridges a big gap and assists the farm owners who need help and our veterans who need jobs and peace of mind. 

The CECD Engagement Incentive Grant enabled Jani to involve the Interior Architecture and Product Design graduate students in developing SAVE Farm Training Campus where service members can receive vocational and healing assistance. This community based, multidisciplinary, collaborative research and design project incorporated service learning and evidence-based design pedagogy and was designed to develop communication, team building, collaboration, and leadership skills among the design students.

The SAVE Farm Training Campus and Healing Center project is envisioned as a model program that other universities can adapt and will strengthen the economic and social wellbeing of the people of our state and the country.

Jani was selected to present this project at TEDx ICC under the theme "Re-Thinking Tomorrow" in 2016. The Farm Training and Healing Center prototype was also presented at the Senate Finance Appropriation Committee for funding approval in 2016.

Based on her work with the veterans and the SAVE organization, Jani was invited to serve on SAVE's board of directors. Jani has served on SAVE's executive board since 2015.

Each spring, the Center for Engagement and Community Development hosts a symposium around a community engaged scholarship issue. The focus of this symposium varies from community-based, cross-disciplinary public issues such as food insecurity, public health, learning gardens, civility, or civic leadership to K-State's interaction with community partners, scholarly practices such as service learning pedagogy or community-action research, highlighting both the theory and practice of conducting community engaged scholarship.

This year, the symposium focused on how community voice can be harnessed and focused to effectively address communities' most pressing issues. It featured faculty, student and community presentations around a variety of topics, including: affordable housing, improving health, racism, food access, heritage preservation, and water. In each instance, presenters highlighted how dialogue and deliberation are essential in understanding an issue, in providing a voice to both policymakers and those impacted by policy, and in addressing the issue.