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Developing a Universiy-Wide Corsi-Rosenthal Box Initiative

How to set up a University-Wide Corsi-Rosenthal Box Initiative

5-Step Plan

Many have asked us how we set up our university-wide Corsi-Rosenthal Box initiative. We were inspired by the many universities, schools and community groups coming together to help improve indoor air quality in schools. I outlined many of the reasons why we (ASU) jumped into this project here. TL/DR- every classroom can benefit from cleaner indoor air. This is exactly the kind of project that universities should be doing. Universities have access to resources, students, faculty expertise, and a big platform to do community outreach and education. There are also important opportunities for health impact, social embeddedness and use-inspired research. I feel grateful to work at a university where this type of work is not only encouraged, but it is prioritized and supported.

  1. Be clear about the purposes or goals of the engagement effort and the populations and/or communities you want to engage.

  2. Learn about the community’s perceptions of those initiating engagement activities

  3. Go to the community, establish relationships, build trust, work with the formal and informal leadership, and seek commitment from community organizations and leaders to create processes for mobilizing the community

  4. Remember and accept that collective self-determination is the responsibility and right of all people in a community.

  5. Partnering with the community is necessary to create change and improve health.

  6. Awareness of the various cultures of a community and other factors affecting diversity must be paramount in planning, designing, and implementing approaches to engaging a community.

  7. Community engagement can only be sustained by identifying and mobilizing community assets and strengths and by developing the community’s capacity and resources to make decisions and take action.

  8. Organizations that wish to engage a community as well as individuals seeking to effect change must be prepared to release control of actions or interventions to the community and be flexible enough to meet its changing needs.

  9. Community collaboration requires long-term commitment by the engaging organization and its partners.

Step 1: Create The Task Force: We started by assembling a "Corsi Rosenthal Task Force" and scraped together a few thousand dollars to purchase our first round of supplies.

How to Get Donations?

  • We worked with our university foundation to set up a fundraising campaign.

  • We used intuitive donation levels (i.e. $25 buys one fan, $50 buys 4 filters, etc.) and allowed donors to make donations in honor of a loved one. We shared this fundraising campaign widely on social media.

  • We also created “wish” lists on Amazon and provided instructions for sending e-gift cards to Lowe’s and Home Depot.

  • Finally, many of our local Home Depot stores have generously donated fans and duct tape when asked.

Step 2: Expand Your Reach Within the University

  • Try reaching out to the Deans and Directors at your University to see if any of the units will match your funds and collaborate (h/t Marina Creed at UConn for the idea).

  • This is a perfect university-wide initiative because students from any major can participate (engineering students can work on design and measurement, pre-health students can work on community impact, education students can work on science standards and lesson plans, etc.). Every department/unit should be seeking community engagement opportunities and providing hands-on learning opportunities for students.

Step 3: Engaging with School Partners

We spent time talking to teachers, principals and community members to better understand their needs and concerns. We ultimately decided to work with schools in two ways:

i) Direct Request: Teachers can use our Google Form to directly request that our team build a CR box for them (they must have principal approval before requesting). We try not to take more requests than we can fill, but it’s a constant juggling act of monitoring donations, organizing builds and opening/closing the request form.

ii) CR Box Ambassador Request: Schools can request help organizing a school-wide event at their school. Many times schools want to purchase their own supplies and build their own boxes (possibly with their own students) but they need some help organizing the event, designing lesson plans or integrating it into curriculum, and figuring out what supplies to purchase. We match these schools with an ASU CR Box Ambassador that we train to help lead these efforts. See an example of one of our recent elementary school projects here:

  • Reach out to district/charter leadership to explain the project and why it’s important. We let them know that we received requests from staff in their schools and offered to partner with them to fill the requests.

  • Different districts have responded to our offer to collaborate in different ways, but almost all of our interactions have been positive! Schools truly care about kids and want to help, even if they don’t always have the right information about ventilation/filtration. Some districts have asked us to fill every request that comes in from schools in their district. Other districts have outlined specific criteria to prioritize certain classrooms or individual schools

  • If you have trouble convincing school leadership of the importance of improvements to ventilation/filtration this rebuttal matrix by Amanda Hu, the resources assembled by CleanAirCrew and this info sheet are all super helpful.

  • One other tip is to start with “friendlier” districts that you know are interested in partnering. Once you have a few districts on board, mention your existing collaborations in the next conversation, and the dominoes usually start falling.

Step 4: Recruit Volunteers For Your Event

How to find volunteers?

  • Students LOVE coming out to these build events (we call them box-o-thons because it just sounds cooler)- play some good music, put out a few snacks, and they will come. Students (college and high school) are always in need of internship/practicum/volunteer hours, but in our experience, many of our students are just happy to volunteer. Create a volunteer recruitment flyer to send around campus and a sign-up genius link for students to sign up.

  • One other suggestion is to build this learning opportunity into a course. I teach a 400-level service-learning public health course for my Student Outbreak Response Team. Students can exchange in any number of field epidemiology projects while providing surge capacity for our public health partners. Many of our faculty also offer honors credits in their courses- one of our biochemistry professors offers honors credit if the students attend a build event and then do a bit of research about the design.

Step 5: How to Set Up a Build Event

How to organize a mass build event has been covered pretty extensively here.

  • We typically have 20-25 volunteers per 2 hour shift and can make about 40 units every 2 hours.

  • Our final station is a QI/QC team that checks that everything is assembled correctly and sealed tight, and then places a QR code on the box that links to our webpage (ok, it’s not really a webpage, but it works until we have time to build something better) with instructions for teachers.

  • We also usually try to make the boxes a bit more fun by adding some colorful tape, virus stickers, or maybe even some googly eyes (obviously not a requirement, but the decorating team always has fun).

Photo Credit: Matt Peeples

Now you are up and running and you just merely need to continue to order/track supplies, recruit volunteers, manage/prioritize your teacher requests, and set up your build events. We aim to organize a big build event several times a month. We typically have the build event on Friday afternoon and teacher pickup on Saturday morning. For teachers that can’t come to the pick up events, we recruit student volunteers and retired teachers to deliver, help the teacher set up, and talk to the class (if requested). College students LOVE doing this- they are learning and helping their community!

If you need additional help, please contact us at

Megan Jehn, Program Lead

Jessica Wani, Program Supervisor

Tanya Palit, Program Coordinator

Kaitlyn Takeno, Honors Student

On behalf of the ASU COVID Community Response Team

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