Previous Community Engagement Fellowship Recipients

Increase font size
Decrease font size

2016: Community Engagement Fellowships

In Search of Culturally Appropriate Interventions for Latino Children with Autism

Michaela DuBay – Allied Health Sciences, Speech and Hearing Sciences
Faculty mentor: Linda Watson
Community partners: Mariela Maldonaldo and Maureen Morrell, Autism Society of North Carolina and Maty Ferrer, Hispanic Families Center

When parents learn that their child has been diagnosed with autism, they face an unexpected and often difficult challenge: getting effective help for their child. While the proportion of Latino children increases in early intervention programs in North Carolina and throughout the United States, the vast majority of evidence-based autism interventions have been designed for and tested with mostly white, mid- to upper-class, monolingual English-speaking populations. Since treatment may be less effective when it is not congruent with a target population’s culture, the purpose of this project will be to identify intervention models, strategies and targets that may be more culturally appropriate, feasible and acceptable for Latino families. This collaborative project with the Autism Society of North Carolina and its partnerships with locally-based Latino community groups, including the Hispanic Families Center, will assess perceptions of evidence-based autism interventions through focus groups and surveys with Latino families of children with autism.

Evaluating the implementation of community wellness programs from the revenue generated by the Navajo Nation “junk food” tax

Marc A. Emerson – Epidemiology
Faculty mentor: Victor J. Schoenbach
Community partners: Larry Emerson, Navajo Nation and Diné Food Sovereignty Alliance

The Navajo Nation has disproportionately high rates of cardio vascular disease, obesity and diabetes. In response, in 2014 the Navajo Nation enacted the Healthy Diné Nation Act, colloquially known as the “junk food” sales tax, which adds a tax on junk foods sold in stores on the Navajo Nation and allocates the revenue for community wellness efforts. Prevention efforts aimed at reducing unhealthy food consumption are important for Navajo sustainability. The Navajo Nation is the second nation to enact such a tax. No evaluation has been done of these community wellness projects or assessment of the effect of junk food purchases from stores on the Navajo Nation after the implementation of the excise tax on junk food. For the evaluation component, we propose using a Navajo evaluation model. The Healthy Diné Nation Act represents a unique opportunity for community engagement.

Trauma-Informed Care Training for medical providers

Anole Halper – Maternal and Child Health
Faculty mentor: Sandra Martin
Community partner: Orange County Rape Crisis Center

Sexual violence is widespread and has far-reaching impacts on survivors’ health, with survivors from marginalized communities often being the most affected. The Orange County Rape Crisis Center (OCRCC) does not offer medical services but engages frequently with medical providers to make referrals, advocate for survivors and ensure their needs are met. In order to improve survivors’ experiences with healthcare providers, decrease re-traumatization and ensure that survivors who access healthcare services are connected with victim advocates, I propose to design a training for local medical providers in trauma-informed care (TIC). TIC involves patient-centered care, cultural competency, understanding the effects of trauma, inter-professional collaboration, and screening for trauma. The training would also address the specific needs of marginalized communities facing additional barriers, including survivors of color and LGBTQ survivors. Training local providers in TIC would allow OCRCC to develop a network of medical providers for mutual referrals and coordination. Most importantly, trauma-informed care offers survivors the most effective services and reduces painful barriers when navigating the aftermath of violence, resulting in improved outcomes for healing.

Oral Histories of Activism: the making of Dalit Feminist struggles in Tamil Nadu, India

Anusha Hariharan – Anthropology
Faculty mentor: Townsend Middleton
Community partner: Dr. Burnad Fatima Natesan, Tamil Nadu Dalit Women’s Movement

This collaborative project seeks to understand and document the emergence of Dalit women’s activism in the northern part of Tamil Nadu, India, and how that shapes contemporary Dalit feminist struggles. Tamil Nadu, India has been a site of caste-based activism for more than 70 years. However, the questions raised by Dalit feminist movements are shaping the political landscape of the region along the lines of gender, lending a new understanding of who political actors are, and what constitutes the everyday labor of activism. This project will collect oral histories of Dalit feminist activists as well as build an archive of historical material (visual and aural) that cannot be found in conventional archives pertaining to South Asia. The goal is to produce a digitized archive curating these different materials that are accessible to activist groups across South Asia, as well as race activists in North America. An additional goal is to produce a booklet in Tamil of activist history and the everyday labor of activism to be disseminated amongst Dalit communities in the region. The project ultimately seeks to be in dialogue with similar initiatives emerging from North America that work on race activism.

Breastfeeding Curriculum for Women in Treatment for Substance Use Disorders

Stacey Klaman and Kea Turner – Gillings School of Global Public Health, Maternal and Child Health
Faculty mentor: Rhonda Lanning
Community Partner: Hendrée Jones, UNC Horizons

The goal of this project is to develop educational health materials for pregnant women who are being treated for substance use disorder as part of the UNC Horizons Program. UNC Horizons is a trauma-informed, substance use treatment program for women, most of whom are pregnant and/or parenting young children. Horizons offers outpatient treatment in Chapel Hill and Raleigh, North Carolina, as well as long-term residential treatment at two sites in Chapel Hill. The core of the organization’s mission is to improve community response and collaboration around services for pregnant women with substance use disorders. Horizons utilizes evidence-based curricula in areas such as addiction education, relapse prevention, parenting, family planning and employment services, but currently lacks a module on breastfeeding. In 2014-2015 Horizons served 236 women, of which 125 were new clients from 21 of North Carolina’s 100 counties.

Performing Stories of Public School Desegregation in East Texas

Elizabeth Melton – Communication
Faculty Mentor: Renee Alexander Craft
Community partner: Branden D. Johnson, Longview, Texas Branch of the NAACP

This project focuses on the fractured processes of desegregation in Longview, Texas and its lingering impact on the area’s public education system. In collaboration with local educators and activists, I am investigating the ways East Texans remember and re-story their experiences of segregation and desegregation in the 1960s and 1970s. As a critical performance ethnographer, my work utilizes several methods, ranging from ethnographic interviews/oral history, archival research and performance as research. This work is central to my dissertation project and it is my goal to work with research partners to stage or re-present these histories using performance methods.

If We Don’t Take Care of the Diabetes, the Diabetes Will Take care of Us:  Promoting Community Collaboration in Diabetes Prevention and Management 

Tainayah Thomas – Health Behavior
Faculty mentor: Alexandra Lightfoot
Community partner: Melvin Jackson, Strengthening the Black Family, Inc.

This project will expand an existing community-based participatory research (CBPR) project which used seed grant funding from the Graduate Certificate in Participatory Research (GCPR) to conduct formative research using photovoice in Southeast Raleigh with African-American men with diabetes to explore their experiences with diabetes self-management. In order to address the issues that have been raised by participants in the project, we will conduct the following: (1) Organize a local community forum to disseminate findings, facilitate discussions regarding community action and resources needed, and inform and engage local stakeholders and (2) conduct key informant interviews with local medical providers and decision makers. These activities will support existing academic research objectives and will meet the needs of the community. The goal of the project is to engage community members, policymakers and local healthcare stakeholders using photovoice findings around the issues of access to local healthcare resources and chronic disease prevention and management in order to promote critical dialogue for community action.

2015: Community Engagement Fellowships


Christina Chauvenet – Maternal and Child Health
Faculty mentor: Molly De Marco
Community partner: Columbia Heights Community Marketplace

This project aims to increase access to fresh fruits and vegetables at the Columbia Heights Community Marketplace (CHCM) for recipients of The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Columbia Heights is a mixed income neighborhood in Washington, D.C., with approximately 25 percent of children living at or below the poverty line. CHCM has many programs to increase access to WIC and SNAP recipients, including a spending match of up to $10 for WIC and SNAP recipients. This project has two components, the first is evaluating existing programming by conducting surveys and focus groups with WIC and SNAP recipients who are currently customers at the market to evaluate customer satisfaction and behavior change relating to fruit and vegetable consumption. The second is to survey WIC and SNAP recipients who are not currently customers to identify barriers to participation (location, price, awareness of matching funds and other programs, etc.). This data on current customers and barriers for non-customers will help improve future programming and outreach aimed at increasing access to fresh produce for WIC and SNAP recipients.


Leslie Adams – Health Behavior
Faculty mentor: Wizdom Powell
Community partner: Michael Scott of The Durham County My Brother’s Keeper Initiative

The proposed project will coordinate engagement activities in support of the My Brother’s Keeper (MBK) initiative, a national campaign aimed at improving the life outcomes of young men of color. The MBK initiative, supported locally by the Durham County Government, will facilitate efforts to address the educational, physical, social and emotional needs of young people (ages 11-21) that span multiple life stages from cradle-to-college. This engagement opportunity will use participatory methods to engage young men in the improvement of health outcomes for this population. Key activities in this project include participatory asset mapping and focus groups among young males of color, all held in coordination with local citizens and members of the MBK health committee. The overall goal of this project is to foster dialogue and cohesiveness on health promotion issues that are most vital to young men in Durham.


Catherine Schricker – Dentistry
Korry Tauber – Dentistry
Faculty mentor: Lewis Lampiris
Community partner: Laura Cuthbertson of North Carolina Missions of Mercy

Patients at the North Carolina Missions of Mercy clinics sit for hours waiting for their turn to receive free dental services. Since dental education is the biggest factor in preventing dental maladies, it is essential that this be a component of the clinics. We propose to have a dental education station which each patient at the clinic go through before receiving the free care. First, pre-dental and community volunteers would go over a questionnaire with each patient, highlighting one or more particular dental risk factors. Then, the patient would be directed to one of a few tables, where a hygiene student or dental student would briefly explain and demonstrate good oral health practices. Following that, the educator would identify the patients specific risk factors (based on their questionnaire), and would offer the patient a pamphlet (Spanish or English) detailing the background and implications for that behavior on their dental health.


Pavithra Vasudevan – Geography
Faculty mentor: Renee Alexander Craft – Communication Studies
Community partner: Naeema Muhammad of the North Carolina Environmental Justice Network

This collaborative research project investigates structural racism in Badin, North Carolina, a segregated town that is the site of a contemporary environmental justice struggle. Badin, ‘the town that aluminum built’, was a planned company town for workers with the Aluminum Company of America (Alcoa) and produced primary aluminum from 1917 to 2010. In partnership with environmental justice advocates, this project will record oral histories and gather audio-visual evidence with residents of the predominantly Black community of West Badin. The goal of the project is to examine how anti-Black racism has shaped working conditions, daily life and political struggles in this historic site. This project is a central component of my dissertation research, which explores the relationship of race and waste in aluminum production through a 100-year study of Badin using a combined ethnographic and archival approach.


Abbie Heffelfinger – Social Work and Maternal and Child Health
Faculty mentor: Josh Hinson
Community partner: Mustafa Shakir of US Committee for Refugees and Immigrants

In response to barriers in refugees access to mental health services, Refugee Wellness employs UNC master of social work students to provide outreach and education to refugees and service providers, to screen and provide mental health services to recently resettled refugees in Wake, Orange and Durham counties, and to collect data on the effectiveness of treatment in reducing refugees emotional distress. Data collected from screenings will be analyzed and used to advocate for the development of a network of mental health services for refugees throughout North Carolina.

2014: Community Engagement Fellowships

Engaging Teen Court Participants in Social Action through Photovoice

Katie Cotter – Social Work
Community partner: Robeson County Teen Court
Faculty adviser: Paul Smokowski – Social Work

Through a partnership with Robeson County Teen Court (RCTC), the proposed project uses the photovoice method to engage RCTC involved youth in social action. By taking photos of issues and assets of the community, youth will identify a community problem and use these photos to develop and implement a social action project. Results of the project will inform RCTC community service planning by identifying community issues from the youth perspective. In addition, if successful, the photovoice project can be implemented by RCTC staff as a pro-social workshop offered to RCTC participants.

Collaborative Community Mapping in Tahcabo, Yucatán

Maia Dedrick – Anthropology
Community partner: Adolfo Ivan Batun Alpuche
Faculty adviser: Patricia McAnany – Anthropology

This project worked to community members to create a map of Tahcabo, Yucatán, to better understand the colonial history of the town. The project developed a representative resident steering committee who guided research questions, participated in investigations, and provided feedback to enhance the usefulness of results for the community. Together the fellows and residents created a map highlighting important heritage features and worked with a specialist to create a geophysical survey to locate human burials and architectural features below the central square so that community leaders can protect them during future developments. The project will be enhanced through the use of ethnographic methods, including the collection of oral histories along with the use of photovoice to determine assets and needs of the community. The hope is to identify with town residents a contribution to be made to the community to help compensate them for collaborating in research. Finally, educational materials about cultural heritage will be distributed to local school.

Mentorship Program Between Individuals with Aphasia and Therapy Students to Promote Quality of Life

Tyson Harmon, Mei-Ling Lin and Gabrielle Scronce – Allied Health Sciences
Community partner: Triangle Aphasia Project
Faculty adviser: Adam Jacks – Medicine

This project established a mentoring experience between persons with aphasia (PWA) and clinical graduate students. The Triangle Aphasia Project, Unlimited (TAP) is a successful non-profit organization that provides group therapy services to PWA and training opportunities on communicating with PWA. Participation is an important aspect of quality of life that can be difficult to address in therapeutic service-delivery post-stroke. Through collaboration with TAP the fellows will establish a program to provide PWA an opportunity to act as mentors for speech-language pathology, occupational therapy and physical therapy students. This provides future clinicians with immediate exposure to PWA and gives PWA an opportunity to serve students by answering questions and offering a unique and valuable perspective.

Article: Harmon et al 2015 Learning about Aphasia through Experience Descriptions of an Interdisciplinary Patient-Centered Seminar

Self-Identified User Needs in Latin American Transit Reform: The Case of La Paz and El Alto, Bolivia

Gwen Kash – Department of City and Regional Planning
Community Partner: Rodrigo Criales Aguirre
Faculty Adviser: Daniel Rodriguez – City and Regional Planning

Latin American transit planning is characterized by a profound disconnect between planners and the communities they serve. Bogotá’s TransMilenio, one of the most-emulated transit reforms in the world, has been blockaded at least 240 times in the past decade by users with few other options to make their concerns about service heard. Many planners do not yet view the lack of public involvement as a problem. Cities now working to reform transit are being advised to follow Bogotá’s example, including its exclusionary process. This project works to simultaneously provide evidence that exclusionary planning causes problems and to identify effective methods of engaging users. The project is a study of one region attempting to emulate Bogotá: the Metropolitan Area of La Paz and El Alto Bolivia.

Expanding Healthy Food Access in Underserved Communities with Local Frozen Produce

Elizabeth Metzler and William Chapman – School of Public Health
Community partner: Jennifer Walker
Faculty adviser: Molly DeMarco and Alice Ammerman – Nutrition

Seal the Seasons Produce (SSP) aims to increase access to healthy food in underserved communities. SSP buys surplus produce from North Carolina farmers, freezes it to preserve the nutritional value and extend shelf life and sells this produce at an affordable price to community organizations serving low-income populations. The fellows interviewed these organizations who were interested in expanding healthy food options. The project addressed many issues including barriers to using fruits and vegetables and the interest and feasibility of using local, frozen produce in meals.

2013: Community Engagement Fellowships

Integrated Environmental Impact Assessment for the White Street community

Nat MacHardy, Sarah Hatcher, Dan Rosenbaum and Julia Naman – Environmental Sciences and Engineering
Community partner: White Street Landfill community
Faculty adviser: Pete Kolsky, Environmental Sciences and Engineering

After a collaborative meeting with Greensboro community representatives, Engineers Without Borders Local developed four projects to address community concerns related to the White Street Landfill. Students performed low-cost environmental testing, created a wind monitoring project to map the air flow around the landfill and established a community survey about social, economic and biological health aimed to document community concerns about the landfill and the current state of health of the community.

Adapting Curricula to Train Promotoras de Salud for Domestic Violence Prevention in North Carolina

Laura Guzman – Health Behavior
Community partner: El Pueblo, Inc.
Faculty adviser: Raul Necochea, Social Medicine

This project was established in partnership with El Pueblo, Inc. to develop a culturally appropriate educational curriculum to train community members to advocate for an improved community-level response to the needs of Latina survivors of domestic violence. As part of this project, Laura systematically reviewed and adapted existing curricula and piloted these sessions with a diverse group of survivors and leaders at El Pueblo. At the conclusion of the fellowship, Laura will provide El Pueblo with an educational resource for the implementation of future projects.

Cardiovascular Health and Weight Perceptions Among Mexican Populations

Christina Dean, Sean Miller and Jimmy Chen – School of Medicine
Community Partner: Proyecto Puentes de Salud
Faculty Advisor: Sandra Clark – Family Medicine

Founded in 2006, Proyecto Puentes de Salud is an annual program in both Juventino Rosas and San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, that tracks the cardiovascular health of the surrounding rural populations to identify and decrease health disparities. Two teams of medical students worked closely with community liaisons and officials to provide health screens focused on cardiovascular risk factors, weight perception surveys, and health talks focused on nutrition and heart health.

Water Source Protection and System Training in El Inga, Ecuador

Jennifer Casanova and Sarah Royster – Environmental Sciences and Engineering
Community partner: El Inga Bajo community
Faculty adviser: Pete Kolsky, Environmental Sciences and Engineering

The Engineers Without Borders Ecuador Project empowers community members in the rural town of El Inga to manage and maintain their irrigation water infrastructure. The project team collaborated with community members to address water, environmental and management issues to ensure that the community’s water supply is accessible, safe and sustainable.