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2022 Community Engagement Fellowships

Diverse Economies of Care: Emergency Food Assistance and Temporalities of Food Justice

Student: Deanna Corin

Area of study: Geography

Community partner: Mary Oxendine, Durham Cooperative Extension

Faculty advisor: Banu Gökariksel

While food insecurity is an ongoing issue in Durham, the number of people served by Durham County’s food pantries has increased by 152% since 2019. The increase of need is likely a reflection of the ongoing impacts of COVID-19 and rising cost of living, both symptoms of gentrification. Communities of color have been disproportionately impacted by not only the effects of gentrification but by increasing food insecurity in Durham. While pantries are often situated as treating a symptom of food insecurity, food pantry and food security organizers in Durham have expressed how these sites are positioned within the communities they serve and potentially foster a sense of place and work to restore dignity and food autonomy through offering recipients culturally relevant food choice (Interviews). My project analyzes the complexities of emergency food assistance in mitigating food insecurity and injustice in Durham, alongside community desires toward a food systems change. In addition to several ethnographic methods, I will conduct a social network analysis, collaborating with Durham County’s Food Security Coordinator, to explore how pantries fit into local food systems and if emergency food assistance can be in service to efforts of food justice.


Landscape Analysis of Environmental Justice Organizing and Advocacy in North Carolina

Sherpa Community Engagement Fellowship

Students: Caylin Luebeck and Lindsay Savelli

Area of study: Health Equity

Community partner: Għanja O’Flaherty, North Carolina Environmental Justice Network

Faculty advisor: Courtney Woods

Since the birth of the environmental justice (EJ) movement in 1982s, North Carolina has remained a fertile ground for organizing around environmental health issues. Research shows that community organizers play a crucial role in obtaining knowledge directly from those impacted by a public health issue. With most grassroots organizing, the work is decentralized and not often tracked in a systematic way that would allow organizers to assess, over a long period of time, what practices and strategies were most effective.  Also, across communities, organizers may be duplicating efforts. Conversely, the need for an amplification of effort may remain lesser known. Given the number and range of environmental issues impacting North Carolina’s communities, we believe a systematic analysis of the landscape of EJ work will open opportunities for organizers/organizations to work more effectively, enhance cohesion and partnership across communities and organizations, and build greater potential to drive systems change.


Adulting 101 Workshop Series

Student: Janae Shaheed

Area of study: Developmental Psychology

Community partner: Freddy Perkins, LGBTQ Youth Center of Durham

Faculty advisor: Shauna Cooper

Recent Humans Rights Campaign (HRC) research shows that queer and trans Black, Indigenous and youth of color (QTBIPOC) endure more instances of discrimination than their White counterparts due to the intersections of race, gender, and sexual orientation. This includes discrimination youth face within the home. In a 2019 national report by the HRC, 47% of Black queer youth reported being mocked by their own family because of their queer identity. In Latine communities, 45% of trans youth and 28% of cisgender youth also reported being mocked by family members. As a result of in-home discrimination, many QTBIPOC youth leave their homes, voluntarily or involuntarily, and contend with navigating adulthood earlier than their cisgender heterosexual peers. Moreover, upon entering adulthood, QTBIPOC are more likely to experience instances of discrimination within the community, reducing their access to resources (e.g., financial, mental health, relational, and medical information and resources). Even resources QTBIPOC have access to are not guaranteed to address their specific needs and challenges. In partnership with the LGBTQ Youth Center of Durham, the purpose of this project is to fill in these gaps and teach QTBIPOC youth the skills necessary to thrive as they enter adulthood, including college life and the workforce.


Collaborative Storytelling about the Community Center of Tahcabo, Yucatán

Student: Diane Slocum

Area of study: Anthropology

Community partner: Heritage Committee, Tahcabo, Yucatán and Dr. Adolfo Iván Batún Alpuche

Faculty advisor: Patricia A. McAnany

This project will gather oral histories in partnership with residents of Tahcabo, Yucatán, Mexico, to create a community-based archive focused on the history of the town’s center. The center of Tahcabo is an important gathering place for everyday activities and annual festivals. The town’s community museum, which features nearby socially and historically significant sites, is located in a municipal building in the community center. Sites of interest include a colonial church and a pre-contact religious shrine, as well as a modern-day church, bull-fighting ring, park, and basketball court. The colonial church is of particular interest to visitors and community members. During a visit to Tahcabo in December 2021, the head of the town’s Heritage Committee confirmed a continued interest among town residents in conserving and exploring the history of the colonial church. This oral history project will take place as part of an ongoing collaborative project, Proyecto Arqueológico Colaborativo del Oriente de Yucatán (PACOY). Prior to potential archaeological investigations or conservation efforts, this project seeks to begin the exploration of the history of the church and the surrounding center with community voices. This will better focus future research efforts and contribute to community perspectives presented in Tahcabo’s museum.


Perspectives on Refugee Community Partnership’s Bridge Builder Program

Student: Ann Suk

Area of study: Anthropology

Community partner: Refugee Community Partnership

Faculty advisor: Amanda Thompson

This project will explore the Bridge Builders (BB) program implemented by Refugee Community Partnership (RCP), a local organization that centers the priorities and experiences of refugees. Since 2021, the BB program has matched volunteers with RCP families in reciprocal relationships. These relationships are intentional ones of mutual aid and long-term reciprocity, and are grounded in an awareness of power, oppression, and structural inequities. RCP member families define relationship goals. Prior to COVID-19, 230+ Bridge Builders worked with 520+ RCP members each year, mutually forging ties of solidarity and taking care of each other. While the program is a successful one, RCP is interested in further strengthening this initiative, with the goal of deepening the network of support available to the refugee community in Chapel Hill. This project responds to members’ stated preference for active, engaged relationships with their BB volunteers. RCP staff have noticed differences in the level of commitment of BB volunteers, prompting interest in learning more about the factors motivating volunteers’ involvement with RCP and in considering how RCP can further facilitate commitment in these intentional relationships.


Canary in the Coal Mine: Dogs as sentinels of an emerging Lyme Disease epidemic in Watauga County

Sherpa Community Engagement Fellowship

Student: Katherine Tyrlik

Area of study: Applied Epidemiology

Community partner: Stephanie van der Weshuizen

Faculty advisor: Ross Boyce

Lyme disease is the most common vector-borne disease in the United States. In 2019, the CDC reported a 4% increase from 2018 with 34,945 reported cases of Lyme disease. The number of Lyme disease cases are predicted to only increase in the coming years due to factors such as climate change and increased globalization. Over the years, the state of North Carolina has been at the crossroads of the vector-borne illness epidemic. However, Lyme disease remains severely underreported. In the most recent year of Lyme surveillance, Watauga county, in North Carolina, reported no human cases of Lyme disease. This is particularly surprising since the number of Lyme disease cases in domestic dogs have been on the rise in this county. This disparity in cases implies that the human data is not an accurate representation of the Lyme disease problem in Watauga county. There is evidence that there is a correlation between Lyme disease incident cases in dogs and humans. Therefore, using domestic dogs as sentimental animals in Lyme surveillance could act as an early detection method of high-risk areas.


Job Support for People with Psychosocial Disabilities in Carabayllo, Lima, Peru

Student: Julio Villa-Palomino

Area of study: Anthropology

Community partner: Community Mental Health Center of Carabayllo

Faculty advisor: Jocelyn Lim Chua

Since 2016, Peru has been undergoing a transition from institutionalized care for the severely mentally ill, based in asylums and hospitals, toward a community mental health model. For families who once relied on these institutions, this results in new responsibilities that include an increase in the burden of care. For community members, this can cause an increase in anxiety and fear over the proximity to mental illness. However, for clients of public mental health services, the transition has the potential to develop their sense of agency as they organize themselves and seek inclusion within the community. This project will take place in Carabayllo, a district located at the outskirts of Lima, Peru, where the country’s flagship Community Mental Health Center is located. During my preliminary research trips, clients, family members, and health providers have identified job support and preparedness as a valuable asset to search for jobs or start their own businesses. This project will aim to foster clients’ abilities to navigate the job market which will have an impact on their prospects of recovery.


Brains and Games

Students: Meera Parikh and Hannah Black

Area of study: Medicine

Community partner: Boys & Girls Clubs of Durham and Orange Counties

Faculty advisor: Emily Vander Schaaf

Our program seeks to serve youth 6-18 years old from minority and low-income backgrounds through the Boys & Girls Clubs of Durham and Orange Counties. In this population, there are extensively documented disparities in chronic conditions and education access. Therefore, our project aims to improve learning engagement and physical activity through a two-part program, Brains and Games.

In regard to academic engagement, parents, teachers, and researchers have documented that middle schoolers demonstrate a waning of motivation towards school. However, when students have an opportunity to engage with creative learning outside of the classroom, they show increased interest, curiosity, and belief in their ability to succeed. In regard to physical activity, low activity levels are an independent risk-factor for type 2 diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and cancer and was even defined as a pandemic in 2012. Current global estimates show 81% of adolescents do not do enough physical activity and studies show that any reduction in sedentary behavior has significant benefits. While the lasting effects of the COVID-19 pandemic will not be known for some time, studies have predicted an acceleration of physical inactivity.


Building Capacity and Evaluating Policy for North Carolina’s Public Universities

Students: William Zahran and Wesley Morris

Area of study: Education, Policy, Leadership, and School Improvement

Community partners: University of North Carolina System Office

Faculty advisor: Matthew Springer

The University of North Carolina System Office collects vast amounts of administrative data from the 16 public universities in North Carolina on everything from enrollment to financial aid and faculty pay. One purpose of collecting these data is to provide researchers with data to give key state decision makers insight on educational trends and the impacts of programs and policies. However, data requests create a significant burden, and the number of unfilled requests has reached the triple digits. Each request takes significant time and energy from programmers whose resources are already stretched thin. Given these challenges, our project is designed to alleviate some of these strains by creating “research-ready” datasets in collaboration with the UNC System. The second aspect of our proposal then uses this data to provide analysis for the UNC System on two policy areas. The first analysis seeks to evaluate the North Carolina Promise, a policy designed to lower cost of attendance at three North Carolina universities. The second project seeks to understand trends in online course taking in higher education and its implications on students outcomes.


Read descriptions of previous Community Engagement Fellowship projects here.