Skip to main content

2021 Community Engagement Fellowships

Unite Wilmington: Community Health Worker Pilot Program for New Hanover County Residents

Student: Marcellos J. Allison

Area of study: public health leadership

Community partner: MedNorth Health Center

Faculty advisor: Vaughn M. Upshaw


Unite Wilmington is a health initiative developed for MedNorth, a Federally Qualified Health Center in Wilmington, North Carolina. MedNorth is one of few health centers accessible to members of New Hanover County’s underserved population, which includes refugees, ethnic and racial minorities, and low-income families. This initiative will enhance health literacy and improve team-based care for residents of this Eastern Carolina community. The goal of this initiative is to develop and pilot a Community Health Worker program that addresses mental, behavioral and social health determinants for Wilmington residents. As a Master of Public Health student, Allison will provide a population-centered perspective to an interdisciplinary team of family physicians, pediatricians, social workers and behavioral health specialists to improve community health. Additionally, the community engagement project will include an academic research study titled Building Stronger Communities, which will assess the effectiveness of various health communication methods for addressing COVID-19, vaccinations and other community health issues.


Accelerating Generational Youth Leadership & Excellence (AGYLE)

Student: Roderick Gladney, Pharm.D.

Area of study: biomedical and health informatics

Community partner: Community Drug Fund, Inc.

Faculty advisor: Rachel Tates


The goal of AGYLE is to serve 10 to 12 highly motivated students from groups that are traditionally underrepresented in postsecondary STEM education. These students will come together each summer for four weeks, with the goal of improving leadership, professional and sociocultural skills. This program will aid in developing highly effective youth leaders seeking competitive postsecondary placements. Using volunteer mentors and counselors throughout the leadership program, participants will be engaged through a series of educational initiatives. Topics include college preparation (ACT/SAT prep, personal statement development, financial literacy for college, etc.), diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI), and professional development topics such as personal branding, networking and resume building. Additional panels and discussions will focus on self-care, sustainability and community engagement practices.


Cities United Young Leader Network and Fellowship

Student: Margarett McBride

Area of study: developmental psychology

Community partner: Cities United

Faculty advisor: Shauna Cooper


Cities United supports a national network of mayors and stakeholders who are committed to reducing the epidemic of homicides and shootings among young Black males ages 14-24 and to promote safe, healthy and hopeful communities. One of Cities United’s core values is youth voice, highlighting young people as assets and emphasizing the need to include them in how their community operates. In alignment with this value, Cities United engages young leaders in the Young Leader Network and Young Leader Fellowship. Both the network and fellowship program work with youth from Cities United’s partnering cities who have been impacted by violence. These youth are working towards violence prevention efforts through policy, practice and programming. This CEF project is to help expand the Cities United’s network and fellowship initiatives by working with young leaders to elevate and include more youth voices, draft community violence-related policy/practice recommendations and develop engagement activities. These engagement activities are related to topics such as professional and leadership development, participatory research, public health and racial equity approaches to violence prevention, and youth-adult partnership. Young Leaders project outcomes will be presented at a national conference and inform future Cities United initiatives and violence prevention efforts.


Mapping the Challenges of the Rights of Nature in the Colombian Amazon

Student: Francesca Sorbara

Area of study: anthropology

Community partner: Centro de Alternativas al Desarrollo (CEALDES)

Faculty advisor: Florence E. Babb


In 2018, the Colombian Amazon region was declared an “entity subject of rights” by Colombia’s Supreme Court, in order to curb forest exploitation and destruction. Are the Rights of Nature (RoN) effectively protecting the grassroots communities that inhabit the Colombian Amazon, and slowing down deforestation? This CEF project investigates how one peasant community is coping with increasing environmental challenges, in tension with local extractive projects (logging, cattle grazing, oil extraction) and the Colombian state, and in articulation with other non-state actors. This engaged project has been co-designed and planned with CEALDES, a Colombian interdisciplinary research group working with grassroots communities across the country. Over four months the project leaders will develop a Participatory Mapping (PM) and compile the life stories of eight community members. This research-for-advocacy intervention will produce one awareness-raising article directed to an international audience.


Using High Spatial Resolution Data to Answer Policy-Driven Questions in an Urban System

Student: Keridwen Whitmore

Area of study: geography

Community partner: Ellerbe Creek Watershed Association (ECWA)

Faculty advisor: Diego Riveros-Iregui


The primary goal of this project is to answer the question: What is the value of protected riparian buffers in reducing nitrogen pollution? Whitmore will explore this question by sampling water chemistry at high spatial resolution within an urbanized river network, Ellerbe Creek. The river flows through downtown Durham and empties into Falls Lake, a major source of drinking water for Durham and Raleigh residents. Ellerbe Creek is an ideal study system as it is local, highly urbanized and listed as an impaired river by the EPA. As such, the City of Durham is obligated to reduce the nitrogen load delivered to Falls Lake. In addition, Durham County’s population is expanding at a rapid pace and land development is accelerating to keep up with the city’s growth. The need for science-based policy regarding development’s impact on water quality is immediate. This project would offer evidence for (or against) land protection in riparian zones and provide data that would help to optimize riparian buffer’s impact on nitrogen reduction. In addition, data collected during this study will inform future sampling efforts and continual monitoring of Ellerbe Creek.


Improving Well-Water Quality and Public Health Outcomes Through Community Work in Rural NC

Student: Hania Zanib

Area of study: environmental sciences and engineering

Community partners: American Indian Mothers, Inc. and Robeson County Department of Public Health

Faculty advisor: Emanuele Sozzi


An estimate of 2.4 million people in North Carolina use well water as their primary water source. This population is at risk for exposure to microbial contamination through contact and consumption of their water. This is because, unlike public water systems, private wells are not regulated under the Federal Safe Drinking Water Act set forth by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Groundwater can become contaminated by natural and anthropogenic activities, such as flooding, agricultural and urban runoff, decomposing waste, leaks in sewage systems, etc. These events can introduce enteric viruses and potentially pathogenic bacterial organisms into the ground water supply, which can cause significant health effects. Furthermore, flooding events, to which Eastern North Carolina is particularly susceptible, breach ground water supply, increasing the risk of introducing microbial contaminants. The presence of indicator viruses in private wells in Eastern North Carolina has already been established. However, few studies have investigated the prevalence of pathogenic viruses in breached wells. Hence, an investigation into detection of enteric viruses in the groundwater supply is extremely relevant and will establish remediation considerations for consumers and ultimately minimize the risk of negative health outcomes. This study will recruit owners of private wells in Robeson and Bladen Counties in eastern North Carolina, and well water from these sites will be sampled and analyzed for viral contaminants. Findings from this study will provide valuable data and evidence-based recommendations to identify and address the vulnerability of private water systems to extreme and adverse weather events.


The Hormone Access Project

Students: Chichi Zhu and Jessie Walter

Area of study: medicine

Community partner: The Gender Affirming Care Clinic (GACC) at Student Health Action Coalition (SHAC)

Faculty advisors: Rita Lahlou, Tonia Poteat and Karen Kimel-Scott


Transgender and gender non-conforming (TGNC) individuals face pronounced health disparities including higher risk of mental illness and suicide, increased incidence of interpersonal and institutional violence and increased risk behaviors, such as substance abuse. Gender affirming healthcare for TGNC patients has been shown to reduce these risks and improve health outcomes. However, access to care is often complicated by additional social vulnerabilities including economic hardship. GACC is a community-driven project that provides free appointments, labs and medical supplies to TGNC patients who may otherwise not be able to afford care. Presently, patients still face the financial barrier of hormone therapy, which has been identified as a significant burden by patients, providers,and the GACC’s Community Advisor Board. Through the Hormone Access Project, Walter and Zhu will work with the GACC and the CAB, SHAC Pharmacy and local pharmacies to develop a pilot program for hormone scholarships that can be continued by GACC for the foreseeable future.


2020 Community Engagement Fellowships

Participatory Assessments of the Racial Equity Institute’s Phase 1 Antiracism Workshop

Headshot of smiling young manDane Emmerling, Health Behavior
Community partner: Deena Hayes-Greene and the Racial Equity Institute
Faculty mentor: Geni Eng

Structural racism is theorized to be like water to a fish, ever present and—through its invisibility—difficult to intervene upon. Rather than address structural issues, organizations spend an estimated $8 billion a year on trainings focused on individual biases. However, review of individual trainings result in mixed findings. Racial Equity Institute’s (REI) Phase 1 trainings, which shifts the focus from individual to structural racism, have not been evaluated. This project builds on a partnership with REI that has already produced a shared values contract and work plan, an approved IRB proposal, and 16 in-depth interviews with REI trainers in order to understand the impacts of Phase 1 and how they should be measured. This summer REI and I have 3 goals: (1) have meetings with trainers to finalize an evaluation tool, (2) pilot the evaluation tool and (3) hold meetings with stakeholders from to start organizational case studies examining racial equity approaches.

Exploring the Menopause Experiences of Women in Prison

Headshot of smiling young womanElana Jaffe, Maternal and Child Health
Community partner: Elton Amos and North Carolina Correctional Institution for Women
Faculty mentor: Andrea Knittel

The menopause transition is associated with a range of physical and psychiatric symptoms that impact health-related quality of life and well-being. These symptoms may be more difficult to manage for women in prison, as there may be barriers to accessing treatments or interventions. There are increasing numbers of older female prisoners, and one-in-three older women in prison identify menopause as an important health concern. But there is a lack of evidence on the extent to which women’s menopause-related health care needs are being met in prison. Interviews with perimenopausal women incarcerated at the North Carolina Correctional Institution for Women (NCCIW) will provide much needed insight into the priorities, concerns and areas for intervention among this growing population. Findings may inform future correctional health programming at NCCIW and other institutions.

Building Equitable Futures: A Photovoice Study of Gender in Post-Earthquake Coastal Ecuador

headshot of smiling young womanMaja Jeranko, Anthropology
Community partner: Rut Roman and A Mano Manaba Foundation
Faculty mentor: Florence Babb

My project takes place in Don Juan, an Ecuadorian fishing village that was devastated by the early 2016 earthquake that destroyed 98 percent of existing infrastructure. While almost four years after the disaster living in Don Juan seems idyllic on the surface, there is an underlying pattern of abuse against women—exacerbated by alcoholism, teenage pregnancy and inability to read and write. This pattern leaves women in dependent situations for the rest of their lives. Despite these challenges, 15 women recently formed the first Women’s Committee. With the help of a local foundation, A Mano Manaba (FAMM), the women began a movement by writing and presenting a list of demands to the local mayor, thus becoming the voice and hope for women in Don Juan. Based on the local priority to understand changing gender relations and women’s needs in the post-disaster context, I will carry out a Photovoice project with the Women’s Committee which will aim to: describe this context and the impact on women and gender relations to generate action to address these issues; build community capacity for research and action; and contribute to the academic literature for continued work on gender inequity in coastal Ecuador.

Improving the Perinatal Health of Survivors of Sexual Victimization

headshot of smiling young womanBrooke Jordan, Social Work
Community partner: Melanie Patrick, Ashley Rankin Collins and Emerald Doulas
Faculty mentor: Mimi Chapman

This project intends to improve the health equity for all mothers who are survivors of sexual victimization. This project aims to accomplish three specific goals:
1) Bring together survivor mothers who have survived sexual victimization and experienced the perinatal period, doulas from our community partner at Emerald Doulas, obstetric providers, mental health providers and staff from UNC Hospital’s Beacon Program (which provides coordinated care for survivors of abuse) to create a space for shared dialogue. This dialogue will focus on the impact of past sexual victimization on the perinatal period. We will pay close attention to the needs of women in marginalized groups who are disproportionately affected by sexual victimization. All stakeholders will participate in a series of two focus groups to explore these topics.
2) Together, this group as a whole will use the Community Based Participatory Research (CBPR) approach of analyzing the focus group data to arrive at consensus themes focused on the needs of the survivor mothers and as needs of care providers.
3) Based on this analysis, the groups will develop action steps to address the needs identified by survivor mothers and care providers.

Creating, evaluating and Sustaining a Health Care Hotspotting Project for Local Refugee Population

headshot of smiling young manAsif Khan, Medicine
Community partner: Refugee Community Partnership
Faculty mentor: Amy Weil

The goal of this project is to create, implement, evaluate and then sustain an innovative micro-macro framework to address social determinants of health needs (SDOH) of highly underserved refugee communities of Chapel Hill and Carrboro. This collaborative model will involve a partnership between Refugee Community Partnership (RCP), a local community non-profit, and UNC pre-professional and professional health student volunteers. RCP will train and supervise the UNC volunteers using a relationship-based and trauma-informed care model. Students will learn how to skillfully address upstream and individualized social and health needs. As part of the micro-framework, students will be matched to a specific refugee family and will conduct longitudinal home visits and become their personal SDOH advocates.

A Public Forum to Report Back Research Results on Private Well Water Contamination in Robeson County

Headshot of smiling young manRiley Mulhern, Environmental Science and Engineering
Community partners: Robeson County Health Department and American Indian Mothers
Faculty mentors: Jacqueline MacDonald Gibson, Emanuele Sozzi and Larry Engel

This project aims to report back research findings and seek community feedback on four ongoing studies at the Gillings School of Global Public Health related to well water contamination in Robeson County, North Carolina. A public, community-engaged forum is being organized to present the findings of each of the studies to participants in the studies, to community members and to local governmental and nonprofit groups in July 2020. This forum will provide an opportunity for the community to learn and benefit from ongoing research, provide critical feedback and facilitate the translation of research results into action to improve the health of the county residents.

Developing a Gender-Responsive Framework for Justice Involved People with Serious Mental Illness

headshot of smiling young womanAnna Parisi, Social Work
Community partner: Caroline Ginley and Community Resource Center
Faculty mentor: Amy Blank Wilson

Gender differences have been found in the experiences and needs of justice-involved men and women, providing a foundation for the need for gender-responsive services. However, little is known regarding gender differences among persons with serious mental illness (SMI), who are overrepresented in the criminal justice system and disproportionately re-incarcerated following reentry into the community. This gap has important implications for the efficacy and delivery of interventions that address the risk of recidivism among this population. To fill this gap, the present qualitative study aims to extend my previous research on gender differences in the treatment needs of justice involved individuals with SMI by exploring the experiences and needs of men and women participating in a local mental health court. This court, known as the Community Resource Court (CRC), assists justice-involved individuals with mental illnesses in Orange and Chatham counties. Open-ended interviews will be conducted with individuals participating in this court to explore factors that may hinder or facilitate justice involved men and women’s engagement in interventions aimed at reducing recidivism. Findings from this study will be used to bridge the gap between correctional research and practice and inform current understandings of how correctional interventions delivered in community-based settings can better engage the needs of justice-involved men and women.

It’s Not Just Chores! – A Daily Living Skills Workshop

headshot of smiling young womanKierra Peak, Occupational Science
Lindsay Rentschler, Applied Developmental Science and Special Education
Community partner: Kim Tizzard and Autism Society of North Carolina
Faculty mentor: Nancy Bagatell

Daily living skills (DLS) are the everyday skills required to function independently. These include tasks such as keeping a schedule, meal preparation, getting dressed and money management. Based on our review of the literature and our work interviewing families with adolescents with high functioning autism spectrum disorder (HFASD), we identified a need for assistance in this area. In partnership with Autism Society of North Carolina, we will develop a three-hour workshop aimed at empowering parents to commence addressing DLS with their early adolescent child. Commencing work on these skills prior to high school allows families ample acquisition  time prior to the transition into adulthood. The workshop will present strategies for motivating the teen to develop these skills and teach how to identify the skills to target.

Physiological Response to Language Revitalization Within a Coast Salish Community

photo of young woman smiling in the bow of a boatRachel Wilbur, Anthropology
Community partner: Sadie Olsen, Shirley Williams and Whiteswan Environmental
Faculty mentor: Amanda Thompson

This study revolves around a place-based language instruction and acquisition workshop for Native American youth and elders. The study goal is to record and document participant’s physiological responses to a language revitalization effort taking place within their community. Results will be presented to the Tribal Council and public health department, and to the broader community through a public presentation. Findings will contribute to the knowledge base regarding the physiological impacts of language and cultural revitalization efforts by Native American communities to interrupt the transmission of historical trauma responses.


Identifying and Addressing Youth Mental Health Needs in Southeast Raleigh
Caroline Chandler, Maternal Child Health
Community partner: Melvin Jackson, Southeast Raleigh Promise
Faculty mentor: Rohit Ramaswamy

In 2016, North Carolina (NC) ranked last among states leaving youth untreated for mental health disorders, with 72.2% percent of youth with diagnosed depression, anxiety, ADHD or another mental health condition did not receive treatment or counseling from a mental health professional.  The 2019 NC Child Health Report Card reported that the ratio of school counselors to students was 1:378 in the 2014-2015 school year. Other data from the 2019 NC Child Health Report Card suggest that racial and ethnic minority youth may have disproportionately poor access to essential mental health services. This project aims to identify core components desired by youth in a peer-to-peer support program to promote mental health support in the majority minority Southeast Raleigh community. This work is guided by community based participatory research principles and builds off of existing work in this community. Through a previous Photovoice project and youth-led community forum, youth have identified social-emotional and mental health support as a primary need in their community and suggested a peer-to-peer support program model. Chandler will use in-depth interviews to gain a better understanding of the specific components youth are interested in as part of a peer-to-peer mental health support program.

Mold Prevention Tool Lending Library in Robeson County
Diamond Holloman; Environment, Ecology and Energy
Arbor Quist, Epidemiology
Aleah Walsh, Environmental Sciences and Engineering
Community partner: Naeema Muhammad, North Carolina Environmental Justice Network
Faculty mentor: Courtney Woods

In September 2018, Hurricane Florence hit North Carolina and caused disastrous flooding. Robeson County, one of the poorest and most racially diverse counties in North Carolina, was hit especially hard by Hurricane Florence. Focus group participants at the Hurricane Florence Survivors Summit mentioned that they were especially concerned about mold problems in their homes and the associated respiratory issues. Many residents reported having been denied for federal aid to assist with mold remediation. For this project, the team first will use existing information to assess the potential risk mold poses to North Carolina residents. They will conduct semi-structured interviews with key informants in Robeson County to understand how communities are handling mold issues and what resources are most needed. They will then build a tool lending library in Robeson County based on community needs. This will give community members access to tools to prevent mold and to mitigate the health effects of living with mold until it can be professionally remediated.  Data will also be collected on community members’ experiences and barriers they have encountered as they have dealt with mold in their homes and have requested remediation assistance.

Land Distribution and Farmers’ Indebtedness: Case Study of Andhra Pradesh, India
Sandeep Kandikuppa; Environment, Ecology and Energy
Community partner: Foundation for Ecological Security in Anand, India
Faculty mentor: Clark Gray

Indian farmers are facing the problem of rising indebtedness, with a large number of standing loans taken at high interest rates. Data from the government of India indicates that three out of four farmers today are indebted, a 25 percentage point increase since 1992. Rising indebtedness has impoverished farmers, forced them to undertake distress migration and compelled more than 200,000 farmers to commit suicide over the past decade. Through the years, India and the state of Andhra Pradesh (AP) have undertaken land distribution programs to address the twin-problems of poverty and acute indebtedness among farmers in general and landless farmers in particular. Through this project, Kandikuppa will study the impact of land distribution programs on the level of indebtedness in farmer households in Anantapur and Chittoor, two districts of AP, India.  Kandikuppa will partner with Foundation for Ecological Security to interact with farmers to understand the shifts that a land title brought about for them on the indebtedness front. He will lean on literature from political economy and political ecology and combine household surveys with life history calendars to guide discussions with farmers.

Building Financial Capability of Emancipated Foster Care Youth in Durham, NC
Stephanie L. Kennedy, Social Work and Maternal and Child Health
Community partner: Center for Community Self-Help
Faculty mentor: Rainier Masa

Youth exiting the foster care system face disproportionate financial barriers while working toward self-sufficiency and independence in young adulthood. Financial institutions, products and services can help build financial capability in emancipated foster care youth yet are often inaccessible or inadequately designed to meet this population’s unique characteristics, vulnerabilities and needs. To address this gap, this community-based qualitative research study aims to understand the attitudes, perceptions and needs of emancipated foster care youth in Durham, NC related to financial capability. Working closely with our community partners, the Center for Community Self-Help and the LIFE Skills Foundation, Kennedy will engage emancipated foster care youth in semi-structured focus group discussions and creative, youth-friendly asset-mapping to explore their understanding of financial capability as a concept and in practice. Information obtained will be coded and analyzed to generate themes relating to key aspects of financial capability. Themes include financial knowledge and skills, self-efficacy and environmental access to financial products and services. Findings from this primary data collection will be used to provide targeted recommendations for community organizations and financial institutions that wish to strengthen or implement services that build financial capability in emancipated foster care youth.

A Community-based HIV Prevention Program for Young Men Who Have Sex with Men in China
Chunyan Li, Health Behavior
Community partner: a local community-based public health organization in an unnamed city in China
Faculty mentor: Kathryn E. Muessig

The HIV epidemic disproportionately affects men who have sex with men (MSM) in China. Li’s previous research with Chinese MSM living with HIV indicated that many lacked social support in accessing HIV care and had little motivation to learn about HIV before diagnosis. In the city considered in this project, MSM account for 75 percent of new infections annually and for over 97 percent of new infections among college students. However, there are a lack of evidence-based HIV intervention programs. MSM’s needs and preferences for such programs also remain less studied. This project aims to investigate unmet needs among young MSM (younger than 30 years old) in the city and evaluate a community-based intervention program through collaboration with a local community-based MSM organization. Li will work with the organization and young MSM volunteers to design a qualitative research plan, develop in-depth interview guides, recruit participants, evaluate the organization’s current consulting-based intervention and develop a plan to improve intervention strategies and contents to meet young MSM’s needs. The project will offer opportunities for organization staff to be trained in using qualitative methods for program evaluation.

West Badin, North Carolina Community Survey – Aluminum Smelting Work Exposures and Health
Libby McClure, Epidemiology
Community Partners: Naeema Muhammad, North Carolina Environmental Justice Network
Faculty mentor: David Richardson

This collaborative research project documents structural racism manifested in work exposures and health in Badin, North Carolina, a segregated aluminum town. Badin housed one of the nation’s first aluminum smelting facilities, operated by Alcoa in 1917-2007. The facility led to environmental and occupational exposures to hazardous agents, including carcinogens. Residences and jobs were racially segregated, and the aluminum smelting facility and its dumping sites are located in West Badin, the Black side of town. The Concerned Citizens of West Badin formed in 2013 to advocate for contamination remediation in their community. Since then, they have raised former workers’ reports that the worst jobs were most often assigned to Black workers. In partnership with the North Carolina Environmental Justice Network, this project will develop and record surveys documenting the work exposures and health of current and former residents of West Badin. The goal of the project is to examine how racism has shaped working conditions and related diseases and deaths. It supplements McClure’s dissertation research, which will quantify the role of job segregation in creating disease disparities in Badin.

Facilitating Access and Inclusion for Visitors with Disabilities at a Local Zoological Park
Jordan McNeill, Applied Developmental Sciences and Special Education
Susan Szendrey, Allied Health Sciences
Community partner: Conservators Center
Faculty mentor: Nancy Bagatell

Zoological parks offer valuable opportunities for leisure, enjoyment and education to their local communities. Unfortunately, there are often barriers that can limit meaningful access and inclusion for individuals with disabilities. This project involves a partnership with the Conservators Center, a zoological park in Mebane, NC, to facilitate the development of supports and resources to foster improved experiences of guests with disabilities. Results of previously-completed interviews, surveys and focus groups indicate a need for staff training, clear policies and procedures and tangible resources to assist with providing accessible educational experiences. The next phase of the project will involve development and implementation of training and resources and analysis of both staff and visitor outcomes. In collaboration with the Conservators Center, McNeill and Szendrey hope to expand meaningful participation for all visitors, regardless of ability or disability status.

The Struggle Towards Abolition Education: (Re)Thinking Chapel Hill-Carrboro Education
Carlos Serrano, Geography
Community partner: Kim Talikoff, We Are They
Faculty mentor: Sara H. Smith

Chapel Hill’s town motto is the “Southern Slice of Heaven.” The Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools (CHCCS) system is rated the best in North Carolina, and yet Black students experience the largest achievement gap in the country and Latinx students the third highest gap. These disparities are also evident in disciplinary actions; during the 2015-2016 school year, Black students in the district (only 11 percent of the district’s enrollment) were 10 times more likely to get a short-term suspension compared to their white classmates. Serrano’s current research asks, “why are the “best” school districts working at the expense of Black and brown student success?” Serrano seeks to advance critical geographic research by understanding how racial, class and gender hierarchies operate in Chapel Hill-Carrboro’s liberal multicultural “best school district.” With Chapel Hill-Carrboro as the study site, Serrano explores why racial inequities have persisted in CHCCS, despite efforts to address them, and how CHCCS schools are seen as a site to maintain or transform lived uneven realities. Chapel Hill teaches that school rankings mean little when students live two different realities based on racial identity and socio-economic standing.

Harms-In-Ayllu: Healing after forced sterilization in an Andean community
Lucia Stavig, Anthropology
Community partner: Hilaria Supa Huaman
Faculty mentor: Florence Babb

This project will take place over five months in the district of Anta (near Cusco, Peru) and will document forcibly sterilized Quechua women’s use of ancestral medicine and spiritual ceremony to heal from illnesses related to their state-sponsored sterilizations, taken place between 1995 and 2000. Some of the illnesses experienced by these women do not have a biological pathology but are rather spiritual and cultural in nature. Illness in the Andes is understood to stem from imbalances between the biological, social and cosmic realms related to the violent interruption of social, moral and cultural practices engendered by forced sterilization and other forms of state violence. After three years of collaboration with indigenous women leaders, Stavig has been invited to document the means Quechua women are using to heal their bodies, minds, hearts and spirits in an effort to share this knowledge with the approximately 10,000 forcibly sterilized women in Peru. As Indigenous ways of being and knowing are violently unauthorized by the state and large swaths of Peruvian society, that indigenous women are turning to ancestral knowledges to heal on the land serves as a defense of territory and identity, as does sharing this knowledge.

2018 Community Engagement Fellowships

Exploring Parent Perceptions of Implementing an Early Intervention for their Toddlers with Autism
Jessica Amsbary, Applied Developmental Sciences and Special Education
Faculty mentor: Harriet Able
Community partner: Lauren Turner-Brown, Ph.D., TEACCH

This project will obtain parent perspectives of implementing a community-based early intervention designed for toddlers with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) to ensure that parents perceive the intervention as family-friendly and usable. Parents will participate in interviews focused on perceived challenges and successes in their abilities to implement the intervention as part of their daily routines and activities. Information obtained will be coded and analyzed to determine themes relating to (a) intervention components that parents perceive as leading to successes or challenges, (b) coaching processes that parents perceive as leading to successes or challenges, and (c) contexts that parents perceive as enabling or not enabling them to implement the intervention throughout their daily routines and activities. It is hoped that findings will reveal ways in which early interventions may be more easily implemented by parents and families of young children with ASD.

Creating Abundant Futures: A Photovoice Study on Chinese Transgender Women’s Economic Context
Willa Dong, Health Behavior
Faculty mentor: Kathryn Muessig
Community partner: Shenyang Consultation Centre of AIDS Aid and Health Service

Economic exclusion arising from high levels of societal stigma and discrimination is hypothesized to constrain transgender women’s life choices and increase risk for outcomes such as HIV (Poteat et al., 2015). Despite high levels of stigma documented against transgender women in China (see Asia Catalyst, 2015 and Yang et al., 2015), little is known about this context or transgender women’s resilience strategies for dealing with economic exclusion. This photovoice project aims to 1) describe this context and the impact on Chinese transgender women’s health to generate action to address these issues, 2) contribute to building community capacity for research and action, and 3) contribute to the scientific evidence base to lay the groundwork for continued work on transgender health in China.

Identity, Citizenship and Access to Opportunities for Young Women in Hyderabad, India
Pallavi Gupta, Geography
Faculty mentor: Sara Smith
Community partner: Shaheen Women’s Resource and Welfare Association

This project will examine how identities and access to opportunities are closely interlinked among marginalized communities living in Hyderabad. I wish to understand how the ideas of citizenship and marginalization play out in urban spaces. By interviewing young women 19-35 years old and by working closely with community-based organizations like Shaheen Women’s Resource and Welfare Association, I aim to interrogate the interface between identity and access to opportunity. While studies on marginalized communities in India focus on discrimination, the question of identity and its relationship to young women’s everyday experiences remains to be explored. My research focuses on the everyday experiences of young women from marginalized communities. A deep chasm exists between the vision laid out in the Constitution for an inclusive, egalitarian state and the reality on the ground, characterized by acute and brazen forms of discrimination experienced by marginalized communities like Dalits and minority communities like Muslims. I will work with Shaheen to develop research questions on how identity and everyday practices define citizenship for the marginalized.

Understanding Perinatal Health Experiences Among American Indian Women in Robeson County, North Carolina
Katherine Lemasters, Maternal and Child Health and Epidemiology
Faculty mentor: Sarah Bledsoe and Alexandra Lightfoot
Community partner: Dr. Ronny Bell, North Carolina American Indian Health Board

This project aims to understand and strengthen the perinatal health and well-being of American Indians in the Lumbee tribal community in Robeson County, North Carolina (hereafter referred to as ‘the community’). Building on our formative work, we will address three aims. First, we will continue building a community advisory board (CAB) to support and guide this project. Second, we will build our understanding of how the community experiences the perinatal period and what their perinatal health concerns are. To do this, we will identify community participants (i.e., mothers, grandmothers) with the guidance of the CAB and will use photovoice as our participatory methodology. Third, we will collaboratively develop action steps to address the community’s identified perinatal health needs. We will host a community forum via a talking circle where our research team of participants, the CAB, and university-based investigators will display the photographs and discuss the photovoice project findings. Ideas generated during the forum will be used to collaboratively formulate action steps for an intervention to achieve perinatal health equity.

Muslim Histories of New York: A Video Archive Project in Harlem
Katherine Merriman, Religious Studies and Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies
Faculty mentor: Juliane Hammer
Community Partner: Zaheer Ali, Brooklyn Historical Society

New York City is a major hub of global Islamic history, and Harlem is particularly representative of this rich heritage through stories of multiracial struggle, artistic production and religious growth among several diverse Muslim communities. I seek to expand the reach and aims of my public scholarship project to create a video archive. In conversation with Muslim community partners, and with guidance from the Oral Historian at the Brooklyn Historical Society, I will produce eight video interviews with diverse Muslims in the neighborhood that will be made public on an online archive and at a panel event. The videos will be an educational source for city residents and outsiders to learn more about Islam in New York, and will document the contributions and valuable perspectives of Muslim New Yorkers. The videos will benefit Harlemite Muslims by archiving their communal religious history that is constantly under threat due to out migration, gentrification or being lost from memory.

Key Formative Work for Integration of Depression Management in HIV and Substance Use Care in Vietnam
Xuan Binh Minh Nguyen, Health Behavior
Faculty mentor: Vivian Go
Community partner: Hanoi Center of Preventive Medicine, Hanoi, Vietnam

HIV prevalence among people who inject drugs (PWID) is above 30 percent in Vietnam, and there is an urgent need to increase the reach and effectiveness of HIV treatment programs in this population. PWID also have high rates of common mental disorders (CMD), including depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder. Treatment for these conditions substantially improves PWID’s ability to manage both their addiction and HIV. Effective integration of resource-appropriate, scalable CMD care into existing HIV and methadone maintenance treatment (MMT) programs will be critical to enhance the engagement and ensure the long-term health of PWID with HIV in Vietnam. Our long-term goal is to integrate and scale up effective CMD treatment models to improve mental health, substance use and HIV outcomes for PWID with HIV in Vietnam. The objective of this pilot is to conduct formative research that will lay the groundwork for a competitive NIH R34 proposal to pilot-test the integration of a task-shifting CMD intervention into existing HIV/MMT care in Vietnam.

Square One: A Novel, Multidisciplinary, Healthcare Delivery Model for Tattoo Removal
Emily O’Mara, Medicine and Public Health
Alex Miles, Medicine and Public Health
Faculty mentor: Richard Hobbs
Community partner: Jo Martin, Tattoo Removal Ink

Square One is a free, mobile tattoo removal service for those currently and formerly incarcerated and gang-involved. Through this service, we support individuals’ efforts to reintegrate as productive members of their communities. We are purchasing a laser and a van fit with the necessary equipment to provide mobile treatment at partner clinical sites. Our service will be provided by medical students, residents, and attending physicians who have completed the requisite tattoo removal training. To meet ongoing patient care needs, a nonprofit, charitable fund will be created through the UNC Medical Foundation. As tattoo removal is typically non-revenue-generating, fundraising led by the medical student groups will offset the cost of these individual procedures and expand the volume of patients treated.

Music and History-telling at the Global Scholars Academy
Sarah Tomlinson, Music
Faculty mentor: Cherie Rivers Ndaliko
Community partner: Jason Jowers, Global Scholars Academy

This project proposes new strategies for introducing young people to music in ways that recognize the importance of all cultures, including their own. In most music education classrooms for elementary school students, “music history” is limited to listening to a few pieces of classical music. This project attempts to introduce young people to music in more inclusive and culturally-empowering ways by sharing stories of race, class, and gender diversity in multiple genres of music, including classical music, which is often represented as elitist and exclusive. This collaboration with the Global Scholars Academy, a K-8 public charter school in Durham, will make two existing programs more robust and sustainable: the Music and Storytelling Program for K-2 students that pairs biographical picture books about musicians with music performance activities, and the Musical Detectives Program for 3-5 students where students evaluate music materials designed for young people from the past and present through vocal and instrumental performance and concert field trips. This fellowship also allows us to develop curricular resources that will be usable for teachers and music historians across various educational contexts.

2017 Community Engagement Fellowships

The My Life Matters Trauma-Informed Performance-Based Youth Participatory Research Project
Sonny Kelly: Communication
Faculty mentor: Reneé Alexander Craft
Community partner: Shauna Hopkins, Find-A-Friend

This project was a partnership with Fayetteville Urban Ministry’s Find-A-Friend youth program to provide artistic enrichment and facilitate programmatic intervention and performance-based activism toward positive life choices and social justice advocacy among marginalized and under-served youth in Cumberland County, North Carolina. This project mobilized artistic performance-based forms of expression to prepare and empower youth to act as advocates and activists on behalf of themselves and their communities. The final research products included ethnographic oral histories, community performance, photography exhibition (photovoice method) and community forums.

An Ethnography of Young Adults’ Culturally-Informed Lived Experiences of Mental Health in Jammu, India
Sugandh Gupta: Anthropology
Faculty mentor: Jocelyn Lim Chua
Community partners: Jammu University and local NGOs and community health professionals

This project involved two months of ethnographic fieldwork with young adults receiving mental health services in Jammu, India to explore culturally-informed lived experiences of mental health. The clinical definition for ‘mental health’ and associated methods to assess and treat it were not used. Instead, an alternative term was developed that more aptly captures informants’ everyday mental health experiences. The project’s objectives were to understand how young adults comprehend and make sense of mental health, to evaluate how their daily experiences of instability are shaped by government policies and to examine how youths’ aspirations for the future are constrained and shaped by regional political violence and unrest. Working with community partners, focus groups and interviews explored mental health-related challenges and consequences for youth living close to ongoing political violence in neighboring Kashmir. Work was completed in partnership with Jammu University, local non-governmental organizations and community health professionals.

Healthy Girls Save the World: Improving Health Outcomes for Low-Income African American Girls
Amanda Kotey: Health Behavior
Faculty mentor: Carol Golin
Community partner: Camille McGirt, Healthy Girls Save the World (HGSW)

This project attempted to improve health outcomes for low-income African-American middle school girls in North Carolina. Work was done in partnership with Healthy Girls Save the World (HGSW), a nonprofit organization that provides preventive health education for girls through summer camps and afterschool programs. HGSW’s mission is to empower girls to make healthy life choices by providing education and training on the benefits of healthy lifestyles. The project evaluated existing HGSW programming through focus groups and surveys with 50 HGSW participants, parents and counselors during the 2017 summer experience and then surveyed and interviewed teachers and administrators at two Title I middle schools to better understand the barriers and facilitators to providing efficacious after-school programs for low-income youth. Evaluation data was used to improve future programming and outreach efforts.

Images and Voices of Snow Hill: Using Photovoice to Understand Environmental Justice in Sampson County, North Carolina
Sarah Shaughnessy: Health Behavior and City and Regional Planning
Shelby Rimmler: Health Behavior
Faculty mentor: Courtney Woods
Community partner: Naeema Muhammad, North Carolina Environmental Justice Network

As the second largest pork producer in the United States, the hog industry remains integral to North Carolina’s economy. The majority of North Carolina’s hogs are raised in confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs), which produce a host of persistent problems that threaten the social, economic and physical health of the communities they inhabit. In North Carolina, CAFOs are densely clustered in low-income communities and communities in the state’s eastern coastal plain that have residents of color, where corporations are lured by pro-business tax incentives, lax environmental regulations, minimal oversight and little pushback from community residents. The Snow Hill community, a predominately African-American community in Sampson County, typifies this pattern and is also slated to be in the trajectory of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. This project used photovoice, a community-based participatory research method, to document the environmental justice concerns of Snow Hill community residents and helped build their capacity to address them.

An Evaluation of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Food for the Summer program
Jessica Soldavini: Nutrition
Faculty mentor: Maureen Berner
Community Partner: Kristin Lavergne, Community Services Director, Inter-Faith Council for Social Service

Food for the Summer provides free meals and enrichment activities for children up to 18 years old who live in low-income areas in Chapel Hill and Carrboro during the summer when school is out. Last summer, the program used an innovative model to serve more than 48,000 meals. This project evaluated the Food for the Summer program with help from teen ambassadors from the neighborhoods served by the program. Evaluation methods included analyzing Summer Food Service program data; developing tracking systems for activities; and conducting surveys, interviews and/or focus groups with program participants and other key stakeholders. Evaluation results were used to identify program outcomes and successes, determine which program components were most successful and identify areas of improvement. Results also helped secure future funding and inform sustainability. Evaluation results were shared with other communities to help inform Summer Nutrition Program efforts across the state and country.

Assessing the Efficacy of the TEACCH GoriLLA Group Intervention
Sallie Nowell: Allied Health Sciences, Division of Speech and Hearing Sciences
Faculty mentor: Linda R. Watson
Community partner: TEACCH GoriLLA Group

Many children who have autism spectrum disorder (ASD) have average cognitive abilities, yet adult outcomes, especially in the skill areas of social-communication and self-regulation, are poor compared to typically developing peers. Social communication deficits in ASD are typically correlated with anxiety and depression and affect social inclusion outcomes in adulthood, including friendships and employment. Likewise, self-regulation deficits in ASD have been shown to negatively impact engagement in academic and social settings in children and are correlated with self-reports of low quality of life. Some group interventions targeting social-communication or self-regulation skills have demonstrated efficacy for children who have ASD, yet the impact of such interventions had not been examined. This study attempted to address these deficits. Work was done in partnership with the TEACCH Autism Program to conduct a preliminary efficacy study of its Growing Living and Learning with Autism (GoriLLA) Group intervention that uniquely targets both self-regulation and social-communication in children who have ASD. Since TEACCH has seven centers, results from the proposed efficacy study may have direct implications for the services provided to children in North Carolina who have ASD.

Addressing Racial Disparities in School Discipline: A Community-Engaged Research Partnership
Sarah Davis: Sociology
Faculty mentor: Kate Weissharr
Community partner: Bryan Joffe, AASA, School Superintendents Association

Research consistently shows patterns of racial disparity in school discipline that privilege white students and disadvantage black students. For example, in 2012, one in six black students across the country were at risk of suspension while only one in 20 white students were. There is presently no clear understanding as to how this disparity is perpetuated, nor how to dismantle this form of racial inequity. In partnership with AASA, the School Superintendents Association, experimental research was conducted to investigate the school-level factors that lead to differing discipline outcomes for white and black students in hopes of uncovering new understandings of the mechanisms that generate this inequality and thereby allowing for new solutions that promote equitable access to high-quality education for all children.

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 the difficult challenge of 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 was 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 locally-based Latino community groups assessed 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, the Navajo Nation enacted the Healthy Diné Nation Act in 2014, colloquially known as the “junk food” sales tax, which added a tax on junk foods sold in stores on the Navajo Nation and allocated the revenue to community wellness efforts. Prevention efforts aimed at reducing unhealthy food consumption are important for Navajo sustainability. No evaluation had been done of these community wellness projects or 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 used a Navajo evaluation model.

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 and advocate for survivors’ needs. 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 designed a training in trauma-informed care (TIC) for local medical providers . TIC involves patient-centered care, cultural competency, understanding of the effects of trauma, inter-professional collaboration and screening for trauma. The training addressed the specific needs of marginalized communities facing additional barriers, including survivors of color and LGBTQ survivors. Training local providers in TIC allows OCRCC to develop a network of medical providers for mutual referrals and coordination. Most importantly, TIC 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 sought 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 included collecting oral histories of Dalit feminist activists and archiving historical material that cannot be found in conventional archives pertaining to South Asia. The goal was to produce a digitized archive of these materials that is accessible to activist groups across South Asia and race activists in North America. An additional goal was to produce a booklet in Tamil of activist history and the everyday labor of activism to be disseminated among Dalit communities in the region. The project ultimately sought 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 was 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, as well as long-term residential treatment 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 it lacked 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 focused 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 investigated 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. My goal was 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 expanded an existing community-based participatory research (CBPR) project to conduct 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 raised by participants in the project, we conducted: (1) A local community forum to disseminate findings, facilitate discussions regarding community action and needed resources, and engage local stakeholders, and (2) Key informant interviews with local medical providers and decision makers. These activities supported existing academic research objectives and met the needs of the community. The goal of the project was to engage community members, policymakers and local healthcare stakeholders using photovoice findings on access to local healthcare resources and chronic disease prevention and management in order to promote critical dialogue for community action.