Previous Community Engagement Fellowship Recipients

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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.