Internal diversity and inclusion grant recipients share project updates

Hearts of different colors are layered on top of each other to form a sort of rainbow. The rainbow is superimposed over silhouettes of various people.

In Spring 2017, the Office of the President and OARS issued a special call for proposals to conduct research, scholarship, or creative activities in the areas of social justice, human rights, diversity, and inclusion. Eight projects were ultimately awarded funding. A previous post listed the projects that were funded and the PIs who are leading them.

Late in the fall, representatives from the project teams gathered to share details about their projects and updates on their progress. This post summarizes those details.

Note: Team members whose names appear in italics were present at the meeting.


Inclusion of a Miami Undergraduate Student with Autism in Autism Research

Aaron Shield, assistant professor, Speech Pathology & Audiology

According to Shield, many within the autism community are pushing back against a worldview that labels autism as a pathology. They find much of the current narrative about autism to be stigmatizing and exclusionary.

Shield feels that including people with autism in research on autism could help change that narrative, so he has hired a student with autism as a research assistant.

“This student will give me an insider perspective on autism that I don’t have,” Shield says. “He also has academic strengths in areas that are not my forté, so I hope working with him will be mutually beneficial.”

Although Shield imagines this project leading to published papers, he says he isn’t sure yet about specific scholarly outlets. In any case, he says he hopes to include his new research assistant as a co-author.


Strategies for Healing from Racial Battle Fatigue

Stephen Quaye, associate professor, Educational Leadership

Racial battle fatigue – the cumulative experience people of color have in being continually exposed to racial micro-aggressions and racism – has negative consequences for health and well-being. Quaye is interested in looking at how student affairs educators cope with racial battle fatigue.

“I want to understand what black student affairs educators do when they’re experiencing racial battle fatigue,” Quaye says. “What are the strategies they use to navigate that? Ultimately, how do they work to heal from that so that they are able to devote more of their time towards those creative activities and ventures that are productive and positive?”

Quaye has been overwhelmed by the response to a call he put out on social media asking student affairs professionals to share their experiences with racial battle fatigue. Within hours, he says he had been contacted by 125 people. Because qualitative data collection is labor-intensive, Quaye says he decided to interview 35 of the respondents in what he is now thinking of as Phase I of his project.

Although he has not completed analysis of his data, Quaye says one finding has already stood out for him. “It’s really important for people of color that when they label what they have experienced as racism, people validate that as real, rather than minimizing or dismissing it,” he says. “Having their feelings dismissed only further perpetuates the experience.”

In addition to publishing in scholarly outlets, Quaye hopes to organize a workshop for people within and outside the Miami community. His goal is to support people of color by connecting them with others who are also navigating racial battle fatigue so that they can work together to develop and implement effective coping strategies.


Developing and Evaluating an Interdisciplinary Curriculum Focused on Social Justice in Pre-Service Teacher Education

Scott Sander, clinical faculty, Teacher Education; Andrew Saultz, assistant professor, educational leadership; Brittany Aronson, assistant professor, Educational Leadership; Ashley Cartell Johnson, clinical faculty, Educational Psychology; Molly Kelly, senior clinical faculty, Educational Psychology; Rachel Radina, visiting assistant professor, Teacher Education; and Ganiva Reyes, assistant professor, Teacher Education

Sander, Saultz, Aronson, Johnson, Kelly, Radina, and Reyes are working to develop a model for centering social justice in teacher education programs that will develop the critical consciousness of graduates.

“Teacher ed is not usually centered on conversations about social justice, diversity, and inclusion,” Sander says. “It is something that’s new. It’s not how I was trained when I was a student at Miami. So how am I now teaching differently?”

In a sort of ad hoc faculty learning community, the group has been co-teaching and reflecting on themselves and the work they do.

“We’ve been thinking about how our different perspectives can inform one another to enable students to develop a more complicated and in-depth understanding of social justice,” Reyes says.

Students enrolled in the team members’ classes were asked to complete a survey at the beginning and then again at the end of fall semester so the team could evaluate the impact of various methods employed during the term. Beyond the quantifiable effects on students, however, Reyes says the project has been valuable in connecting people across departments within the College of Education, Health, and Society who are doing similar work and helping them feel less isolated and more supported.

In addition to publications, the team hopes to produce professional development resources to help other Miami educators advance social justice through their work.


Improving a Positive Youth Development Program for African American and Latina Adolescent Girls: A Participatory Culture-Specific Intervention

Erin Harper, assistant professor, Educational Psychology; Anthony James, assistant professor, Family Science & Social Work; and Chamina Smith, lecturer, Commerce

This project centers on a community-based, positive youth development program for African American and Latina girls at the Booker Washington Community Center in Hamilton, Ohio. Chamina Smith and Evelyn Moore created the program in 2013. Harper, Smith, and Moore, along with Miami University students, serve as mentors in the inter- and intragenerational mentoring program, where they are currently helping participants develop a multicultural community fair to be held in May.

Together with James, Harper and Smith are collecting data on outcomes and values from program participants and their families. They’re looking at what values these young women and their families hold around academic success, community involvement, cultural competency, life skills, positive life choices, positive core values, and sense of self. They also want to learn about how participants and their families define positive outcomes in those domains. In addition, the team is collecting data on the process of creating the community fair, with the goal of evaluating its effectiveness as a participatory, culture-specific intervention.

“We want to look at outcomes and understand how the youth and their families feel about the program and what value they feel they’re getting from it,” Harper says.

The team is currently mapping out a plan to publish their findings.


A Culturally-Sensitive Investigation of Bisexual Women’s Increased Risk of Sexual Victimization

Amy McConnell, graduate student, Psychology; Julia Kaufman, graduate student, Psychology; Prachi Bhuptani, graduate student, Psychology; and Terri Messman-Moore, professor, Psychology

Under the guidance of faculty advisor Messman-Moore, PI McConnell and her team are working to better understand how bisexual women perceive sexual violence in their community. The team was simultaneously gratified and dismayed at the strong response to the recruitment fliers they posted on campus. Within two hours of the fliers going up, Messman-Moore says they received 40 email inquiries.

“Certainly, it was affirming for us that we had tapped into something that was important,” McConnell says. “But we were also horrified to see the numbers and to know the implications of that immediate desire to participate.”

The team wrapped up the first phase of their project in the fall semester, conducting six focus groups and analyzing the associated data. Messman-Moore says the Phase I study will likely be written up for publication. McConnell says Phase I will also inform the development of a larger quantitative study that seeks to identify risk factors for victimization among bisexual women. McConnell envisions that second phase of the project being her dissertation research.


A Cross-Cultural Study of Mental Health Stigma and Help-Seeking

Sarah Dreyer-Oren, graduate student, Psychology; Anjali Jain, graduate student, Psychology; Tessa Benson-Greenwald, graduate student, Psychology; Tasse Hammond, senior biology and psychology major; and Elise Clerkin, assistant professor, Psychology

This team is looking at how culture affects individuals’ propensity for seeking help for mental health issues. Specifically, they’re interested differences between cultures that emphasize group well-being differ and cultures that emphasize individual well-being with regard to:

  • Stigmas around mental health issues
  • The makeup of individuals’ social support networks
  • The role stigmas and social support networks play in influencing help-seeking behaviors

To assess these differences, the team is administering surveys to Miami’s domestic and Chinese international students. Cross-cultural and cross-linguistic considerations have made this process slow.

“A lot of our measures are developed by native English speakers and validated in Wester cultures,” Benson-Greenwald says. “So, we hired a team of bilingual translators to translate English measure into Chinese and then back into English. Someone has to take the time to see if there is equivalence in concepts across cultures.”

Benson-Greenwald and the rest of the team will run a pilot study to validate the newly translated measures before launching a full longitudinal study. Ultimately, they hope the data they collect will inform the development of programs that reduce the perception of mental health stigmas among international students and that help those students feel more comfortable seeking help for mental health issues. The team also envisions determining which treatment options are most effective for students of various cultures.


Because of a conflict with planned conference attendance, representatives from two projects were unable to attend the fall meeting.

No special call was issued in 2017-2018. Instead, three programs — Undergraduate Research Awards (URA), Doctoral-Undergraduate Opportunity Scholarships (DUOS), and Committee on Faculty Research (CFR) Faculty Research Grants — gave special consideration to proposals that included research, scholarship, or creative activities in in the areas of social justice, human rights, diversity, and inclusion. A list of 2017-2018 CFR Faculty Research Grants recipients can be found here.


Written by Heather Beattey Johnston, Associate Director of Research Communications, Office for the Advancement of Research and Scholarship, Miami University.

Umbrella image by Geralt; rainbow image by GDJ, both via Pixabay and used under Creative Commons license.

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