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Meet the Social Change Fellows

Research and Applications for Social Change Grants are awarded annually to Walden doctoral students,  alumni, faculty, and staff, as well as external researchers, whose proposals reflect the university’s mission to foster social change through research and the education of scholar-practitioners.

Recipients automatically become Walden University Social Change Fellows. They are scholars, administrators, authors, artists, nurses, social workers, teachers, engineers, lawyers, historians, scientists and community leaders, ready to share their knowledge and skills for the greater global good. They continue to learn and grow as they give.

Application forms for the Research and Applications for Social Change Grant will be available starting December 2, 2024. The submission deadline is February 3, 2025.
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Walden University Faculty & Staff

Walden University Students

Walden University Alumni and External Applicants 

2024 Social Change Fellows: Faculty and Staff Recipients

Research Proposal Title: A Grounded Theory Study of Coping Strategies in Policing

Barbara Benoliel, PhD, CPCS/Human Services

Tina Jaeckle, PhD, CPCS/Human Services

A Grounded Theory Study of Coping with Moral Injury in Policing An extensive body of research has documented the various workplace-related stressors faced by members of the law enforcement profession and the toll they can take on their health. The extent to which law enforcement professionals develop harmful physical, cognitive, emotional, spiritual, social, and/or occupational outcomes from their exposure to routine and traumatic work-related stressors varies considerably. Less attention has focused on the significant deleterious impacts of the moral risks of policing on the individuals and their communities. These risks take several overlapping and synergistic forms, including moral injury, moral distress, and moral disengagement. These moral risks can lead to an increased likelihood of officer misconduct in their community, as well as intrusive feelings of guilt, shame, anger, compassion fatigue, moral exhaustion, moral dilemmas, and post-traumatic stress disorder. In this grounded theory study, we seek to identify a theoretical model to explain moral resilience in law enforcement, and how law enforcement officers cope with risks of moral distress and injury. A criterion sample of volunteer sworn law enforcement officers provide oral narrative data collected in individual interviews conducted using ZOOM for comparative content analysis. This study supports social change and may provide new information to help enhance the health and well-being of law enforcement professionals as well as community safety in interactions with police.

Applied Project Proposal Title: Formative Evaluation of Four Health-Promoting Program Modules for Senior Adults in Independent Living Communities

Carol Spaulding, PhD, CEHS/Health Education Pro

Maria Richter, PhD, CEHS/Health Education Pro

Physical activity is important for maintaining overall health among older adults, but many seniors are largely sedentary and do not have confidence, or self-efficacy, that they can carry out physical activity. This application describes a proposal to conduct a formative evaluation of four physical activity modules incorporating mindful movement (gentle stretching, tai chi, walking, and brain health exercise) along with components designed to increase self-efficacy. The evaluation will use a mixed methods approach to gauge willingness to try the activities, self-efficacy to carry them out, and preferred modality (in person or online) among residents of senor living complexes two cities located in Texas and Colorado. Results of this evaluation will guide the final content, modality, and self-efficacy components for the overall project.

2024 Social Change Fellows: Student Recipients

Capstone Title: Racism, Depression, and Superwoman Schema: A Narrative Inquiry of 4th Grade Black Girls

In the United States, racism has been labeled a public health emergency. Amid rising rates of racism reported in schools, approximately half of all Black girls aged 5 to 12 expressed severe and persistent symptoms of depression. Furthermore, young Black girls’ experience of strength-based racial socialization strategies such as Woods-Giscombé,’s superwoman schema (SWS) is rarely studied. The SWS has been acknowledged as a coping mechanism that has helped Black women and adolescent girls deal with, fight, and transcend interconnected systems of racial and gender oppression. Applying SWS framework, this qualitative study will use narrative inquiry to explore the lived experience of the SWS schema in in fourth grade Black girls in Detroit, Michigan. The specific research question that this study will seek to answer is the lived experience of using the SWS Schema to cope with racism among fourth-grade Black girls in Detroit, Michigan.

Capstone Title: Preservice Elementary Educators' Perceptions of Teaching Proficiency within a Blended Curriculum Context
Vincent Harris, CEHS/EDC

Blended learning is a rapidly increasing instructional practice that involves both face-to-face and online learning. The problem is that preservice elementary teachers may lack proficiency and skills in teaching within a blended curriculum context when they enter their classrooms during their clinical experience. The purpose of this basic qualitative study is to investigate the challenges and barriers preservice elementary teachers face in a blended learning curriculum context. The conceptual framework for this study uses Rogers' theory for education technology and the Community of Inquiry conceptual framework. Research questions involved preservice elementary teachers' perceptions of instructional opportunities within a blended curriculum context and their primary concerns about incorporating blended learning instruction into their curriculum. The basic qualitative research design will be used for this study.

Capstone Title: Ethical Decision-Making and Modification of Service Delivery: Social Workers in Connecticut During COVID
Marie Hollingsworth, CSBH/SW

Social work professionals often experience demanding and intense situations while facing organizational restructuring. The research problem will address social workers' perceptions around mandatory modifications in service delivery protocols during COVID-19 in Connecticut. This study aimed to better understand how front-line social workers in CT constructed their ethical decision-making processes in response to the mandatory modifications to the delivery of service protocols during COVID-19. This study will use a biomedical ethical decision-making model and the National Association of Social Workers Code of Ethics as conceptual frameworks to understand the principles that guide social workers’ actions during a crisis. Enck’s biomedical framework model identifies a six-step framework for ethical decision-making: information gathering, identification, clarification, assessment, recommending, and documenting, which is essential when dealing with crises.

Capstone Title: Environmental Corporate Social Responsibility Reporting as a Strategic Imperative of Nigerian Multinational Oil Companies' Business Sustainability
Simon Iberosi, CMHP/BUSAD

Inadequate environmental corporate social responsibility reporting (ECSRR) can significantly threaten the sustainability and financial performance of multinational oil companies (MNOCs) operating in Nigeria. Grounded in stakeholder and legitimacy theories, the purpose of this qualitative multiple-case study was to explore strategies MNOC leaders use to integrate ECSRR into their sustainability strategies to improve financial performance. The participants were four business leaders from four different MNOCs in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria, who have extensive experience and were pivotal in implementing corporate social responsibility policies in their organizations. The implications for positive social change include the potential of MNOC leaders to contribute to effective and sustainable development in the Niger Delta region, which can mitigate poverty, deprivation, unrest, militancy, and social upheaval in the area and Nigeria in general.

Capstone Title: Strategies to rapidly decommission Information Technology satellites targeted by cyber attacks without contributing to Kessler Syndrome.
Nathaniel Juarez, CMPH/IT

This study focuses on the future of space operations and a specific issue we, as humans, may create ourselves. Information Technology (IT) assets rely heavily on satellites in space, with a majority of them in Low Earth Orbit (LEO). Everything from telecommunications, Global Positing Systems (GPS), and Automated Teller Machines (ATM) could lose connection if a series of crashes begin. The Kessler Syndrome will become existent if satellites start crashing into each other or space debris orbiting the Earth. The study will cover response efforts to events such as when satellites run out of fuel, or a loss of Radio Frequency (RF) communication capability due to covert radio links directing cyber-attacks. A qualitative pragmatic inquiry will be used to explore strategies used by IT satellite managers in the space industry to properly harden and rapidly decommission satellites out of LEO if targeted by cyber-attacks.

Capstone Title: Parental Expectations for Academic Achievement and Self-Critical Perfectionism in Black Women
Brandy Nichols, CPCS/HMSERV


This proposal seeks to investigate the potential influence of parental expectations for academic achievement on self-critical perfectionism in Black women, considering their varying educational backgrounds. This study aims to contribute to the understanding of psychological dynamics within the context of academic achievement and perfectionism in a different cultural context. The existing literature suggests that self-critical perfectionism may be linked to heightened stress, anxiety, and depression. The findings from this research have the potential to inform educational and psychological interventions, promoting a more nuanced understanding of the factors contributing to self-critical perfectionism in Black women. By bridging the gap between existing research in Asian communities and this understudied demographic, the study aims to broaden the applicability of self-discrepancy theory and contribute valuable insights to the fields of psychology, education, and cultural studies.

Capstone Title: Examining the Low Reading Comprehension of Fifth-Grade Students with Exceptionalities Ensuing the Pandemic
Paula Webb, CEHS/EDC

The problem to be addressed through this study is the low reading comprehension levels of fifth-grade students with exceptionalities (SwE) at an elementary school in Georgia (GSE). The purpose of this qualitative study is to explore fifth-grade teachers’ perceptions on their successes, challenges, and suggestions when teaching reading to SwE at GES. The conceptual frameworks are the blended learning model and the constructivism model. Through interviewing 10 to 12 fifth-grade teachers in a large school district in Georgia, the researcher will investigate the reading foundational skills the students with exceptionalities are lacking which contribute to their low reading comprehension levels. The methodology of this research study will be a basic qualitative design through administering semistructured individual interviews. The data analysis will consist of thematic coding of the teachers’ responses and open and axial coding will be used. The results will be used to identify specifics ab

Capstone Title: Assessing the Relationship(s) Between Efficiency and Total Performance Scores for Hospitals in Miami, Florida
Latasha Williams, CMPH/HLTHAD

The U.S. health care system is faced with significantly high expenditure, including reducing costs and improving clinical outcomes. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ (CMS) Hospital Value-Based Purchasing program ensures that health care delivery is value-based rather than volume-based. In this quantitative study, the relationship(s) between efficiency and Total Performance Scores for hospitals in Miami, Florida were examined. Using the Donabedian model, the research question focused on assessing the correlation between Total Performance Scores and hospital efficiency. The study’s population entailed hospitals participating in the CMS HVBP program in Miami, Florida. The data was collected from the CMS Hospital Compare for the 2021 fiscal year. The samples included for-profit and nonprofit government and private-owned hospitals.

Capstone Title: The Impact of Machine Learning Security Models on Cloud Data Security

Ali Sanad, CMPH/IT

The utilization of machine learning security models to safeguard data on the cloud is a critical consideration for IT leaders and managers. This study explored the relationship between IT leaders and managers' Perceived Security (PeS) and Perceived Privacy (PeP) and their intent to employ machine learning security models. Data were collected from a sample of 91 participants, including IT managers, leaders, architects, and senior software engineers. The multiple linear regression analysis revealed statistical significance, with F(2, 88) = 69.169, p < .001, and an R2 of .611, indicating a substantial explanatory power. In the final model, two predictors emerged as significant contributors: Perceived Privacy (PeP) with a t-value of 2.908, p = .005, and B = .249, and Perceived Security (PeS) with a t-value of 2.585, p = .011, and B = .246. This finding underscores the importance of considering both Perceived Privacy and Perceived Security in the decision-making process related to the im

Capstone Title: Mental Health Literacy and Education: Implication for mental disorder.

Robert Sims, CPCS/PSY

Mental health literacy (MHL) improves an individual’s recognition and treatment of a mental disorder. Education has been identified as one of four enabling factors of MHL. The completion of a bachelor’s degree has been correlated with higher levels of MHL and higher levels of MHL are reported to improve mental health status (MHS), the current study will determine the strength of these correlations. Educational attainment has a significant positive relationship with MHL. However, the strength and significance of education in predicting MHL level remains unclear. The purpose of this cross-sectional survey study is to determine the relationship between the completion of a specific bachelor’s degree discipline and MHL level in individuals. Health Literacy provides conceptual guidance to mental health literacy (MHL) and the theory of self-efficacy is used to explore the relationship between MHL, discipline of study, and MHS. Using a crosss

Capstone Title: The Experiences of Rural Female Veterans Seeking Mental Health Counseling

Tina Tarryk, CSBH/SOC

Over the past 20 years the number of female veterans in the United States has doubled. Research shows a gap in the literature regarding the experiences of female veterans seeking mental health care services in rural areas. The purpose of this phenomenological qualitative study is to explore the lived experiences of female veterans in rural areas and seek to understand why they may be reluctant to seek mental health services. I will use the hermeneutic phenomenological philosophy through the lens of Health Care Utilization theory as the theoretical foundation for this study. The use of Health Care Utilization theory will create a unique hybrid within hermeneutic phenomenological methodology applying a qualitative approach suitable for interviewing participants regarding their lived experiences.

Capstone Title: Primary Teacher Perspectives of Multi-Leveled System of Supports/Response to Intervention Framework

Alicia Walsh, CEHS/EDC

Primary general education teachers are critical stakeholders in the special education identification process (SEIP) when using the Multi Level System of Support (MLSS) and Response to Intervention (RTI) frameworks. Previous research has included primary general education teachers and other stakeholder perspectives on using the MLSS/RTI framework during SEIP. However, previous research has focused solely on primary general education teachers' perspectives. Exploring primary general education teachers' perspectives on the usefulness of the MLSS/RTI framework during SEIP is essential because it allows for future collaboration among all stakeholders in the process. The theoretical framework applied in this study is Goodson's educational change theory using three constructs: external, internal, and personal factors that influence primary teachers' perspectives.