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2023 Social Change Fellows

2023 Social Change Fellows: Faculty and Staff Recipients

2023 Social Change Fellows: Faculty and Staff Recipients

Bulgarian Democracy through the Lens of the Polarities of Democracy Framework

Morris Bidjerano, PhD
Office of Research & Doctoral Services 

Morris Bidjerano


William Benet, PhD
CHSPP/Public Policy & Administration 

William Benet

The purpose of the project is to increase the awareness of select target audiences in Bulgaria regarding how the Polarities of Democracy approach to achieving positive social change can be applied to strengthen and stabilize the development of democracy in Bulgaria. The project will be implemented in collaboration with a local Bulgarian non-profit organization, Values, Virtues, Integrity (VVI) Foundation, which specializes in the design and implementation of educational programs for the youth, focused on social, cultural, ecological, and diversity and inclusion issues.

The main goal of the project involves developing a pilot training course and related instructional curriculum materials for Bulgarian students and social change activists.

Additional planned activities in support of achieving this goal include:

  • hosting and organizing a seminar in Washington, DC on the Polarities of Democracy framework for two Bulgarian VVI Foundation representatives
  • presenting to the Bulgarian visitors a series of workshops on the Polarity Assessment Process and its application in various organizational, political, social, and community settings
  • delivering a seminar on the Polarities of Democracy theory at the Political Science and Public Administration Departments of Sofia University
  • giving a presentation at a seminar on democratic values in Sofia, Bulgaria.

The project will be designed as an applied cultural, educational, and political know-how exchange program with the VVI Foundation. It will draw on Bill Benet’s decades-long development of the Polarities of Democracy theory and his continual applied work with the non-profit Polarities of Democracy Institute and the Walden faculty, alumni, and students Polarities of Democracy Learning Community.

2023 Social Change Fellows: Student Recipients

2023 Social Change Fellows: Student Recipients

The Concept of Leadership at the Face of Climatological Crisis: A Comparative Case Study of Puerto Rico Higher Education
Aniello Alberti, CEHS/Education/EdD

Global warming is increasingly propelling critical hydrological events like hurricanes, and leaders in higher education should strengthen social justice to execute crisis plans effectively. Therefore, the purpose of this doctoral study will be to explore crisis leadership in the execution of action plan strategies in Puerto Rico higher education from the experiences of critical administrators in two academic units of post-secondary education, leading to the aftereffects of a climatological crisis caused by Hurricane Maria in 2017. Insights of this study will provide administrators in higher education in Puerto Rico and similar contexts with a broader knowledge of the required leadership in the execution of plans due to climatological crises.

The overall objectives of this dissertation will be to help higher education leaders better understand strategies and leadership styles for restoring their institutions' regular operation after climatological crises.  A qualitative method based on a comparative case study will be conducted. This study's qualitative approach will provide an in-depth analysis of multi-layered issues constructed through the interactions of higher education leaders in a precise climatological emergency. Interviews will be conducted with participants and data will be decoded using advanced software to find patterns and recurring themes related to leadership in the execution of climatological crises.

Aniello Alberti

Strategies to Improve Employee Motivation in Addiction Treatment
Dawn Belamarich, CMHP/Business Administration/DBA

Employee turnover negatively affects businesses by increasing operational and hiring costs and limiting organizational growth and profits. As Olubiyi et al. (2019) stated, these costs can be as high as $10,000 per hourly employee and twice as high as the replaced employee’s annual salary. Retention strategies, and the associated costs, are at the forefront of most business leaders’ agendas, with business leaders prioritizing the value of employees in growing their business and supporting competitive advantage (Yildiz et al., 2020).

In social service organizations, the inability to motivate and retain key personnel can not only influence the business bottom line but may have a negative influence on the client experience, which is an alliance that adds value through a supportive therapeutic alliance and rapport with staff members (Astvik et al., 2020). The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration reports that staff turnover in addiction treatment ranges from 15% to 50%, leaving addiction treatment leaders working to identify solutions to retain employees (Sherman et al., 2017).

This qualitative study explores the strategies that addiction treatment leaders can use to increase employee motivation in the addiction treatment industry.

Understanding Access to Preventive Health Screening for Working Women Using the Social Ecological Model
Charlotte Clark-Rowe, CHSPP/Public Policy & Administration/PhD

Many working women lack access to routine preventive health screenings due to their 40-hour work week, problems with transportation, lack of workplace flexibility, and clinic hours that are the same as their work hours. A mobile health clinic may enhance access to preventive health screenings for working women. Doing so may increase preventive health screening for working women.

The purpose of this qualitative study is to understand how working women experience access to preventive health screenings through MHCs guided by the socioecological model. The population for this qualitative study is working women who have used MHC for preventive health screenings. The criteria for this study are working women over 21 years of age, not a homemaker, and females who used MHCs within the last 36 months.

The data analysis in this study is to identify segments of the data that will assist with a deeper insight into the phenomenon the research is trying to discover. Also, to answer the research question, how do working women describe their experience using MHC to access preventive health screenings based on the sociological model. The study may increase knowledge to better understand for access to preventive health screenings for working women. Also, with the knowledge about access to preventative health screenings, organization's leaders may have opportunities secure funding to create partnerships for resources for working women.

Charlotte Clark-Rowe

Black Male Initiatives’ Effect on Black Male Persistence and Graduation
Eric Johnson, CMHP/Management/PhD

Eric Johnson

Graduating with a college degree serves to advance an individual's career and economic prospects and simultaneously projects a net positive effect on society. With a decade-long stagnant 34% Black male college graduation rate, there is little understanding of how and why Black male initiatives, designed to improve Black male persistence and graduation in 4-year colleges, affect retention and graduation-related behaviors, as understood by the Black male participants in such initiatives.

This interpretive description study explores Black male initiatives' influence on Black male persistence and graduation at three East Texas historically Black colleges. For continued accreditation, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges requires management for each of the three colleges to identify and address academic needs that improve student persistence and graduation. The questions guiding this research study solicit Black men's experiences, the meanings that emerge, and how Black male college students perceive the effectiveness of Black male initiatives to improve their persistence and graduation at three East Texas historically Black colleges.

Using a purposive sample of 12 full-time Black male college students, I conduct interviews and use a reflexive journal to explore the Black male students' experiences, meaning-making, and perceptions of effectiveness as they engage Black male initiatives. Cultural capital, social capital, and narratives are three essential critical race theory concepts that ground this study. Positive data may offer new insights, instructive academic and program-based understandings, influence social change, and promote entrepreneurial innovation, management opportunities, and strategic initiatives to support better Black male students at colleges and universities nationwide.

Stigma in Intimate Partner Relationships Among Ebola Survivors in Monrovia
Adam M. Kyne, CPCS/Human Services/PhD

Stigmatization is a growing concern for Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) survivors in Monrovia and it is the single most factor contributing to the increased number of broken relationships and marriages among EVD survivors. After surviving nearing-death experiences from the deadly Ebola Virus Disease, survivors are unable to fully integrate at home and keep stable relationships due to stigmatization. EVD Survivors continue to experience stigmatization in their intimate partner relationships causing a low quality of lived relational experience, derailed by feelings of shame, guilt, and reactions of isolation and rejection for being blamed as transmitters of EVD by loved ones.

The purpose of this qualitative study is to explore how the lived experience of stigmatization affects the quality of intimate partner relationships for Ebola survivors in Monrovia. A descriptive phenomenological design was chosen to help describe and gain rich and exploratory information on EVD survivors’ lived experiences of stigmatization in their intimate partner relationships. 

Purposive sampling and snowball sampling are used to recruit participants for this study.  Data analysis processes will occur following the guidelines developed by Braun and Clarke. To aid in this process, NVivo 12 will be used to organize and code the data.

The findings of this study will address the following objectives:

  • educate researchers and caregivers about how stigmatization affects the quality of intimate partner relationships for Ebola survivors;
  • establish the baseline for developing a platform of advocacy for EVD survivors by using their voices to share how the disease has affected their intimate partners;
  • add to the limited body of literature regarding the outcome for Ebola survivors.

The findings of this study may also provide information that may improve the interventions designed to address the needs of EVD survivors in regard to reintegration with previous or future intimate partner relationships

Adam Kyne

Local CTE Educators’ Perceptions of Students’ Understanding Technical Text
Maria Santiago, CEHS/Education/EdD

Maria Santiago 

In the focus career technical education (CTE) high school in the northeastern United States, most students struggle to understand the technical course material and do not meet expectations in state and national licensing tests. The purpose of this project study is to investigate the successes and challenges that CTE educators have when implementing the instruction of technical text in a vocational and technical high school. This project study is framed by Bruner’s constructivist theory of learning and Rosenblatt’s transactional theory of reading.

The research questions of this basic qualitative study will focus on the challenges CTE educators have with instruction of informational technical text and the techniques that CTE teachers and supervisors have found effective in teaching technical text. A minimum of 10 current CTE educators with a state teaching certificate (teacher/ supervisor) who have taught at a CTE high school program for more than 10 months will participate in semistructured interviews. A priori and closed coding will be used for the first and second analysis cycles. The coding results will be organized into categories and axial coding will be used to create themes.

The results of this project study may reveal ideas to address challenges CTE educators have when teaching technical texts and ideas to improve instructional practices. Possible improved practices may support improved student achievement in CTE education as an indication of positive social change.  

2023 Social Change Fellows: Alumni and External Recipients

2023 Social Change Fellows: Alumni and External Recipients

The San Salvador Bahamas Community Garden Enrichment Program: A transdisciplinary approach to healthy living for social change

Dawn M. Ford, PhD,
(Walden Alumnus), University of Tennessee at Chattanooga

Dawn Ford


Troy Dexter,
Gerace Research Centre, San Salvador, Bahamas

There is a dramatic increase in chronic diseases and conditions in the Bahamas such as overweight and obesity, diabetes, and high blood pressure. Ninety-two percent of Bahamians report eating less than 3 servings of fruits and vegetables a day on average, and 90% of food is imported. One way to address chronic diseases is to make fresh local produce more available through a community garden, along with educational activities.

This proposed community garden enrichment project serves the low-income residents of San Salvador, a rural and remote island of the Bahamas. The San Salvador Community Garden was newly created in December 2022-January 2023 at the Gerace Research Centre by students at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and community partners on the island.

We propose to expand this work with the overall goal of improving resident health by:

  1. Expanding the garden by adding a composting area and a rain catchment system for increased production,
  2. Offering hands-on transdisciplinary educational programs for adults and children.

The educational programming will include healthy living workshops, such as cooking classes, marine conservation sessions, and a summer kids camp. Before 2017, there was an annual summer kids camp offered by a Bahamian non-profit organization that focused on marine conservation. We propose to offer a camp that broadens programming to include healthy living topics involving the community garden.

These activities align with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals related to health and well-being, quality education, reduced inequalities, food insecurity, and life below water and life on land. Grant on-site programmatic activities will take place in June 2023, December 2023, and March 2024 which coincide with planned trips to San Salvador.

2022 Social Change Fellows

Faculty and Staff Recipients

Aging Online Faculty:  Attitudes Towards Technology, Work, Cognition, Retirement, and Self

Lee Stadtlander, PhD
Office of Research & Doctoral Services
and Amy Sickel, PhD
CSBS/School of Psychology

Aging is a neglected aspect of workplace diversity, equity, and inclusion; how people successfully age at work and how to meet their needs are important issues in serving older employees. The rate of working for people post traditional retirement age is growing faster than the rate for any other age group. This trend is seen in education; for example, Walden has a large number of faculty over the traditional retirement age of 65 (including some in their 80s). While there has been research on older faculty in brick-and-mortar institutions there have been no studies examining online older faculty, thus their needs as they age are unknown, despite the reality of the high percentage of older faculty in online education. In the proposed sequential explanatory mixed methods study, the first aspect will explore the attitudes and needs of 200 online faculty in US universities in their 50s, 60s, 70s+ through surveys examining skills and attitudes toward technology, work, retirement, cognition, teaching self-efficacy, and self-stigma. In the second aspect of the study, one-hour interviews with 30 of the participants will be conducted to explore the identified factors in more depth.                                          

Understanding the Experiences and Counseling Needs of African American Women with Infertility

Ariel Harrison, PhD
CSBS/School of Counseling

The lack of acknowledging infertility challenges in the African American community often leaves women bewildered about their situations and the availability of counseling support. This phenomenological study will explore 10-12 African American women's experiences with infertility, stigma associated African American women and fertility, mental health and coping respons

Student Recipients

Women’s Perception of Preeclampsia and Antenatal Care Attendance in Northwestern Nigeria

Aisha Nana Adamu, CHP

Researchers have demonstrated a significant relationship between antenatal care (ANC) attendance and pregnant women's sociodemographic characteristics. What has not been clearly studied is the relationship between ANC attendance and pregnant women's perceptions about diseases such as preeclampsia (PE) that could affect their pregnancies. ANC could facilitate the early identification and treatment of these conditions, ultimately improving the outcomes for PE affected women. In this study, the relationship between pregnant women's perceptions about PE and their ANC attendance were explored.

Accessing services for adolescents with perinatal HIV in Nigeria: the lived experience of girls, their families and healthcare workers

Joseph Inyang, CHP

Adolescents living with Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) include those who were infected from their mother perinatally (PHIV) and those who were infected through sexual behaviors or drug use (BHIV). Nigeria contributes the largest burden of children born with HIV globally, due to its weak prevention of mother-to child transmission (PMTCT) program and a large HIV burden among adolescents with BHIV (NACA, 2019). Since the first case of AIDS in 1986 in Nigeria, and the advent of antiretroviral therapy (ART), and with optimal adherence, viral suppression has improved and more children and adolescents living with HIV infection are able to transition into adulthood. However, there are challenges associated with access, uptake, and adherence of ART, as well as the risks of long-term exposure to ART among these adolescents. With the application of social ecological model (SEM) and a phenomenological approach, this qualitative study will seek to understand the personal experiences of adolescent Nigerian girls aged 15-19 years living with PHIV with respect to access to services and adherence to ART.

Coping strategies linked to African Americans with Chronic Kidney Disease

Gabrielle Lawrence, CON

Chronic kidney disease (CKD)is a health problem that affects African Americans (AAs) faster than whites and other ethnic groups. Everyone copes differently. Individuals with chronic kidney disease need to develop strategies to help with the disease and life challenges. Social support, self-management, self -efficacy are factors that may influence how individuals with CKD cope with the disease. The purpose of this quantitative correlation study is to examine the relationships among self-management, self-efficacy, and coping behaviors in African Americans (AAs) with chronic kidney disease (CKD) in stages three or four.

Role of Racially Concordant Patient-Physician Relationships on Health Outcomes Among African American Women

Joy Thomas, CSBS/SPPA

There are gaps in the literature regarding the effects of the role of racially concordant patient-physician relationships on African American women’s health. Bringing additional clarity concerning the effects of racially concordant patient-physician relationships on perceptions of healthcare in relation to medical mistrust, perceived racial discrimination, and perceived healthcare specific racial discrimination. The behavioral model for vulnerable populations will guide the study. The research questions seek to examine correlations and relationships between perceptions of care received from non-minority physicians using a quantitative focus.

Alumni and External Recipients

A Veterinary Clinical Communication Program Addressing Culture and Disparities among Latinx Communities in the U.S

Maria Jose Navarrete Talloni, DVM, PhD, Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine

Elpida Artemiou, DVM, PhD, Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine

Mariacamila Garcia Estrella, DVM Candidate Class of 2023, Cornell University

Luis Pablo Hervé Claude, DVM, PhD, Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine

In the United States, the minority population of Latinx Americans is continuously increasing, therefore Spanish is the second most frequently spoken language. This growth is reflected also in the increasing number of Latinx pet owners in the cities, and over 2.5 million the Latinx farmworkers in the rural areas, excluding millions of undocumented immigrants that are integral part of the food production industry. There is a need for graduating veterinarians that are linguistically and culturally informed to support these clients and farmworkers, as well as societal expectations. Such again emphasizes the importance of overcoming barriers, while attending to cultural beliefs and customs surrounding animal husbandry and care in the society. While there is a need for culturally competent Spanish speaking veterinarians, limited veterinary curricula programs exist. The objective of this project is to develop a Clinical Communication Program for veterinary students during their preclinical years, that enhances cultural competency surrounding Latinx clientele as well as the Latinx farmworkers, while promoting diversity and inclusion.

2021 Social Change Fellows

Faculty and Staff Recipients
Research Based Project

The Impact of COVID-19 on Working Parents: Navigating Work, Distance Learning, and Parenting

Sandra Bever, PhD
College of Nursing and College of Health Professions
and Kim Kato, EdD
College of Health Professions/Health Education & Promotion

This study will explore changes in workload, workspace, household expenses, and stress for working parents with children. Participants will fill out a survey to address the changes put in place since the pandemic in regards to the allocation of space in the home, out of pocket costs associated with distance learning, and the impact of daily adjustments to personal well-being.

Theoretical and Empirical Connections Between Physical and Mental Health among US adults in a Pandemic Era

Srikanta Banerjee, MD, PhD
College of Health Professions/Public Health
and Gary Szirony, PhD
College of Social and Behavioral Sciences/School of Counseling

The purpose of the proposed study is to explore 10-year mortality outcomes of depression. The biopsychosocial model will inform this study.  We will analyze COVID-19 related search behavior of the term “depression”, comparing before versus during the pandemic.

Applied Project

From Black Towns to Ghost Towns-The forgotten developments of Freed People: An Applied Project

Lequisha Brown Joseph, PhD
Richard W. Riley College of Education and Leadership
and Michelle Susbery Hill, EdD
Ronin Institute

This project highlights townships founded by Black Americans and the creation of textbook, workbook and teachers guide based on the discoveries about the townships. Through education and understanding of the past, students can make informed decisions about their future.  We want to invoke thought and generate knowledge through lessons in English, reading, and social studies, using material relevant to black students' culture.

Student Recipients

Neurodiversity and Workplace Social Capital Effects on Employee Attitudes and Intentions

Alice Edwards, Candidate PhD in Industrial & Organizational Psychology
College of Social and Behavioral Sciences

This quantitative causal-comparative study will examine the relationships between self-identified neurodiversity symptomology (NDS), workplace social capital (WSC), job satisfaction (JS) and turnover intent (TI) in working adults living in the United States in gender and job classification (JC). Social change informed by this study may lead to greater diversity and inclusion (D&I) within workplaces of neurodiverse employees and support further adoption and growth of D&I initiatives aimed at increasing workplace neurodiversity.

Cultural Lens: Haitian Immigrant Parental Acculturation and High-Risk Behaviors in their Haitian Children

Weiselande Cesar, Candidate PhD in Human Services
College of Social and Behavioral Sciences

The purpose of the proposed case study is to explore and describe perceptions shaped by Haitian parents’ (a) acculturation and (b) cultural lens with respect to at-risk behaviors in their children. The results may shed light on the cultural factors forming Haitian parental perceptions of high-risk behaviors since the 2010 earthquake.

Previous Social Change Recipients

2020 Social Change Grant Recipients & Social Change Fellows

Transgenerational Trauma, Locus of Control, and Stigma as Predictors of Mental Health Help-Seeking in Alaska Native Communities

Jorene Volkheimer, PhD in Psychology Student

American Indian/Alaska Native (AI/AN) persons have been identified as a group with greater risk for trans-generational trauma (TT) and experience environmental, external, systematic, or pragmatic barriers for treatment for mental health and social issues. In addition, there is limited access to culturally sensitive services and infrastructure; individual and group therapeutic approaches are needed for this vulnerable population. Researchers who have studied mental health help-seeking in minority populations have called for more studies of groups like AI/AN to better understand the complex social, interpersonal and intrapersonal problems involved in access to and use of mental health services. The developmentally based trauma framework (DBTF) and theory of planned behavior (TPB) were chosen as the theoretical frameworks for this study. The research design is a correlational study, using a quota sampling strategy, to determine the predictive relationship between demographics (gender, age, SES, tribal affiliation, and IRS-family member), TT, stigma, and LOC and help seeking (HS) attitude, intention, and use of mental health services. A hierarchical multiple regression analysis plan is proposed. It is hoped that the results of the study will add to the scientific literature and provide guidance for policy-making and mental health services program development for minorities.

Experiences, Reflections, and Applications of Service-Learning Among Rookie Police Officers

Jacqueline Smith, PhD in Education Student

When police officers do not positively engage with the people and situations they encounter, public safety is at risk. Police officers are exposed to learning about how to deescalate volatile situations in police training.  Yet, some officers still rely on use of force, and are not fully incorporating positive engagement to deescalate volatile situations.  Service-learning provides one way to possibly learn positive modes of engagement among police officers in training.    Kolb’s experiential learning theory frames both the purpose and corresponding research questions of this basic qualitative project study: to explore the experiences, observations, conceptualizations, and experimentations of service-learning in college criminal justice courses among rookie police officers.  Interviews will be conducted with at least 8 officers, until saturation is reached. Interview transcripts will be coded for common themes. Findings from the study will offer insight to instructors and developers of curriculum who prepare police officers about service-learning experiences among rookie police officers.  Possible implications for positive social change resulting from the study include changes to police officer training curricula, better prepared police officers, and ultimately enriched relationships between community members and police.

Impact of LEGO Robotics Enrichment Curriculum on STEAM Interest in Minority Girls in Grades 4 and 5

Co-Principal Investigators

Eric Brosch, Walden University

Jennifer Blessing, PhD, University of Tampa


Steve Canipe, EdD, Walden University

Neirda Lafontant, FUNducation

Women, especially minorities, are historically underrepresented in science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics (STEAM) careers in the United States. The goal of this transdisciplinary research and applied project is to develop a multi‐session STEAM enrichment curriculum and understand its impact on minority girls in grades 4 and 5. Leveraging LEGO robotic sumo—in which participants use the engineering design process to iteratively create and program a robot that can autonomously locate its competitor and push it out of a ring—the investigators will measure participant interactions and interest in STEAM. Assessments of this enrichment curriculum are designed to capture changes in interest and dynamic knowledge changes. Girls’ interest in science and related topics will be measured pre and post activity. The participants’ conversations during the curriculum as well as the talk of instructors will be analyzed for changes in how girls talk about STEAM and how adults support their learning. Deliverables from this project will include a) dissemination of the curriculum as a means of helping others to foster out‐of‐school interest in STEAM among elementary‐aged students and b) research presentations and papers to outline how such an activity actively promotes STEAM discussions in students.

Women Veteran Voices Project

Cynthia A. Briggs, PhD, LPC (NC), NCC, Walden University College of Health Professions

Brook Davis, PhD, Wake Forest University 

Women represent 10% of total military veterans in the United States (Department of Veterans Affairs, 2017). Because they exist as a small minority of total veterans, and because women have traditionally been barred from combat or frontline experiences, they often feel underrepresented in cultural conversations about veterans’ experiences. The intent of this Social Change Project is to create a platform for women veterans’ stories with a two-fold purpose:

  1. To create a healing experience for women veterans as they write and publicly share their stories;
  2. To educate the public about the role of women in the military via live storytelling by the veterans themselves.

Co-principal investigators (co-PIs), Dr. Cyndi Briggs and Dr. Brook Davis, experienced in creative work with veterans and long-term professional partners, will form a small group of women veterans and guide them through the process of writing and performing their stories in a theatre setting. Through the process, the co-PIs will create a writing and performance curriculum that can be shared and reproduced by others who wish to create similar performances in their communities.

Outcomes of the project will be evaluated both quantitatively and qualitatively so that the impact of the project on the participants can be understood. Both the experience of the veterans and the experience of the audience will be assessed. It is anticipated that scholarly articles and presentations will be created demonstrating the process of the production and the outcomes.

Sense of Belonging & Well-Being among American-Muslim Post-Secondary Students in Two Upper Midwestern States

Patrick A. Tschida, DrPH, MPH, BA, Walden University College of Health Professions

Rabeh Robert Hijazi, PhD, MS, MHA, PMP, SSBB, CCE, CBET, Walden University College of Health Professions

In the recent past, Muslims in the United states have been included in an immigration ban, harassed on college campuses, and experienced racial profiling. In 2015, hate crimes against Muslims rose by 78% to an all-time high in America history. In 2016, assaults against Muslims in the United States surpassed the peak reached after 9/11. Considering that Islam is the world’s second largest religion, Islamophobia, (defined as social stigma toward Islam and Muslims, dislike of Muslims as a political force, and a distinct construct referring to xenophobia and racism toward Muslims or those perceived to be Muslim), now seriously challenges health equity and population health. The negative impacts of Islamophobia in the United States during the time of Trump are enormous. Two female Muslim elected officials, Michigan Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib, and Minnesota Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, have received death threats, hate mail, and are regularly harassed. This proposed study attempts to quantify the extent of some of these adverse health effects among Muslims students attending colleges and Universities in two midwestern states. The Michigan and Minnesota Chapters of the Council of American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and the Muslim Student Associations of several major universities in Michigan and Minnesota will serve as collaborators of this research. The participants will include male and female Muslim students, ages 18-26 attending post-secondary educational institutions in Michigan and Minnesota. The Belonging to the University Scale (BUS), and the PERMA-Profiler measuring five pillars of well-being, along with negative emotion and health, are the constructs being used in this study. The results of this research will be widely disseminated so that administrators, health providers, economists, scholar/practitioners, and public health policy experts can prepare and equip these students to better deal with the consequences and impacts of Islamophobia on their lives, and have more productive, happier, successive post-secondary experiences.

Building Community with Parents and Families of Transgender and Gender Expansive Children and Family Members: Participatory Action Research

Jennifer Gess, PhD, LMHC, LCPC, NCC, Walden University College of Social Behavioral Sciences

Parents and families with transgender and gender expansive children and family members may experience multiple challenges when their child comes out. These challenges potentially may include grief of the ambiguous loss of the assumptions they had for their child or family member, grappling with fear based on society’s oppressive and discriminatory lens on non-cisgender people, and creating a new healthy and secure relationship with their child or family member (Johnson, Sikorski, Savage, & Woitaszewski, 2014; McConnell, Birkett, & Mustanski, 2016; Ryan, 2009; Saltzburg, 2009). Support groups provide opportunity for parents and family members to process their grief while expanding their understanding with those in similar situations. Using participatory action research, this study will explore the transformation of group members, the parents and families with transgender and gender expansive children and family members, through engagement of the support group with mentorship components. Participatory action research involves the group members in the research process, meaning group members will reflect on their own experiences through interviews and reflective journals. Thematic analysis will code themes to provide specific suggestions and ideas for future support groups with mentorship components.

2019 Social Change Grant Recipients & Social Change Fellows
Student Recipients and Fellows

A Delphi Study Analysis of Best Practices for Data Quality and Management in Healthcare Information Systems

Olivia Pollard, PhD in Management Student

Healthcare patients, management, and staff have been negatively affected by the lack of consistent data-handling processes. In addition, a lack of current scholarly research on best practices in data quality and records management has obscured potential flaws within the relatively new electronic health records (EHR) environment. Mismanagement of health records data has been blamed for at least one death in 2016 alone. These changes affect cost, reimbursements, services, and most importantly, patient safety. The overarching focus of this study will be on best practices for data quality management in a healthcare system from the information technology leader perspective. A review of literature revealed a lack of empirical findings in what might be regarded as best practices relative to data quality and management in healthcare settings over the past 20 years. Qualitative measures will include 3 surveys distributed to a panel of 25 healthcare data quality experts. Participants involved in the study will be selected based upon their experience and roles with data quality within the healthcare setting. Qualitative methods applied in this study will include concepts of the Data Quality Assessment Framework (DQAF) and information theory. This study has the potential to affect healthcare data practices by returning insightful results on how industry leaders view and assess their data. The significance of this study will be to bring about positive social change through an increased awareness of current data practices, possibly leading to the adoption of standardized data quality measures throughout U.S. healthcare systems. 

States with Hyper-Aging Populations: The Importance of Understanding Functionality in Home and Community-Based Care and the Impact on Costs as America Ages

Shannon Stanley, PhD in Public Policy Administration Student

The United States is on a population aging trajectory to reach 20% age 65 and over by 2030. The Administration on Aging (2013) reported the top three fastest-aging states, Alaska, Nevada, and Utah averaged a 50% increase in the population aged 65 plus from 2000-2011. Traditional research on costs in Medicaid 1915 (c) home and community-based service waiver programs have excluded this fastest-aging sector of the population, known as hyper-aging. This study will assess activities of daily living (ADL) and instrumental activities of daily living (IADL) and overall average cost per recipient in states with hyper-aging populations. This research will use multivariate regression analysis to identify statistical significance of functional identifiers and overall cost per recipient. Using a sample of 377 recipients, I will approximate the relationships, if any, of ADL and IADL with overall average cost per recipient found specifically in states with hyper-aging populations. To model the relationships found within the sample, if any, the Katz 6-item scale and the Lawton 8-item scale will be used for functional assessment along with a demographic survey. The findings from the research will address functional limitations specific to states with hyper-aging populations, which have been previously excluded from the literature, and their relationship to overall cost. The research implications promote positive social change in public policy and administration by signifying functional identifiers in the fastest aging states that can be used as a model to improve the future cost of services associated with care of the elderly as the U.S. reaches national hyper-aged status in 2030. 

Faculty and Staff Recipients and Fellows

Walden Writing Center Internship: Altering Recruitment Strategies to Increase Diversity in the Writing Center Field

Beth Nastachowski, MA, Writing Center 

Sarah Prince, PhD, Writing Center

The Walden Writing Center hopes to increase diversity within the writing center field and the Walden Writing Center by making changes to our recruitment strategies. One way to adjust our recruitment strategies is this grant’s project: a paid, 9-month internship, the Walden Writing Center Internship (WWC Internship). The student who completes the WWC Internship will be introduced to the writing center field and the Walden Writing Center; will participate in the Writing Center’s paper review appointments, student e-mail responses, an additional Writing Center project, and a student-driven final project; and will engage in professional development and discussion with Writing Center staff. These activities will all help the intern develop skills within the writing center field that they can use to further their career goals, either within the writing center or any other field.  

Applied Project

Early Childhood Chess Intervention for Children from Immigrant Families of African Descent

Linda Marc, ScD, MPH, MS, Contributing Faculty, College of Health Professions

This Program Evaluation aims to evaluate the effectiveness of an early-childhood chess intervention in children from immigrant families, to evaluate whether playing chess improves executive functioning in these children. Conducted within an after-school program for children, ages 4 to 16 years of age, at the Immigrant Family Services Institute, Inc. (IFSI) in the Metro Boston area of Massachusetts serving families from Africa and the Caribbean.  

Research-based Project

Racial Discrimination and Education Inequalities: The Role of Daily Stressors from Social Media

Bettina J. Casad, PhD, Contributing Faculty, Richard W. Riley College of Education and Leadership

The education achievement gap between Black and White Americans is a pervasive issue that needs more research attention. The primary aim of this study is to examine exposure to racism via social media as a chronic race-related stressor that affects biological systems, which affects educational achievement, and contributes to race disparities in education. This study examines whether exposure to racism in social media affects young adults’ stress and immune system biomarkers related to stress and academic achievement, including cortisol and dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA). It is hypothesized that frequent exposure to racism in social media will predict chronic stress responses such that cortisol and DHEA will increase from baseline. However, chronic racism in social media will predict cortisol dysregulation and discoordination with DHEA. This pattern should be enhanced or attenuated by individual differences including affective and cognitive appraisals, racial identity, and activist orientation. Sixty healthy young (aged 18-25) Black female college students will provide baseline questionnaire responses, baseline saliva samples in the lab, then collect 3 daily saliva samples at home (waking, 30 minutes post-waking, and bedtime) over the course of 3 days. Additionally, participants will complete a nightly questionnaire assessing social media use, exposure to racist content, stress and coping, and psychological well-being. The proposed study aims to advance understanding of daily exposure to racism on social media and its effect on stress reactivity that directly impacts educational achievement. Social media is a pervasive, but understudied, source of racial bias that contributes to chronic experiences of racism. If daily race-related stressors trigger cognitive decline and poorer test performance, this has significant implications for racial minorities’ academic achievement. Overexposure to racially biased social media may perpetuate race disparities in academic achievement and undermine education equality efforts. The results may inform media literature interventions to reduce exposure to negative race-based social media. 

Research-based Project

Alumni and External Recipients

3D Connections Empowering Fathers of Children who are Deaf/Hard of Hearing

Holly Pedersen, EdD, Doctor of Education Alumna

In mainstream American society, men are not usually considered a disadvantaged or underrepresented group. However, when it comes to parenting research, the scales remain tipped in favor of mothers. The vital role fathers play in the lives of their children is receiving attention both nationally and globally. While fathers (biological, step, foster, and others assuming a male influential role) are taking on active parenting roles once reserved for mothers, educational and social support networking opportunities geared toward fathers are less common. This is especially true for fathers of children with disabilities, and nearly non-existent for fathers of children who are deaf or hard of hearing (D/HH). Additionally, there is a paucity of research available to guide professionals on how to provide family centered intervention services for children with hearing loss that appropriately include fathers. This is a significant problem as research identifies father involvement as a key factor in healthy child and family functioning, including language and literacy development. This proposed project, 30 Connections, addresses the three “Ds” of Dakota, Dads, and D/HH, and aims to: 1) provide a framework of support, education, and empowerment for fathers of D/HH children, 2) evaluate the impact of said framework, and 3) disseminate the findings. This framework will consist of both face-to-face interactions and a social media platform, combining to offer peer to peer support through educational topics, Q & A, sharing of experiences and advice, and networking. The project would employ two experienced fathers who would serve as consultants to project activities and facilitate participant interactions. Following ethical research practices, the impact of 30 Connections will be assessed through a pre-post instrument to measure change in fathers' perceived empowerment as well as satisfaction with the project in relation to confidently parenting a child who is D/HH.

Older Adults and Caregivers: Food Policy and Healthcare in Rural America

Bessie DiDomenica, PhD, MBA, PhD in Public Policy and Administration Alumna

Cynthia J. Hickman, PhD, RN, MSN/Ed, MSN and PhD in Health Services Alumna 

Julie A. Smith Hinders, MHA, PhD in Health Services Student

In 2015, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated around 50% of American adults experience one preventable chronic disease. Such diseases (cardiovascular disease, diabetes, hypertension, obesity, cancer) evolve from poor eating habits over the adult lifespan. America’s 3,142 rural counties struggle to care for over 40 million older adults. Many are home bound and rely on informal caregivers (spouses, adult children) for their healthcare. This study explores conditions that reflect the contextual and environmental relationships between older adults and their informal caregivers in rural America. Our mixed methods approach (qualitative and quantitative) presents a snapshot of complex social conditions between two subgroups. The home-bound element sets limits on the quality of life for older adults. Informal caregivers have a direct impact on the quality of care for the older adult. Caregivers themselves may experience chronic diseases, an additional burden on the healthcare of older adults. Our study offers an extensive literature review of food policy, food education, nutritional health in older adults and their caregivers in rural America. The umbrella of rural food policy includes fewer grocery stores selling fresh food. The food education element occurs when caregivers prepare home-cooked meals. Basic nutritional health programs are missing in many rural communities. The quantitative element will further examine factors unique to rural areas and the unmet needs (counseling, training) of informal caregivers. The data set is the CDC’s Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System. This national public health resource includes a caregiver module and data from over 18,000 informal caregivers.  Our cutting-edge study aligns with the Eldercare Workforce Alliance’s forecast for an impending care gap in chronic care for older adults. Our research may find key data to address two social concerns: 1) the growing need to serve more home-bound older adults and 2) help informal caregivers become better healthcare providers.   

2018 Social Change Grant Recipients & Social Change Fellows

Opening Doors: Prejudice and Inclusion

Dr. Paul Englesberg, Core Faculty in the Riley College of Education & Leadership

Dr. Nina Spadaro, Core Faculty in the School of Counseling

This project explores the historical legacy and the contemporary manifestations of ethnic and racial intolerance, and misunderstanding of the “other”, in a community in northwest Washington State.

Through a series of events at various sites for college and community, the project will seek to raise the awareness of both the historical and contemporary manifestations of prejudice and to contribute to an environment of understanding and compassion.

A culminating e-book will feature the history, personal experiences, and voices from the community, as told through video, images, artistic expression

Transcript: Opening Doors: Prejudice and Inclusion Study Results


Well, the inspiration for the grant was the dedication of the Arch of Healing in Bellingham, Washington, which commemorated three different groups being expelled from Bellingham over the last several decades, the Chinese, the Punjabis, and lastly, the Japanese.


So, the results of our project were kind of surprising to us. Not only is it interdisciplinary with regard to Paul and I coming from totally different disciplines, but we also had some students involved.  One of them was an alumna, and the other one was a student. The student graduated, became an alumna, and the alumna came back for a doctorate. So, over the year, there were some changes, but we involve students.

We involved artists from the local community. We involved not only physical artists, but also people who were musicians. They wrote music for us, original songs. And we also involved some other folks, volunteers who learned how to facilitate groups to teach people the active listening skills.


And then the part of our project which is ongoing is we're collecting stories from people in the community about their own experiences with prejudice and inclusion. So, we're reaching out to people all across the county, and we're going to be publishing that in an electronic forum. 

Disclosure and Stigma in Online Environment: Perceptions of students with disabilities and staff who work in disability units in higher education.​

Dr. Susana Verdinelli, Core Faculty in the School of Psychology

Ms. Carolyn M. Roney, Sr. Director of Student Wellness and Disability Services, Walden University

The purpose of this qualitative study is to understand the decision-making process of disability disclosure and to explore the experiences of stigmatization among adult learners with disabilities enrolled in online programs. Additionally, it will explore how staff who work in the office of disability in higher education institutions perceive students’ disclosure and stigma in this learning format.

Understanding how students’ perception of stigma interacts with disability disclosure in online programs may help academic institutions better meet these students’ needs, improve the quality of their academic experiences, and increase their retention and degree completion rate.

Post-GED Student Perceptions of College Preparation and Postsecondary Success

Ms. Andrea Helaine, Doctoral Candidate in the EdD Program, Riley College of Education & Leadership

This project seeks to improve our understanding with respect to how General Equivalency Development (GED) programs may influence student participation and success in postsecondary education.  The project’s qualitative phenomenological design has been chosen to examine the experiences and perceptions of post-GED students regarding their preparation for, and participation in, postsecondary education.

2017 Social Change Grant Recipients & Social Change Fellows

Socio-Ecological Factors Impacting Zika Virus Transmission in Lima, Peru

Dr. Aimee Ferraro: Walden University College of Health Professions

The purpose of this qualitative study is to better understand the unique socio-ecological factors that influence individual-level Zika virus prevention practices of residents in four shantytown communities in Lima, Peru.

Study participants will leave with increased knowledge of feasible prevention methods they can implement in their homes to reduce the risk of Zika virus transmission. Findings will also be shared with the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization and Peruvian Ministry of Health to inform future Zika virus risk communication efforts and prevention programs targeting shantytown communities in Peru, ultimately helping to reduce the burden of Zika in Latin America.

Transcript: Socio-Ecological Factors Impacting Zika Virus Transmission in Lima, Peru Study Results


My project was entitled “The Socio-Ecological Factors Impacting Zika Virus Transmission in Shantytowns of Lima, Peru”. My inspiration for the project came about when the huge Zika outbreak started in Brazil. And I wanted to see if there were risk factors in Lima before the outbreak came towards our city.

And I realized that the different communities around Lima had different ways of building their homes and different ways of storing water. And so, my intention was to go in and do individual home visits to realize the risk factors, if they were different by community or by individual.

The results of my project showed that as I suspected, each community had different risks. For example, one community wasn't covering the lids of their water bins correctly. A different community would have animals outside with their own water bins, and they wouldn't clean them out. A third community would have garbage collecting. And so, my results showed that we need to have specialized and targeted risk communication messages for each community depending on what their problems are.

Being a Walden Social Change Fellow help me contribute to a positive social change because it connected me to a wider community of people who could support my work. It helped me disseminate my findings farther. It helped me have funding so that I could give the participants in my study something back. It helped me to connect with the Walden community for collaboration and further research as I continue projects in the future.   

Wounded Healers: HIV + Community Health Workers as Agents of Social Change

Dr. Richard Jiminez, Principle Investigator: Walden College of Health Professions

Ms. Phronie Jackson, Co-Investigator: Walden College of Health Professions

Dr. Faith Foreman, Co-Investigator (Walden College of Health Professions)

The purpose of this study is to examine the experiences of HIV-positive community health workers who serve HIV-positive clients in the Washington, DC, to better understand why HIV-positive health workers choose to work with HIV-positive people; and to explore if the relationship between HIV positive Community Health Care Workers (HIV + CHW)  and their clients is synergistic, in that the work is therapeutic for both worker and client, and that it may help to empower the HIV + CHW as an effective provider of health services and agent of social change.

The potential positive social change impact of this study is that understanding why HIV + CHW choose to work with HIV positive persons and how they provide those services may help to strengthen the HIV/AIDS workforce through the development of effective CHW recruitment, training, and sustainability programs.

Transcript: Wounded Healers: HIV + Community Health Workers as Agents of Social Change Study Results


We wanted to know more about what the motivations were for HIV-positive community health workers who choose to work with HIV-positive clients.

A very interesting finding of our research was that community health workers think of themselves as community activists. So, it's not just an individual helping HIV-positive clients navigate the system, deal with an HIV diagnosis. But importantly, they consider themselves as agents of social change, actual community activists. They want to change the system. They want to change the community and the community response to HIV.

We also found that the rewards that they received were very personal rewards. They felt that it helped them cope with their own diagnoses, and it also, they felt that they were contributing something positive to the community. We believe that the knowledge that we gained from this study will help promote the development of new programs and more effective training programs for community health workers, and I think that will strengthen the overall workforce in the public health field. 

Health System Determinants of Access to Maternal Health Medicines: An Analysis of WHO Low-and-Middle-Income Country Profiles

Dr. Chinonso Nnorom: Walden University School of Health Sciences

The purpose of this study is to explore the potential strength of association between health system building blocks and access to three life-saving maternal health medicines in low and middle-income countries.

Findings from this study will highlight the complexities that underlie making essential medicines for maternal health available and accessible in low and middle-income countries. Depending on the analytic results, priorities for policy-making will be offered, and the study could help reduce the number of women dying from pregnancy-related causes.

Dr. Nnorom is a wife, mum, and full time doctoral candidate at the department of public health in Walden University. Dr. Nnorom holds an MPH degree from Nigeria’s prestigious University of Ibadan, and a Ph.D. from Walden University. She has spent the last 10 years working with Ministries of Health, International Agencies, and community organizations to facilitate institutional reforms and strengthen health systems in Africa.  Dr. Nnorom recently served as a Senior researcher and consultant to the United Nations where she engaged successfully with regional, national, and international stakeholders to promote community engagement and design strategic frameworks and policies that helped shape, coordinate and improve effectiveness of HIV/AIDS, Maternal Health (MH) and Reproductive Health(RH) Interventions.

Read more about Dr. Nnorom and her study.