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CRC Announces 2024 Community Engaged Research Fellows

 The WVU Center for Resilient Communities, based in the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences, is excited to announce it's first annual cohort Community Engaged Research Fellows. The Community Engaged Research Fund supports graduate student researchers and junior scholars in any discipline at West Virginia University who are committed to advancing participatory research and publicly engaged scholarship. 

“The depth and sense of purpose in the participatory research projects designed by our graduate students and faculty at WVU is truly inspiring,” explains Dr. Bradley Wilson, Executive Director of the Center for Resilient Communities. “Not only will these projects generate new knowledge with our communities in West Virginia and around the world, but they will also result in direct action that benefits those very communities. These scholars represent the very best of what participatory action research can be, and they are doing it right here at West Virginia University.” 

The Community Engaged Research Fund (CERF) is sponsored with generous support from the One Foundation and the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences. It provides scholarly enrichment awards of $1000 to support fieldwork, planning, travel, outreach, materials expenses, and other costs associated with advancing a community engaged research project. 

The CRC will celebrate the fellows at our annual Spring Symposium on April 26th. Awardees will receive financial support and access critical mentoring and data resources from the CRC to advance their projects in 2024-25. Moreover, fellows are also eligible to participate for free in the CRC’s Groundwork for Vibrant Communities Workshop August 8-10, 2024 in our educational facilities at WVU. 

For more information about the CERF program of the CRC contact Dr. Bradley Wilson -

   Community Engaged Research Fellows 2024

Madison Martin CERF Madison Martin, Ph.D. student, Communications Studies

"Community organizations that promote connection between and among older adults offer synergistic community benefits. Communities benefit from the inclusion of older adults as much as older adults benefit from inclusion within the community. In order to participate in such organizations, older adults may have to overcome stereotypes about aging that wrongfully suggest that one’s ability to have positive interactions and impact on a community declines with age. The proposed study seeks to empower older adults’ engagement in community organizations by drawing on narrative theory to create storytelling programming with the broad goals of (1) improving older adult individual and relational well-being and (2) engaging older adults in the process of recruitment and retention for a local community organization. To engage with older adults in the process of intrapersonal meaning-making and forging interpersonal connections through storytelling, the proposed study would involve workshops of about 8-10 older adults in which open prompts for individual reflection on one’s experiences in Osher Life Long Learning, and how one’s participation in OLLI aligns with past educational goals/experiences and/or deviates from past goals/experiences."

Cameron CERF fellow  Ca meron Gibson Rishworth, Ph.D. student, Geography

"For many, the COVID-19 pandemic graphically illustrated the illusory security provided by a dominant global economic system. The precarity produced by the pandemic encouraged individuals and communities to consider alternative ways of relating to one another and the planet. Many communities throughout the majority world, those in the Global South and at the margins of the Global North, have maintained practices of economic solidarity spanning generations, far before the pandemic. My research seeks to understand and make visible the cultures, institutions and systems developed and developing within particular urban neighborhoods and rural communities that foster economies of solidarity and cooperation in the face of crisis. To do this, I am building multiple case studies with community partners in the United States as well as in the Global South, particularly Colombia and Nepal. In 2024 I will develop case studies on cooperative development initiatives in the US focused on banking, housing and food enterprises in neighborhoods in rustbelt neighborhoods of West Virginia and Ohio, and lay the groundwork for studying such initiatives through translational case studies in Colombia, Nepal and other countries."

Imtiaz CERF fellow  M Imtiaz Rahman,  PhD Student, Civil Engineering

"My research project aims to address the complex challenge of school bus routing (SBR) optimization, with a focus on reducing environmental impact and enhancing community well-being. The overarching research question is: How can we develop an easy-to-use, cost-effective solution to optimize school bus routes, thereby minimizing transportation costs, reducing air pollution, and improving the overall well-being of students and communities? The approach involves designing a user-friendly web- based platform that leverages data-driven optimization algorithms, aligning with principles of environmental justice and community well-being. We are leading this research project in collaboration with local school districts, and community stakeholders, emphasizing community engagement, participatory research, and a commitment to social action for positive policy changes."

Alex CERF fellow  Alexandra Ehlers, MA Student, Geography

"The Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Education Program (SNAP-Ed) is an evidence-based program that helps people make their food assistance dollars  s tretch, teaches people how to shop for and cook healthy meals, and leads physically active lifestyles. In addition to providing nutrition education, the program  also expands SNAP access by involving populations who are not aware of the program. In January 2024, a new structure was introduced to report SNAP-Ed progress. This reporting framework is titled National PEARS, and provides facilitators with specific measures to track progress being made in their communities, but there is not an  organized way for local SNAP-Ed agencies to report. The goal of my project is to create a framework that allows those conducting SNAP-Ed outreach programs in West Virginia to easily track their goals and progress in real time through the use of a variety of surveys. The final result of the project will combine geospatial tools with other data visualization tools to provide educators, as well as national stakeholders and the general public with information allowing them to see and understand the progress at a variety of different scales."

Michael CERF fellow  Michael C. Richards, Ph.D. Student, Social Work

"My project seeks to assess and prioritize the most pressing needs of the community in Taylor County West Virginia through information gathering from key stakeholders within various agencies and areas of social engagement, including government and community advocates. I also intend to fully include them in the formation of the research question and the implementation of interventions. I aim to build a robust community-based approach to needs assessment. The key questions for this project is: From the experience of those stakeholders on the ground, what are the most pressing social, systemic, and/or structural issues facing the greater Grafton, WV and Taylor County community that hinder residents’ ability to live a just, equitable, and vibrant life in their communities? What current resources and partners are available to work on these issues? What are possible solutions?"

Clayton CERF fellow  Clayton Heath - Ph.D. Music Arts

"The WVU Canady School of Music and Creative Arts maintains an expansive network of alumni and other school based partners across WV. In this project I will do research and conduct outreach through individual or group presentations on music education core curriculum, careers in music, collaborative music making, ensemble coaching, and brief performances, designed to fit within the schedule of a class period at various schools. The goal is to learn more about the needs of music programs in WV and provide much needed educational opportunities for hard-working West Virginia music educators and their students."

Candence CERF fellow Candace Brink - PhD Student, Coaching & Teaching Studies, Adapted Physical Education

" There is a need for community-based physical activity programs that are tailored to adults with intellectual disabilities. The purpose of this study is to test the feasibility of an evidence-based fitness program adapted for adults with intellectual disabilities, using a CBPR approach. This program, Kicking Off Community Partnerships to Promote Physical Activity and Motor Competency in Adults with Intellectual Disabilities, is an adapted version of Silver Sneakers, a health and fitness program designed for older adults (65+ years) is centered around functional exercises that will ultimately help participants with activities of daily living. Sessions will occur twice a week, and include  exercises that target to improve endurance, strength, flexibility, and balance, while having fun in a safe and supportive environment."

Megan CERF fellow  Dr. Megan Gandy, PhD. Associate Professor, School of Social Work

"Policing, law enforcement, and public safety are issues of great importance. Vulnerable populations (including, but not limited to, those with a mental health or substance use challenge, racial or ethnic minorities, people who are unhoused or unsheltered, and the LGBTQ+ community, among others) face systemic marginalization by law enforcement Practices. The Civilian Police Review and Advisory Board (CPRAB) was created by the Morgantown City Council in 2022 to address these disproportionate issues faced by vulnerable populations in our city. The CPRAB is embarking on a community-engaged research project to address community perceptions of police and safety in Morgantown, WV. How do vulnerable populations in Morgantown perceive the effectiveness of local law enforcement in ensuring community safety?"

Kennedy CERF fellow Kennedy Lawson, MA Student, Geography

"West Virginia has the highest rate of inland flooding in the US. Between 1991 and 2016 all 55 counties of WV had reported the occurrence of at least 14 floods. Ensuring West Virginians have increased capacities to face future flood risks and recover in their aftermath is central to building more resilient communities across the state. To foster wider participation in preparation, planning and recovery we need an approach to flood planning that incorporates community members’ knowledge, experiences, and insights into flood risk. In this project I will study youth perceptions of flood risk and their confidence to engage in flood preparation through participatory research with Monongalia High School students. Building upon a NOAA Environmental Literacy Grant, I will accompany a group of 25 youth from three Mon County High Schools to learn how to map vulnerabilities and create their own community flood planning maps and documents."

Susanne CERF fellow Susanne Vogler, Ph.D. Student, Sport,  Exercise, and Performance Psychology

"Substance use, overdose deaths, and substance use disorders have continued to rise across the nation and, specifically, in West Virginia. While current treatment exists, there is a need for further advancement of care and integration of new evidence-based practices. Adjunct forms of care such as physical activity, mindfulness, and yoga – all found to be beneficial for SUD – should not be isolated to high-end detox and residential facilities. All treatment centers, especially treatment centers that serve minorities and low SES individuals also deserve to offer these forms of adjunct care. This study seeks to assess the feasibility, accessibility, program integration, and outcomes of an adjunct four-week, trauma-informed yoga (TIY) intervention in addition to treatment as usual (TAU) within inpatient substance use disorder (SUD) treatment through a partnership with Wise Path Recovery Center."

Chelsea CERF fellow  Chelsea Slade, Ph.D. Student, Human and Community Development

" West Virginia is a predominantly white state that is located in the Appalachian region. However, West Virginia has a black population that is dispersed across the state which has contributed important history, instrumental to the black community on a global level. The Black Church is an integral component of black culture. Churches act as a hub that provide different resources and services to the community. Churches also host events that help bring the community together. The Black Church is the outcome of racial segregation in the United States which dates to the slavery period. Many Black people use their faith to cope with the racial disparities and oppressive systems that they face. Faith invokes hope into something that is larger than present circumstances. As a person that does not have roots in West Virginia or the Appalachian region, I am interested in understanding the experiences of Black people in this area and how they create and maintain community throughout the years."

Michelle CERF fellow Dr. Michelle E. Roley-Roberts, PhD - Assistant Professor of Clinical Psychology

"The goal of this community-based collaborative research project is to build a sustainable network of service providers across disciplines who are trained in culturally sensitive trauma-informed care practices. To begin to understand the current state of the organizations who serve youth with traumatic event histories, we seek to implement this pilot study with The Resilience After Complex Trauma (ReACT) Clinic within the Department of Behavioral Medicine and Psychiatry at WVU Medicine where we will survey staff in the systems that commonly refer youth to the Clinic about their attitudes toward trauma-informed care."