Funded Projects - Students

To encourage innovation and scholarship, the institute has established a Social Justice Fellowship Program that, through grants, funds faculty and student activities that advance social justice work, from humanistic inquiry to action research.

Previous grants have supported proposals that focus on issues that are both local and global. From youth development to elderly care; from political systems to individual recovery efforts, these projects have represented the same diversity as their recipients. 

Graduate Student Fellowships

2021-2022 Fellowships


Evicted in Cleveland, Ohio: A Sociology of Displacement and the Role of the Court

Casey Albitz

Casey Albitz’s doctoral research is focused on formal eviction in Cleveland, Ohio and the relative autonomy of courts within civil forcible entry and detainer actions. Casey will investigate how the Cleveland Municipal Housing Court implements a problem-solving framework and how observed practices reproduce, mitigate, and refute power imbalances between opposing parties.

By focusing on formal eviction in Cleveland, Ohio as a relational process, in which powerful players such as court personnel shape both process and resulting outcomes, Casey’s research will shift the gaze of past researchers on this topic from downstream effects and consequences of eviction, back upstream to the actors and processes refuting, mitigating, and reproducing large scale housing instability.


Investigating Neighborhood Contexts of Racial Inequities in Child Asthma Exacerbations

India Gill, MPH

In Cuyahoga County, African American children have a higher prevalence of asthma (23.0%) compared to White children (15.5%). Social determinants of child asthma disparities, such as racial segregation are well documented, however there is a gap in understanding the cumulative effects.

This study will combine traditional qualitative data collection of interviews with geographical data to gain a deeper understanding of the geographic context of adverse health outcomes and social conditions of those living with asthma in Cleveland. The experiences and insights of those impacted will be used to better inform data gathering to find contextually and culturally relevant solutions to reduce child asthma exacerbation disparities.


Patients, Practice, and the Social Construction of Transgender

Mx. Daniel Basil Hamilton

Daniel's research proposes to use the diagnostic and treatment practice for gender dysphoria, in the Greater Cleveland area to examine the manner in which providers, patients, and healthcare systems construct multiple meanings about the body, sex, and gender and the impact of these multiple ontologies on the provision of care for transgender individuals. The purpose of this project is to explore the ways in which point of care interactions serve as locations for multiple ontologies to come together in the provision of gender affirming care in the United States; how these interactions serve to construct the social and medical narratives of transition; and how care for transgender individuals is influenced by these understandings.

Through exploring transgender experiences in biomedical point of care interactions, this project reveals how those interactions pattern the understanding of being transgender in both individual and community contexts and the iterative impact this has on the provision of gender affirming care across specialties. This project takes an ethnographic lens exploring the ways in which “transgender” is understood between provider and patient across transition related-care and how these understandings influence the sense of what it means to be transgender.


Prevalence and Predictors of Decisional Conflict Among Older African Americans with Advanced Chronic Kidney Disease

Tyrone C. Hamler

Through his dissertation research Tyrone intends to investigate the prevalence and predictors of decisional conflict (DC) among non-dialysis dependent African Americans over the age of 50 who are diagnosed with advanced chronic kidney disease. Decisional conflict is defined as personal uncertainty about which course of action to take when choice among competing options involves risk, regret, or a challenge to personal life values. African Americans are nearly four times more likely to be diagnosed with chronic kidney disease, and older adults are the fastest growing population of individuals living with chronic kidney disease. Decision conflict is a central concern for older African Americans who are managing chronic kidney disease and has been linked to adverse health outcomes and difficulties in making health choices.

There have been limited inquiries into how social workers can assist in advanced chronic kidney disease prior to the start of dialysis. Furthermore, decisional conflict in individuals in the latter stages of CKD has been understudied, and studies have not included a sample of exclusively older African American adults.


Understanding the Construction of Masculinity and Its Effects on Bullying Perpetration from the Perspective of Adolescent Boys Using an Intersectional Framework

Hyunjune Lee

Research shows that the most common reasons cited for bullying by youth include gender, sexual orientation, race/ethnicity, disability, religion, and physical appearance (National Center for Educational Statistics, 2019), suggesting that power imbalance underlying bullying is closely associated with intersections of the social identities of adolescents. Research shows that boys are more likely than girls to bully others (Hellström & Beckman, 2019), which may root from boys’ desire to align themselves with stereotypical ideas of masculinity and may also police other boys who do not demonstrate the ideal masculinity (Mishna et al., 2020). Through this research Hyunjune seeks to understand how masculinity affects boys’ bullying behaviors.

Hyunjune will study the ways in which masculine identities are formed, achieved and/or challenged among adolescent boys; the impact race, SES and violence exposure may have on the construction of boys' masculinity; and the contribution of masculine identities constructed by boys to their bullying behaviors.


Our Stories CWRU: Narrative, Embodiment, & Community Accountability

Gabriela Leskur

Gabrielle Leskur will work with Our Stories CWRU to use personal narrative and performance art as an avenue for communal reckoning and healing on topics of social justice. The program will be a student-led initiative that invites members of the campus community—including students, alumni, faculty, staff, and community members—to share narratives of identity, challenge, resilience, and hope on topics such as race, gender, sexuality, ethnicity, religion, disability, socioeconomic status, immigration status, mental health, and more through anonymous submissions.

The stories will be published in a bound journal and a selection of the submitted stories will be chosen by an advisory group to be brought to life by community members on stage in a public performance in April 2022. The work for Our Stories through the Social Justice Institute Graduate Fellowship is intended to be a pilot program that creates a model student leaders can employ in coming years to form an annual Our Stories event to fit the ever-changing needs and ever-evolving stories of the CWRU community.


Health Communication to Improve Health Outcomes: A Comprehensive Training for Pre-Health Students Centered on Targeting Social Disparity and Improving Health Literacy

Rebecca Manning

Recent research reveals that more than half of the population has a low level of health literacy. This means most people misinterpret health information, misunderstand prescription labels, face communication barriers, and are less adherent to medical plan regimes. Current health outcomes reflect an abundance of preventable disease states and an increasing number of patients who are not confident in their own care process. Moreover, when trying to grasp the nature of health literacy, it is important to understand that certain groups are more susceptible to poor health outcomes than others. The CDC reports that these groups experience more frequent emergency room visits, longer hospital stays, and higher mortality rates.

Through the creation of this advocacy training, Rebecca hopes to improve patient outcomes by ensuring the translation of complex medical plans into layperson language. She intends to do this by educating pre-health students on the connection between disparity and health outcomes of vulnerable populations. The training will be scenario-based and community-focused, pulling from research on the community participatory model and shared appointments. This project aims to bridge the gap between our healthcare system, interdisciplinary research, and vulnerable communities through an in-depth examination of our current communication strategies.


Healthcare Navigation & COVID-19 in Cleveland’s Bhutanese-Nepali Refugee Community

Jillian Schulte

">Neighborhood Family Practice (NFP) is a Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) dedicated to providing quality primary healthcare services to a diverse population of Cleveland residents. Throughout 2020-2021, Neighborhood Family Practice (NFP), a Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) dedicated to providing quality primary healthcare services to a diverse population of Cleveland residents, has observed that the Bhutanese-Nepali refugee population has been, “hit particularly hard by the pandemic” This impact is echoed by local advocacy groups, such as The Bhutanese Community of Greater Cleveland. For her MPH practicum, Jillian aims to partner with NFP to reach a greater understanding of how the Bhutanese-Nepali community is experiencing the pandemic and navigating the healthcare system.

Jillian will conduct In-depth, semi-structured interviews with medical staff, managers and patient advocates for the Nepali community, and Bhutanese-Nepali patients to assess their experience navigating the U.S. healthcare system, their perception of community health needs, and the role COVID-19 has played in their daily lives.


Visions of Democracy in American History

Kimberly Stahler

Kimberly Stahler's dissertation research examines social justice activism in Cleveland from 1960 to 1975, and argues that grassroots organizers and activists overcame differences in race, gender, and class in order to forge relationships with imperfect allies out of dedication to their causes.The fellowship funds will cover a research trip to Madison, Wisconsin, and the creation of a story-telling podcast series entitled “Visions of Democracy.”

Kimberly's work seeks to challenge the argument that identity politics prevent activists from forging alliances and encourages activists to reconsider relationships in social movements and by exposing them to creative ways that Americans have historically participated in democracy.




2019-2020 Graduate Research Fellows


Photograph of Luma AlMasarweh


Being and Belonging: Transnational Lives of Second Generation Arab Americans 


Luma AlMasarweh


Graduate Student, Sociology


Photograph of Brooke Jespersen


Mobility, Agency, and Inequality in Late-Life: Approaching Puerto Rican Elderhood from an Intersectional Life Course Perspective


Brooke Jespersen


Graduate Student, Anthropology


Photograph of Julie Schexnayder


Exploring the Role of PrEP Implementation Strategies in Reducing Disparities to HIV Prevention Services


Julie Schexnayder


Graduate Student, Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing


Photograph of Michael Slone


Crowded Work: A Participant-Observation Study of Platform Labor


Michael R. Slone


Graduate Student, Sociology



2018-2019 Graduate Research Fellows


Photograph of Uriel Kim SJI Fellow CWRU PhD student


Reducing Lung Cancer Disparities at a Community Scale using a Multilevel, Data-driven Approach


Uriel Kim


Graduate Student, Clinical Translational Science


Photograph of Sonya Petrakovitz CWRU Medical Anthropology PhD SJI Research Fellow


Ancestral Medicine and Cultural Persistence: Community Resistance to Colonialism and Cultural Commodification on Rapa Nui


Sonya Petrakovitz


Graduate Student, Medical Anthropology



2017-2018 Graduate Research Fellow


Photograph of Lacey Caporale Case Western Reserve University sociology student


An Investigation of the Detroit Shoreway Developing Neighborhood


Lacey Caporale


Graduate Student, Sociology



2016-2017 Graduate Research Fellows


Portrait of Liz Nalepa


The Effects of TRAP Laws on the Timing of Abortion


Elizabeth Nalepa


Graduate Student, Sociology


Portrait of Megan Schmidt-Sane


Masculinity, Gender Norms and HIV Risk in Low-Income Communities in Kampala, Uganda: An ethnographic pilot study


Megan Schmidt-Sane


Graduate Student, Medical Anthropology 



2015-2016 Graduate Research Fellow


Portrait of Frank Manzella


Transnational Health Care in Urban Brazil


Frank Manzella


Graduate Student, Anthropology



2014-2015 Graduate Research Fellows


Portrait of Allison Schlosser


Belonging and Experience: An Ethnographic Study of Addiction Treatment in the Post-Welfare United States


Allison Schlosser


Graduate Student, Anthropology


Portrait of Yan Zhang


Family Care Arrangement and Elder Mistreatment for Dementia Patients in China


Yan Zhang


Graduate Student, Medical Anthropology



Undergraduate Student Grants



2019-2020 Recipients


Tim O'shea


Israeli Practices towards the Palestinian People and the Question of Apartheid with Dr. Richard Falk


Tim O'Shea


Junior, Political Science



2018-2019 Recipients


Photograph of Leo Ndiaye Case Western Reserve University student and recipient of SJI fellowship


Fish and Gender Displacement: Actor-Networks of Community Fisheries Management in Senegal  


Leo Ndiaye


Junior, Environmental and International Studies


photograph of Jennifer Nielsen CWRU SJI Research Fellow


Examining HIV Prevalence and Risk Behavior within Johannesburg Townships Affected Differently by Apartheid


Jennifer Nielsen


Junior, Medical Anthropology and Public Health



2017-2018 Recipients


Portrait of MaryTherese Escueta


"I Do Wanna Dance": The Lived Experiences of Professional Dancers of Color


MaryTherese Escueta


Portrait of Anjana Renganathan


Senior, Sociology and Dance


A Dynamic Analysis and History of Street Medics in the United States


Anjana Renganathan


Senior, Biology



2014-2015 Recipient


Portrait of Suneil Kamath


Hip-Hop Education and Learning (HEAL)


Suneil Kamath


Sophomore, Business Management