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

2023-2024 Fellowships

Alisha Giri

Comparing livelihood capitals and outcomes across migrant and non-migrant networks in Nepal

Alisha Giri, PhD student, Medical Anthropology

The proposed research uses an anthropological approach and draws inspiration from existing scholarship in migration, network studies, and culture to examine the impact of return migration on success and livelihood capitals in the home society. The research will take place in the rural municipality of Myagde, in the Tanahun District of Nepal. This district was one of the top ten origin districts of migrant workers in 2018/2019 (Nepal Labour Migration Report 2020). Many traditionally agricultural families here have shifted their livelihood strategies from subsistence agriculture to remittances in response to the pressures of modernization. The aim of the project is to identify the relationship between livelihood and social networks by collecting information on five livelihood capitals (financial, natural, human, social, physical) that individuals have acquired through their respective networks, and their perceptions of success, through a life-history calendar, semi- structured interviews, and social network analysis in Nepal.

Erica Johnson

The Cycle of Traumatic Stress: Exploring the Impact of Early Life Trauma in the Workplace and the Role of Supervisor Support

Erica Johnson, PhD student, Organizational Behavior

The study aims are to bring awareness of the psychosocial and environmental harm done to Black employees, families, and communities due to inadequate workplace support, to underscore the prevalence of work and non-work trauma and its lifelong effects within the Black collective, and to further de-stigmatize mental health challenges within this population. Community partnerships can be forged with organizations to provide education to employers on the long-term impact of trauma as well as best practice interventions. Additionally, in partnership with this dissertation study, the YWCA of Greater Cleveland is developing a trauma-informed human resources initiative to address and act on the disproportionate trauma experienced by Black employees. The cultivation of a holistic organizational trauma-informed talent management strategy may not only enhance workplace functioning of current employees but may also help to generate an employment pipeline for Black youth. Through this lens, enhancing supportive workplace relationships with Black employees may increase employment stability, financial security, and family functioning. Thus, study findings can help build interventions to prevent the cycle of trauma prevalent within the Black community.

Duncan Mayer

Essays on Community Organization Dynamics

Duncan Mayer, PhD student, Sociology

The goal of this three-paper project is to understand regional and local nonprofit sectors, including key transformations (growth and decline), their relationship to market structure and social forces, as well as the distribution of benefits from nonprofits. While the project will assist policy makers in understanding nonprofit density, supporting regional nonprofit sectors, the project proposes two papers are of immediate relevance to the mission of the social justice institute. The papers described below raise critical questions about the distribution of nonprofits and the communities that receive their benefits.

Paper 1: Nonprofit sector response to neighborhood conditions; a study of organizational founding in Cuyahoga County Ohio.

Paper 2: A study of revealed preference for nonprofit organizations in Cuyahoga County Ohio

Reema Sen

Unpacking Legal Consciousness of Citizenship

Reema Sen, PhD student, Sociology

The proposed doctoral study seeks to answer three research questions: (1) What are impacts of legal precarity on Asian Indian immigrants in the US? (2) Is the pathway to citizenship racialized and gendered? (3) How do Asian immigrants understand and navigate the path from temporary to permanent citizenship? This study will examine legal restrictions that impede access to resources such as jobs and social security.

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