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CYFC Scholars

Through the Scholars program, CYFC aims to generate new knowledge in the emerging area of study of the intersection of educational and health disparities, create opportunities to apply that knowledge to the work of practitioners and policy makers, and provide a professional development experience enriching the participants' work and the work of CYFC. The program provides campus faculty and staff the opportunity to learn within a community-engaged scholarship community of practice and to find potential mentors, collaborators, partners and supportive peers.


Awards are given to individuals working at the University of Minnesota.

Scholars work with CYFC for at least 4 years, conduct a significant research project related to the intersection of educational and health disparities, and work closely with CYFC to translate, disseminate and apply research findings. Scholars receive $15,000 per year for four years to support their involvement in the Scholars Program and select research project expenses.

2014-2018 Scholars

Meet the Scholars

Colleen M. Fisher, MSW, PhD. School of Social Work
Lynette M. Renner, MSW, PhD. School of Social Work

Victimization Experiences of LGBTQ Youth in Minnesota: Uncovering Youth-directed Pathways to Intervention
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Amanda L. Sullivan, PhD. School Psychology
Patterns and Determinants of Disparities in Autism Treatment among Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Children
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Alysha Price, M.A, Urban Research Outreach-Engagement Center
Future Family: Preventing the Reoccurrence of Unintended Pregnancies in Low-Income African American Families in North Minneapolis through the Intersection of Education and Health
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Lisa A. Kihl, Ph.D School of Kinesiology
Addressing the Intersections of Sport and Education: Evaluating the Educational Outcomes of a Professional Sports Corporate Social Responsibility Initiative
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Colleen Fisher and Lynette Renner

Colleen Fisher: I am an assistant professor in the University of Minnesota School of Social Work. My scholarship on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer/questioning (LGBTQ) youth examines the development, health, and wellbeing of these young people, particularly the experiences of marginalized sub-groups (e.g., transgender, homeless, and rural youth). Across all of my projects, I aim to employ rigorous research methods to collect primary data while also building capacity within partner organizations and communities, so that the ‘subjects’ of research become critical consumers of its findings who can advocate for their needs and interests moving forward.

Lynette Renner: I am an associate professor in the University of Minnesota School of Social Work. My scholarship is focused on understanding the prevalence, co-occurrence, and risk factors of multiple types of interpersonal victimization, how cumulative violence influences mental health, behavioral, and academic outcomes and which intervention strategies are most effective for responding to specific types of victimization among diverse populations. I believe that research should combine thoughtful inquiry with rigorous methodology and community participation in order to yield findings and implications that are most meaningful and responsive to community members.

Our project represents a first step toward developing a community-grounded, youth-directed intervention to address victimization and help alleviate the substantial health and education disparities among LGBTQ adolescents. We will, first, engage with the LGBTQ community and establish a Community Advisory Board (CAB) to provide guidance throughout the project.  Next, we will implement a pilot study to investigate youths’ victimization experiences over time across three developmental settings: family, school, and community. Finally, in close collaboration with our CAB, we will use pilot study findings to (a) raise public awareness of the prevalence of LGBTQ youth victimization in Minnesota, (b) identify youth-directed targets for intervention, and (c) seek federal funding to support a larger, statewide intervention study to address LGBTQ youth victimization.

Amanda Sullivan

I am a school psychologist by training; I received my master’s degree and PhD in Educational Psychology at Arizona State University.  I entered the field committed to supporting the academic development and social-emotional well-being of culturally and linguistically diverse children and youth. As an Assistant Professor in the University of Minnesota’s Department of Educational Psychology and Special Education, I am involved in the training of specialist and doctoral-level school psychologists who provide intervention, assessment, and consultation to foster students’ academic, behavioral, and social-emotional development. The guiding consideration in my teaching is fostering the professional development of ethical, socially conscious practitioners and scholars who know and apply theory and research in their work. My program of research is grounded in a three-stage conceptual model for health disparities research: (1) definition and detection of disparities, (2) identification of individual, practitioner, and systemic determinants, and (3) development and evaluation of interventions and policies to reduce disparities (Kilbourne, Switzer, Hyman, Crowley-Matoka, & Fine, 2006). I employ a socioecological perspective, relying heavily on large-scale analyses and surveys, to (a) evaluate school, family, and individual factors that place children and youth at risk for educational disabilities and mental health difficulties, (b) identify disparities in the educational and health experiences and outcomes of diverse students, including those with special needs, and (c) explore professional issues related to the provision of culturally-relevant, research-based services for such students.

In my Scholars project, my focus is on disparities affecting children and youth with autism and other developmental disabilities. As a CYFC Scholar, I will expand my existing research to understand disparities in context better, develop collaborative relationships with stakeholders to study and address identified disparities, and engage communities to bridge research-to-practice and research-to-policy gaps by first describing sociodemographic differences in the identification and resultant services provided to children with autism and developmental disabilities in early childhood and elementary settings; and then exploring how practitioners’ knowledge and biases affect decision making in educational settings. My overarching objective in this line of inquiry is to identify potential levers for change in policy and practice. The specific goals of the project are to (a) detect and define the disparities in this area, (b) identify the child, family, and practitioner factors that are determinants of these disparities, and (c) isolate malleable factors to target in professional development and policy to improve diagnosis and treatment planning.

Alysha Nicole Price

I am a motivational interviewer, health educator, community member, mother, daughter, friend and researcher. I work as a project coordinator at the University of Minnesota's Urban Research and Outreach-Engagement Center. My passion for eliminating health disparities was cultivated in 1994 as a student at North High School where I was a peer educator. I was proud to receive an award from the City of Minneapolis, presented by former Mayor Sharon Sales-Belton and City Council Representative Jackie Cherryholmes, for outstanding commitment to the community. My accomplishments as a peer educator served as the foundation for obtaining my Bachelor of Science in Human Services with a focus in Family Studies, and Master's Degree in Business Management. I hope to couple my passion for empowering people with spearheading meaningful connections between community and leadership.

My Scholars research project, Future Family: Preventing the Reoccurrence of Unintended Pregnancies in Low-Income African American families through the Intersection of Education and Health, will study the effects of unplanned and/or unwanted pregnancies by documenting the unmet education and health needs surrounding family planning, pregnancy prevention and access to contraception within the African American families living in North Minneapolis. Analyzing the practices, planning and prevention methods of families and providers within this community will lead to greater understanding of, and isolate strategies for reducing, recurring unintended pregnancies and related health disparities in low-income African American families. The purpose of the Future Family study is to create a framework that elicits the best thinking in African American women and men concerning family planning such as: communicating goals with sexual partners, assessing their living environment, and choosing a form of birth control which supports their long term goals. In addition, the project aims to support community health care providers by gathering information, which will aid in presenting family planning options and initiating discussion regarding this topic with African American patients. In my partnership with CYFC, I foresee ongoing professional and educational development, and the opportunity to expand skills and knowledge about engaged research models that will benefit African American families and the community to which I proudly belong.

Lisa A. Kihl

I am an associate professor of Sport Management in the School of Kinesiology at the University of Minnesota and serve as a consultant for Major League Baseball (MLB) Community Affairs Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) program. I earned my Ph.D from the University of British Columbia in 2004 and my research interests intersect the areas of sport ethics and policy.

Specifically, I am interested in the quality of delivery of professional sport corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives and how effective these programs address social issues within communities. My interest in community-engaged worked started in 2007, where I was invited to work with a local urban recreation center to help to create a safe environment for youth to participate in Minnesota’s Twins’ RBI program. RBI is a Major League Baseball youth outreach program designed to increase participation and interest in baseball and softball among underserved youth and encourage academic participation and achievement. The community engagement experience with the park and recreation center and the MN Twins helped me to better understand my role as a facilitator in community-based research. I have a better understanding of how to actively involve community stakeholders in addressing issues that affect them, the process, and how to mobilize assets in addressing issues. This work also afforded the opportunity to collaborate with MN Twin’s Community Fund where I completed a two-year evaluation of the quality of the delivery of their RBI program. As a result of MN Twin’s evaluation, in 2013 MLB invited me to become a consultant for the RBI program. I currently use my research and teaching to assist different RBI programs around the country to enhance the quality of delivery.

Being a member of the CYFC Scholars cohort will provide me the opportunity to spend more focused time to expand on my research and teaching in examining the effectiveness of MLB’s RBI initiative in terms of realizing educational outcomes; disseminate findings to community partners; inform future policy and practices; and ultimately enhance the lives of children, youth, and families.

Yingling Fan

An urban planner and traffic engineer by training, Yingling Fan is currently an Assistant Professor of Regional Planning and Policy at the Hubert H. Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs, U of MN. She works interdisciplinarily in the fields of urban planning, social equity, and public health. Her particular interest in the social and health aspects of planning can be traced back to 2001, when she graduated from college and began work as an Assistant Researcher at the Transportation Research Institute, Southeast University, Nanjing, China. There her work assignments had included traveling to various cities and towns in China and designing/redesigning highway networks to reduce traffic congestion. Such experience had led her to a deeper understanding of how transportation is inextricably intertwined with land use, economic development, the environment, and social issues such as equity and health. As a result, her interest broadened to the study of cities, how cities are supposed to work, and how to make cities good places to live for all habitants. She later studied abroad and received her Ph.D. in City and Regional Planning in 2007 from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. In her dissertation, she examined the role of neighborhood design and urban form in shaping individual activity engagement and travel behavior.

In her current role, she continues her interest in creating livable and healthy cities, with a specific focus on poor, underprivileged, and underserved communities. She serves as principal investigator on studies examining the role of light rail transit in improving job access among the working poor, the linkage between neighborhood redevelopment and displacement of minority residents, the impact of sprawl on urban-suburban health disparities, and the impact of neighborhood design on family activity engagement and stress levels. Her work has appeared in various urban planning and transportation research journals. In 2008, she won the Pedestrian Committee Best Paper Award and the international Patricia F. Waller Award from the Transportation Research Board, Washington, DC. As a CYFC scholar, she is committed to build a robust knowledge base for creating health-promoting neighborhoods for underserved families.

Mary Hearst

I am a Social Epidemiologist working as a Research Associate in the Division of Epidemiology and Community Health and the Center for Early Education and Development. My interest in epidemiology, particularly in the sub-discipline of social epidemiology can be traced back specifically to 1995, although my broader interest in health disparities and health of disadvantaged populations goes back as far as high school volunteer experiences. My undergraduate training was in Occupational Therapy (O.T.), and for 10 years I worked in adult physical rehabilitation. In 1995, I moved to Skopje, Macedonia with my husband for a one-year humanitarian contract. While there, I administered an O.T. training program to local villagers in rural Albania and in a National Orphanage. It was during this time of tremendous growth and learning that I discovered my passion for public health. Upon returning to the U.S., I enrolled in a Master of Public Health (M.P.H.) program and subsequently accepted a job in a county health department in Flint, Michigan. After several years, my knowledge of and focused interest in social epidemiology was solidified and I began the PhD process. I completed my doctorate in 2007 under the training of J. Michael Oakes, PhD. My dissertation research was "The effect of racial residential segregation on black infant mortality and infant mortality disparities."

Currently, I work with Dr. Leslie Lytle, Dr. Melissa Nelson and Dr. Scott McConnell. The current projects with Drs. Lytle and Nelson, Epidemiology, are centered on the multilevel etiology of childhood and adolescent obesity. I work with Dr. McConnelI, Center for Early Education and Development (CEED), on a school readiness intervention (Five Hundred Under Five) exploring the way in which the causes, conditions and outcomes of "school readiness" and "health" are intertwined and how common and coordinated approaches can help address both sets of issues in ways that likely improve outcomes in each. The combined experience of working in obesity research, early childhood development and considering social context has merged. My focus is now on preventing obesity among low-income or minority preschool aged children, in combination with school readiness, as a component of healthy early childhood development, with the hope of positively altering future health and life opportunities.

A secondary component of my research involves a continuation of a previous CYFC grant from which a group of researchers from across the University and State Agency representatives meet to advance data sharing, move research into practice and policy with an agenda to better serve the youth of this state, called the Minnesota Child Welfare Research Collaborative (MCWRC).

Ultimately, my own professional goals are to improve the lives of children and families by addressing the disparate opportunity structures available to low-income and minority youth and their families. I intend to build a research agenda around the intersection of social determinants of health and education, including how school readiness alters life trajectories. I hope to manage my own research projects and train students in this area as a faculty member here at the University of Minnesota. Being a member of the CYFC Scholars' cohort will provide an opportunity to spend some more focused time on my own knowledge in this area, share and learn with other cohort members, disseminate and translate findings for the professional and lay community, and allow me an opportunity to develop my research agenda.

I currently live in St. Paul with my husband, two children, my dog and various other pets. I also volunteer in my community and my children's school, continuing to support healthy families and communities.

Ross MacMillan

I am an associate professor of Sociology and the Director of the Life Course Center at the University of Minnesota. I am also a fellow of the Minnesota Population Center. As an immigrant to the United States, I was born in Scotland and raised in Canada. I earned my BA from the University of Winnipeg, my MA from Queen's University, and my PhD from the University of Toronto. My research centers on issues of child and adolescent development including family, education, and health and I am particularly interested in the application of advanced statistics to better understand developmental and longitudinal processes. I am currently studying the changing nature of the transition to adulthood, the role of obesity in health over the life course, and the spatial patterning of assimilation in contemporary America. I am the author of dozens of articles and books and currently serve on the editorial boards of the Journal of Marriage and Family, Advances in Life Course Research, and Journal of Quantitative Criminology. My interest in working with CYFC stems from a belief that the best social science combines rigorous inquiry, active community trust and participation, and successful dissemination of both findings and their implications. My partnership with CYFC should greatly enhance my ability to achieve these objectives and provide a foundation for exciting research on education and health in the "new" era of immigration.

Lauren Martin

I am a Cultural Anthropologist, deeply interested in community-engaged research conducted with respect and integrity and directed towards social justice. I received my Ph.D. in Anthropology in 2004 from the New School for Social Research in New York, NY. My dissertation was entitled: "Domination and The Domestic: Witchcraft, Women's Work and Marriage in Early Modern Scotland." While looking for an academic teaching job in History and Anthropology I began doing some part-time community work in north Minneapolis. The work and commitments I made to the residents of the Northside changed the course of my career trajectory from a traditional academic career path to community-based participatory action research.

Between 2004 and 2007 I directed research at two community-based organizations, where I designed and conducted high-impact, community-driven research, most notably on prostitution with over 450 stakeholder participants, including 155 sex workers. Our goal was to reduce the harms of prostitution for people involved in prostitution, their families and their communities using accurate knowledge, a coalition of committed stakeholders, and targeted prevention/intervention efforts. The prostitution data has allowed me to: build lasting collaborations between unlikely partners (i.e., sex workers and police); write numerous reports, presentations, and policy briefs; drive systems change and on the ground intervention and prevention efforts related to prostitution; and write scholarly articles. My new research project in this area is called, "Children of Women in Prostitution." It was developed from interviews with women who trade sex and adult children of women who traded sex. In 2006, as a community-based researcher, I began working with colleagues from the Center for Early Education and Development (CEED), Hennepin County, the Youth Coordinating Board, Way to Grow and others to develop Five Hundred under Five (FHu5) focused on children and families in poverty on the Northside. Our goal is to improve school readiness and health outcomes through research, intervention and systems change. In November 2007, I joined CEED and moved from the community to the University of Minnesota to manage FHu5 research efforts and help build community engagement capacity. Representing FHu5 and CEED, I am a steering committee member and chair of the Standards and Accountability Subcommittee for the Northside Achievement Zone (NAZ), an exciting re-visioning of the Harlem Children's Zone for north Minneapolis. Since moving to the University of Minnesota, in addition to FHu5 and the NAZ, I continue to conduct prostitution research, intervention, prevention and policy.

I am committed to developing, using, and promoting forms of research that utilize the knowledge and wisdom of participants in research design, questions, methodology and conduct. Children, Youth and Family Consortium (CYFC) and the scholars program is a perfect way for me to learn and contribute methodologies and participatory research strategies more broadly and further my on-the-ground research and work on school readiness and health with Northside families. The common thread of all my work is collaborative, community-based research that drives policy and intervention for social justice and change. My long-term goal is to continue this work and honor the commitments I have made to research participants to "do something" with the information they provided me. I am thrilled to conduct "Kids, Communities and Researchers: A Study of Research on the Intersections Between Education and Health Disparities" with CYFC and the scholars' cohort. We have a great deal to learn from and share with each other. I believe we will develop ways to better serve and learn from our research participants, create trusting connections between researchers and communities, and generate accurate and reliable basic knowledge about reducing health and education disparities.

Tasoulla Hadjiyanni

I am an Assistant Professor in Interior Design, holding a Bachelor of Architecture and a Master of Science in Urban Development and Management from Carnegie Mellon University and a Ph.D. in Housing Studies from the University of Minnesota.

As a refugee and an immigrant to the US, I focus my scholarship on exploring the dynamic among design, culture, and identity under conditions of displacement. The well-being of children, youth, and families has been at the center of my research, teaching, and outreach agendas since my doctoral work, which culminated in the book "The making of a refugee — Children adopting refugee identity in Cyprus." Published by Praeger in 2002, the book theorizes that being a refugee is not a title one is given upon displacement but an identity in becoming, an identity that is largely informed by the disparity between the housing the refugees lost and the public housing they found themselves living in, housing which did not support their culture and way of life, exacerbating their stress.

My on-going cross-cultural study of differences in housing needs continues my explorations of how residential environments impact the lives of children, youth, and families. Through in-home interviews with five new immigrant/minority groups living in Minnesota (Hmong, Somali, Mexicans, Ojibwe, and African-Americans), the study asks: "What makes people different from each other?", "How does the built environment relate to difference?", and "What are the implications of this relationship for how notions like culture, identity, space, gender, and home are constructed?" The study's theoretical and practical implications have grounded my expertise on culturally sensitive housing, that is, housing that meets diverse needs and supports various ways of living.

I have published in interdisciplinary journals, ranging from the Journal of Interior Design to Design Studies and anthropology-based Home Cultures. I also regularly attend and present my research findings at the annual conferences of organizations like the Environmental Design Research Association (EDRA), the Interior Design Educators Council (IDEC), and the American Anthropological Association (AAA). At EDRA I also serve as the Chair of the Residential Environments Network.

The recipient of the 2009 College of Design's Outstanding Teaching Award, my students use my findings to develop culturally sensitive housing proposals, which are then exhibited yearly as part of the Building Ties exhibit at the Hennepin History Museum. The exhibit complements my outreach efforts, in the form of presentations and workshops in the community, which aim to raise awareness among design practitioners, affordable housing providers, and policy makers of the potential tied to culturally sensitive housing.

As my academic career is devoted to bringing social justice and cultural sustainability to the forefront of the national and global agendas, becoming a CYFC Fellow is a bold step in that direction. My long-term vision is designs and policies that include what I call a 'social justice' code-check, ensuring that all buildings (from homes to airports, schools, and hospitals) support the needs of everyone — in terms of gender, religious beliefs, cultural traditions, and abilities. Contributing the design perspective to CYFC discourses, I hope to help translate interdisciplinary understandings of what influences the well-being of children, youth, and families

es into physical manifestations that nurture a sense of belonging.

Elaine Hernandez

My interest in social and educational disparities in health began when I observed disparities in care at a neonatal intensive care unit, while conducting ethnographic research. From my interviews it became apparent that parents with higher levels of education possessed more health knowledge and, as a result, their newborns received higher quality care. This observation led me to pursue a Bachelor's Degree in Medical Anthropology (University of Notre Dame) and a Master's Degree in Public Health Administration and Policy (University of Minnesota). I am currently in my fifth year of the sociology doctoral program, focusing on medical sociology — a sub-field that examines the range of social processes affecting health and illness. My research examines health inequalities and my dissertation focuses more specifically on educational disparities in health behaviors during pregnancy. In recent years, I have worked at the Minneapolis Veteran's Affairs Medical Center (Center for Chronic Disease Outcomes Research), the Minnesota Department of Health (Policy and Communications Division) and the Flexible Work and Well-Being Center (a multidisciplinary research network housed in the Minnesota Population Center). I currently serve on advisory boards and committees for the Department of Sociology, the Minnesota Population Center and the Institutional Review Board at the University of Minnesota. As a Children, Youth and Family Consortium Fellow I hope to incorporate theoretical and methodological approaches from multiple disciplines that will allow me to translate my dissertation research into recommendations to promote healthy behaviors during pregnancy.

Vienna Rothberg

I am a dual degree student at the University. I am pursuing a Masters of Public Health majoring in Community Health Education and a Masters of Social Work majoring in Community Practice. Before starting graduate school, I spent 6 years working with sexual assault survivors, their significant others and their communities. The work fed my desire to work in primary prevention, health education and research. I am most interested in working with communities who have experienced trauma due to war, forced displacement, disaster or poverty. I currently work as a Graduate Research Assistant at the Healthy Youth Development Prevention Research Center at the University of Minnesota. I work on several projects focused on various aspects of the health and wellbeing of young people in the Twin Cities.

I look forward to working with my CYFC cohort as I am deeply interested in the complex crossroads of health and education and the disparity so often found there. I hope to bring to the group my experience and passion working in sexual health and trauma especially with young people.

I drove into Minneapolis for the first time in a moving truck hauling the entire contents of a home and the hope that the multiplicity of lakes would fulfill my need for an ocean. I live in beautiful South Minneapolis with my partner and little dog. I have a small handmade clothing company with my sister, which helps me keep my creative side alive through the hectic years of grad school. I am enjoying my second year in a community garden. I have survived two winters, discovering the joy of walking on frozen lakes and perching on radiators. I look forward to my final year of my degree program and the fruitful completion of my fellowship project with CYFC.

2009-2013 Scholars

2009-2010 Fellows

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